Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bush's Holy War on Nature

By Chip Ward

September 16, 2005
...This much is clear: The Bush administration does not respect a broad American consensus that the quality of our lives is directly linked to the integrity and health of the environment. Differences in philosophy about property rights, the role of government, and the best means to change self-destructive behaviors will translate into different approaches to environmental policy -- for example, whether to curb pollution by creating market incentives or by passing tough laws. But until now Republicans did not reject the need for environmental policy altogether. What happened?
The answer is a familiar one: Bush's righteous base, the rightwing fundamentalist Christians, are having their way -- the zealots who think Revelations is the only guide to foreign policy and that Nature is a mere stage for their personal salvation drama -- men like Majority Leader Tom DeLay who have publicly proclaimed that they do not believe in evolution, or other Republican congressional leaders who got 100% ratings from the powerful Christian Coalition, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, presidential hopeful Bill Frist, Policy Chair Christopher Cox, National Leadership Chair Rob Portman, powerful senators like Mitch McConnell, Kay Hutchinson, Rick Santorum, George Allen, and many more who are, environmentally speaking, the American Taliban.

Our President himself recently declared "the jury is still out" on evolution. The administration's push to satisfy its base by devaluing and discrediting evolutionary theory has profound implications for environmental policy and law. If you don't believe in the evolutionary sciences, chances are you also don't heed or trust the ecological sciences that underlie environmental law and policy. When conservation biologists talk about keystone (or endangered) species, fundamentalists are far more likely than most Americans to listen skeptically. The value of biodiversity as a measure of ecosystem health is going to be of little concern to those who do not understand or accept the critical role that species interaction plays in keeping ecosystems resilient in the face of disturbance and stress.
In fact, fundamentalist Christians often have only contempt for ecological science, which they view as nothing more than the cover Pagans use to push a godless, nature-worshiping agenda. To many fundamentalists, enviros are the new commies. Utah's righteous patriarchal politicians cannot even utter the term "environmentalist" (usually pronounced environ-MENTAL-ist, as if it were a psychological disorder) without attaching the adjective "extreme" to the term.
If you believe that God made the world for you and instructed you to dominate it and be fruitful, then you are likely to see yourself as above and beyond the natural world. If you are God's chosen, then how can you fear that he will not provide for you no matter how large your numbers grow or what you do to your surroundings? God, after all, can change nature's laws, which are part of his "intelligent design" in the first place. So you are unlikely to fret about practicing environmental restraint or worry about environmental toxins -- righteousness being the best prophylactic against disease in a world where God's will is done.
If you believe that the world's end is imminent, then why not use it before you lose it? If you believe that when the world-ending moment arrives, you will be "raptured" away and Christ will return to rule at last, then, hey, bring it on! Those who are "left behind," as fundamentalist Tim Lehaye describes it in his bestselling novels, deserve to suffer because they failed to accept Christ as their personal savior. So the President's fundamentalist base favors the present over a future they disown.
Perhaps the greatest gap between the belief systems of fundamentalists and environmentalists is the difference between hubris and humility. Fundamentalists have a death grip on truth and do not entertain doubt; while one of the key insights of the ecological sciences is that nature may not only be more complex than we thought, but more complex than we can think. Conservation biologists respect the intricate and reciprocal nature of living systems and realize that even the most seemingly insignificant species may turn out to play an unexpected and important role in them. Such insights underlie
precautionary approaches.
According to Bush's political base, the future is theirs; nature was put here for us to use as we please; God will provide; and foolish unbelievers will be abandoned, like those desperate refugees at the New Orleans Super Dome, in a trashed and shredded world. We had our chance, but decided to listen to scientists, believe in dinosaurs, hug trees, and wring our hands over pupfish, spotted owls, and the odd centipede or two. While our jaws drop at their arrogant and reckless behaviors, they just shake their heads and chuckle condescendingly at all of our "liberal whining." It's a holy war, after all, and they are most righteous.
Bush's assault on the environment makes perfect sense once you see the bargains that drive it. The fundamentalists give Bush political power; his corporate cronies get free reign to plunder the land for their profit; and the fundamentalists get the heads of nature-worshipping enviros on an arsenic platter. The rest of us, of course, get left behind.

Chip Ward, assistant director of the Salt Lake City Public Library System, is a political activist and leader in the struggle to keep the Great Basin Desert from becoming a nuclear waste dumping ground. He is the author of Hope's Horizon: Three Visions for Healing the American Land (Island Press).

Copyright 2005 Chip Ward

Other Article Links:
This piece first appeared at

...connected so many things (including what was happening in Iraq and here ...

...New Orleans is now a vast toxic dump (and, as at Ground Zero in New York after 9/11, a toxic cover-up is sure to follow
the city's embattled wetlands are in dismal shape; a superfund toxic waste site remains underwater; the whole area may prove an "underwater Love Canal"; parts of the Gulf of Mexico are now covered with huge, if unacknowledged, oil slicks;...

...As relief expert David Langness wrote at Juan Cole's Informed Comment website on his return from New Orleans, the city is

"under a toxic brew of foul water,...

...Cases of silenced government scientists and experts, censored reports, disbanded scientific advisory panels, and withheld evidence abound. (The National Resources Defense Council has listed dozens of examples on its website.)...

No comments:

Edward A. Villarreal. Powered by Blogger.


Total Pageviews