Selfless saviours of a new faith

Image: Flickr / TrisinonLast week I watched a videotaped press conference put on at Copenhagen by a group called Climate Justice Fast! CJF is an international movement of hunger strikers motivated by their concerns over climate change as well as the disparity between developed and developing nations. Some participants began fasting on November 6, taking only salt supplements and water, and plan to conclude when the Copenhagen summit closes—if they don’t die of starvation or cardiac arrest first.

A young hunger striker from Sweden, Sara Svenson, gave her personal testimony. Much as I admired her grit in fasting for a month already, I found much of what she said amusing, especially her predictions about life in the “sustainable future”: lots of love, happiness, free time, and dancing in the grass. We would be in heaven, if only we could escape illness, death, mosquitoes and taxes. But we in the decadent west shall definitely not escape taxes, not when CJF is demanding US$195 billion per year in funding for developing nations, and perhaps more at home, in order to underwrite the wholesale lifestyle changes we will be expected to embrace.

The CJF homepage sports a quotation from Martin Luther King: "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." Agreed. I applaud climate-change adherents for their zeal, for I too hold religious convictions. But I think theirs are misguided, since, in many cases, they seem more willing to kill others (before birth or on their sickbeds) than themselves, or prevent them from being conceived in the first place. It has been suggested that the entire world needs to adopt China’s one-child policy in order to save the earth.

It is more than a little surprising to witness the religious fervour gripping many heretofore cynical and secular Europeans and North Americans on account of an unproven theory of future global climatological disaster. Watching Miss Svenson on the CJF video illustrated how quietly extreme some of these believers are. Here was no fanatical animal rights activist blowing up a lab, or nutty logging protestor strapping himself to an ancient tree: this was a nice, girl-next-door type who, if she adheres to the principles on the CJF website, is willing to die for her cause.

As others have observed, belief in cataclysmic climate change has all the earmarks of a world religion -- except a name. Environmentalism? Too vague, too 1980’s. After encountering a certain term repeatedly in my reading, I have decided to call the institutional expression of this faith The Climate Change Church of Settled-Science. 

Consider the climate creed. It has rigid dogma and sacred writ, the latter including even “long lost” and missing texts in the form of destroyed and suppressed emails, data, and/or doctored computer codes and models. It has prophets and predictions. It attracts the unwavering faith of true believers, provoking them to asceticism (fasting, sacrifice, even unto martyrdom—at least in theory) and filling them with joy and euphoria in the belief that they are “doing the right thing”. It inspires a fervent desire to spread the word and make others see the light; it condemns sin and calls for conversion to a strict lifestyle code -- or punishment for those who do not believe, do not obey, do not comply. And, of course, it is an established religion, or aspires to be one, with the state as the enforcer of its doctrines and codes.

The creed has its heretics: scientists who question the dogma are ostracized, vilified, silenced, excommunicated. It has its atheists, although the label “deniers” is currently more popular. Some CCC of SS true believers feel that deniers ought to be treated with the same scorn and censure as Holocaust deniers; others have suggested that climate-change dissenters ought to be charged with treason. (Against what or whom? The world? Mother Earth?)

The CCC of SS has its list of sins: some acts are intrinsically evil: driving an SUV, using incandescent light bulbs, having more than one child. Some acts are righteous: recycling, buying locally grown food, cleaning your bathroom sink with vinegar. Others, such as air travel, are sinful for some (ordinary people who just want to visit their relatives once a year) but not for others (climate change advocates who need to fly –weekly-- to spread the Word.) Some sins can be mitigated by the purchase of indulgences in the form of carbon credits/offsets.

And then there is Copenhagen 15: the Immaculate Convention. Delegates have been demanding the “most rapid possible transition”, if not a hard line against dissenters. Perhaps we will soon see the inception of the Danish Inquisition. (I do hope it involves pastry.)

Mother Earth makes a convenient deity, but as for an earthly messiah, no one has yet ascended the mount. Al Gore’s lyrical effusions have spoken of a “shepherd.” Could it be he? In practical terms, the CCC of SS doesn’t have one saviour; it has many. Consider this quotation from a London Telegraph report on the eve of the summit:

In Copenhagen there was a humbler note among some delegates. "If we fail, one reason could be our overconfidence," said Simron Jit Singh, of the Institute of Social Ecology. "Because we are here, talking in a group of people who probably agree with each other, we can be blinded to the challenges of the other side. We feel that we are the good guys, the selfless saviours, and they are the bad guys."

I think that was a genuine attempt at realism and humility, but this religion, like all others, has its arrogant and pharisaical elements. The Telegraph headline and intro says it all:

Copenhagen climate summit: 1,200 limos, 140 private planes and caviar wedges. Copenhagen is preparing for the climate change summit that will produce as much carbon dioxide as a town the size of Middlesbrough.

Presumably, Miss Svenson would not approve, although I’m sure she did not walk or cycle from Sweden. She insisted in her CJF testimony: “To stop climate change and create a sustainable and just world will require total commitment from every individual on earth.”

And there’s the rub: who defines “total commitment”? Where do liberty and personal autonomy give way to totalitarianism? It seems to be a case of “global governance” vs. various countries’ constitutional rights to liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and security of the person.

For how many decades did secular humanists say things like: “Don’t force your morality on me,” or “Keep your laws off my body.” Now, many of these same humanists are firm climate creed believers and they see nothing wrong with enforcing their political, social, and consumer morality on those who do not share their beliefs. They literally want to control how, what and where we eat, dress, drive, build and heat our homes; even what kinds of light bulbs and toilet tissue we use.

Climate change research may have begun as science, but it has long since morphed into religious belief: let us not be deceitful, coy or self-delusional on that score. I don’t particularly object to its being a religion. Man has free will and in the Western world, we (allegedly) have freedom of religion, though victims of various human rights inquis- er, commissions would beg to differ. In Canada, those calling for separation of church and state have claimed that “freedom of religion” should include “freedom from religion”. In the case of the Climate Change Church of Settled-Science, I couldn’t agree more.

Mariette Ulrich
is a freelance writer living in Canada. She blogs at
Dumb Old Housewives.


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