April 22, 2015

#EarthDay at 45

Earth Day Flag by John McConnell / Wikipedia
It's hard to believe, indeed, that Earth Day is 45 years old.

And, the limited knowledge we had then about just what all needed protecting. The Cuyahoga River catching fire seemed like big stuff. It was big enough, but it wasn't that big.

We didn't know about the ozone holes at both poles, threatening to let more and more of Earth be hit with ever-higher amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

Nor did we know that one of the replacements for the chlorofluorocarbons causing the ozone hole, hydrofluorcarbons, would turn out to be global warming gases — and potent ones. And, we're just now learning that carbon dioxide driving global warming may intensify ozone depletion.

Of course, we didn't know about anything about the reality of global warming in 1970. We didn't realize that, short of carbon scrubbing equipment that isn't likely realistic for decades, if at all, we need to stop using fossil fuels as much as possible and as quickly as possible. (And, even the alarmists are probably overselling what that will do; a 2C temperature hike is almost certainly already cooked into our climate.)

We know that, now. We also know that renewable energy is become more and more cost-competitive all the time. But, we still don't know if it's as readily storable as we might wish, and just what the carbon impact of massive storage systems might be themselves.

In short, we've learned a lot about just how little we know about Planet Earth. Not just in what most people think about environmentalism, but basic ecology issues, like the discovery of a new species of grass frog.

And, per the Wikipedia link, we know that "green" is a powerful word, especially when corporations combine "green" with "green." We're learning that, while it's not bad for corporations to have a true environmental consciousness, that many corporations will greenwash themselves all they can. (See friend Perry for a roundup of Earth Day op-ed cartoons on this and other subjects.)

So, look at a nonprofit site like EarthDay.org to commemorate Earth Day correctly and non-capitalistically. Note that, despite Gaylord Nelson latching on to it, and pushing it, the first Earth Day had no politicians connected to it, either. Click the link in the Earth Day Flag caption for John McConnell for more information on that front.


As noted above, we don't need politicians claiming undue credit for the environmental movement. But, we can salute them, even if, like Richard Nixon, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts were not only his personal conviction, but were part of trying to "steal" white suburbanites from the Democrats.

Nor do we need badly written blog posts trying to "privilege" something like "Presbyterian environmentalism."

Mark Stoll's claim that because John Muir and Ed Abbey were raised Presbyterian, thus that influenced them as adults, is bad enough. As an adult, Abbey was a secularist of some sort and Muir would best be labeled as a Spinozan pantheist, I think. (Even Stoll, while writing precisely, notes that the adult Muir was NOT anywhere near a conventional Presbyterian.) Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau were in the same general ballpark as Muir, of course. Some of other things are worse. And, not knowing, or else ignoring, that Abbey rejected the word "environmentalist" to describe himself? Sounds like an author working with a shoehorn.

Based on all this, if/when I see the author's book, if I read it, it will be with a very critical eye. Did "people of faith" have an influence on environmentalism because of their faith? Yes. But, I just listed four people above who weren't conventional Christians. I'll give you a fifth: Stewart Udall, Interior Secretary for Kennedy and Johnson.

And, I'll give you a sixth. William Howard Taft, whom myth still presents as somehow anti-environmentalist as compared to Teddy Roosevelt, was no such thing. And religiously? He was our nation's sole, to date, Unitarian president — again, not a conventional Christian.

So, while Mark Stoll is right about "people of faith" and environmentalism (and I have no problems recognizing that), his idea of specific denominational influences seems forced and overblown.

Nor do we need the likes of John Horgan continuing his bromance with the neoliberal, tech-driven Environmentalism 2.0 of Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus and the rest of Breakthrough Institute.

We've seen what Net 2.0 is already doing to the political world — dragging neoliberals into ever-more libertarian-leaning technology-based ideas to attempt to solve poverty, unemployment, etc. It's a variation on what Evgeny Morozov calls "solutionism," and we don't need to get environmentalism running down that road.

There, I'll end an Earth Day blog post with noting the interesting twist of having Evgeny Morozov mentioned in it.

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