Paul Andersen: Fair Game
August 21, 2011
With presidential candidate Rick Perry’s recent statement that humans have made no contribution to climate change, the radical fundamentalists have opened a new era. I’m calling it “Cornucopian Devolution”: the retrograde denial of science.
Perry seeks not only to sanctify cornucopian consumerism on which the global economy is tottering, his absurd stance lays the groundwork to overthrow the Copernican Revolution and regress to the Ptolemaic model, where the universe revolves around Earth and the humans are in charge.
This is a difficult pill to swallow for an eco-egalitarian like me who extends rights to all of life. We live in strange times when science and sensibility are routinely discarded for short-term expedience and long-term costs. And so it goes.
Meanwhile, with the wrap up of AREDAY in Aspen, a fleet of private jets launched into the Colorado air to defile the atmosphere and increase to climate change. For many, AREDAY is an inspiring event, but the dichotomy of private jets transporting eco-exemplars to and from Aspen smacks of exemptionalism. And so it goes.
Aspen has been environmentally exempt for decades. One glance at Red Mountain belies the notion that the Manhattan of Colorado is a model for green living. Many of the mostly vacant palaces perched conspicuously on the hillside use more energy resources in one month than my home uses in a year.
Taking a personal vow of simplicity with a low-carbon lifestyle has long seemed worthwhile to me, but just when I feel like I’m making great strides in reducing my footprint, the eco-crisis de jour makes me wonder if it’s all worthwhile.
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If we raise our voices in protest, we Greens are dismissed as Commies for criticizing the libertarian excesses of free enterprise capitalism or we’re defamed as atheists for doubting that God serves the insatiable appetites of American consumers.
Today, more than ever, tree-hugging nature lovers have become open season for the far right. We are chastened for railing about natural resource exploitation and derided for ranting over everything from snail darters to giant sequoias. Emotional outrage over eco-vandalism is not PC in the prevailing utilitarian, material world view.
As Republicans and Tea Baggers renew their attacks on the EPA, they paint environmentalists as wet blankets whose sole mission is to spoil recreational fun and economic progress for multitudes of Americans whose birthrights include blithely plundering the natural world.
If environmentalists are green, then our critics are blue in the face from ardently disavowing the role gas guzzlers, clear cuts, power toys, oil and gas drilling, and gross consumer revelry play in performing “escalatio” on climate change and species extinctions.
Naysayers of environment science routinely smear enviros by marking us with the green “E” and shunning us like Hester Prynne. To them it is unpatriotic and sacrilegious to temper our fossil-fool nation with science, no matter how hot the global pressure cooker becomes or how many species we eradicate from God’s Green Earth.
Environmentalism has become an annoying stab of conscience that stands angelic on one’s shoulder when a consumer choice is being made. The enviro angel whispers “Prius” while the red devil of consumption screams “Range Rover!”
Most Americans have knocked the enviro angel off into the recycle bin while granting the consumer devil copious rewards. “Global warming is not my fault,” they opine, while recklessly doing their utmost to raise the atmospheric thermostat in a self-fulfilling paradox.
Not only do climate deniers abrogate collective self-interest, they happily dispense with rationality. The only thing left is faith, and few among the faithful seem to believe that clean air, pure water, and livable habitats are necessary to pursue the good life.
Many claim that to preserve jobs we must accept higher levels of pollution. And when environmental activists challenge such drivel, they are deemed unreasonable extremists. A battle cry from the radical right will be: “If you don’t like how we’re screwing up the planet, then leave!”
As Perry spews polemics against science, and as private jets roar out of Aspen, trailing their exhaust the length of the Roaring Fork Valley, the nagging question exists: Can we save the climate by destroying it?
By the time we are able to answer that question, the super tanker of industrial society will be too slow to turn against the ebb tide of ignorance and ambivalence. Science will become the most despised authority of all, and the most ignored.