When Will Conservatives Advocate To Conserve Our Planet?
What we are experiencing with increasing frequency is the unprecedented intensity and duration of our planet’s climatic conditions.
Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has been poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you learn that you cannot eat money. — North American Indigenous Proverb
Only after the last corporate building has blown down,
only after the last corporate beachfront property has been washed away and submerged,
only after the last private insurance company has perished under the weight of natural disaster payouts,
only then we you cease denying the human causation of global climate change. — Warren J. Blumenfeld’s proverb
What we are experiencing with increasing frequency is the unprecedented intensity and duration of our planet’s climatic conditions. For example, Hurricane Harvey dumped more rain on Texas alone than any past storm in the history of meteorological record-keeping, and Irma remained a category 5 hurricane longer and, also, clocked the highest sustained winds of any Atlantic hurricane ever, caused, in large part, by extraordinarily high Atlantic water temperatures.
By examining Harvey and Irma, we are witnessing our future. Today, meteorologists use terms like “unprecedented” and “historic” in describing the component conditions of these two climatic events. Tomorrow, we will hear them defining similar storms as “normal.”
Trump pulled the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, severely gutted regulations on corporations and industries that seriously pollute our water, air, and ground, while reemphasizing fossil fuels and deemphasizing clean energy sources.
He chose initially to head the Department of Energy former Texas Governor, Rick Perry, who admitted he was unaware of the function of the department he was to administer, and who, in his infamous “oops” moment during his run for the presidency in 2012, actually forgot that this was one of the three federal agencies he intended to eliminate.
To “lead” the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump picked Scott Pruitt who contradicted reliable scientific evidence when he stated he doubts that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor of climate change:
I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s [CO2] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
This aligns with Trump’s statement on the campaign trail calling climate change “a hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese, even though the EPA’s conclusion on its website states (before Trump had the agency delete it) that, “Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.”
In his brief time in office, Trump has declared war on the environment by proposing a substantial budgetary reduction of an estimated 24% and a staff cut of 20% to the EPA, consideration of lower automobile emission and fuel efficiency standards, relaxation of prohibitions against dumping toxins like coal ash into streams and rivers, reinstatement of the potentially environmentally damaging Dakota Access and Keystone oil pipelines, and increased coal mining, natural gas, crude and scale oil drilling.
Trump reportedly had chosen William Happer, a National Security Council official, to head a proposed Presidential Committee on Climate Security
In 2014, Happer, who co-founded the CO2 Coalition, an advocacy group that focuses on “the consequences of mandated reductions in CO2 emissions,” compared criticism of carbon dioxide, the increase which most scientists declare has raised global temperatures, to the Nazi treatment of Jews.
The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” Happer said on CNBC in 2014. “Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews.
Two years later, he again justified his CO2 Coalition group by likening it to Jews and the Anti-Defamation League as “the CO2 anti-defamation league…because there is the CO2 molecule, and it has undergone decade after decade of abuse, for no reason.”
We all must distinguish the difference between “intent” and “impact.” Giving Happer the benefit of the doubt, which I find difficult, that his “intent” was to highlight the suffering of Jews and the benefits they bring to society, the “impact” of his words is highly offensive and antisemitic.
While Happer may believe he honors Jews by invoking their (our) tragic past, he does us a great disservice by misappropriating our history to serve his interests.
Trump’s idea of constituting a so-called Presidential Committee on Climate Security was very contentious from the onset and, subsequently, never took off.
In his wide-ranging executive order, Trump further reversed Obama-era environmental protections by reducing governmental regulations on the coal and oil industries that were intended to curb greenhouse gases. Specifically, Trump repealed Obama’s moratorium on coal mining on federal lands and on coal-fueled power plants, and advised federal agencies to “identify all regulations, all rules, all policies…that serve as obstacles and impediments to American energy independence.”
Against mountains or irrefutable evidence to the contrary, the climate deniers, including Donald Trump and significant numbers of his Grand? Old Party are perpetrating a delusional fraud against volumes of reputable evidence to the contrary that if allowed to continue, will end in the extermination of all life on this planet (except, or course, cockroaches who seemingly survive almost anything).
The Obama administration released its National Climate Assessment reporting that our global climate is, in fact, changing, and this is due primarily to human activity, in particular, the burning of fossil fuels. The Assessment investigated approximately 12,000 professional scientific journal papers on the topic of global climate change, and discovered that in the articles expressing a position on global warming, fully 97 percent authenticated both the reality of global warming and the certainty that humans are the cause.
Additional studies released since the White House report signed the beginning of the depletion and ultimate total collapse of glaciers in Antarctica, which can continue to raise worldwide sea levels an additional 4 feet. This depletion is now irreversible.
What seems clear to the scientific community seems like science fiction to many key politicians, including Lamar Smith (R-TX), paradoxically the Chair of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Science, Space, and Technology who has been a perennial skeptic of human-produced climate change. He stated on the floor of the House:
We now know that prominent scientists were so determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming that they worked together to hide contradictory temperature data.
He quoted no sources, and his accusations were later proven false.
Previous Chair of the Committee, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) asserted that he does not have concerns about global warming, but, rather, he is “really more fearful of freezing,” even though “I don’t have any science to prove that.” He went even further by stating that he did not “think we can control what God controls.”
Many on the anti-science political and theocratic Right (mis)quote scripture to justify human exploitation of the planet. For example, former Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, questioned Barack Obama’s “theology” in an Ohio campaign stop, February 18, 2012, by asserting that Obama believes in “some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology.”
The next day, when asked to explain his remarks on the CBS news program “Face the Nation” by moderator Bob Schieffer, Santorum responded that he was referring to “the radical environmentalists,” and by implication, placed Obama in this category.
Santorum attacked the notion that “man is here to serve the Earth,” which he argued “is a phony ideal.” While Santorum conceded “that man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth,” he was emphatic that “we’re not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.”
In yet another ill-conceived and executed Christian crusade, Santorum, with his publicly expressed literal biblical perspective, conjures up such passages as Genesis 1:26, which states:
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
And Genesis 1:28:
God blessed [humans] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’
Also, Genesis 9:
Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.’
And Santorum is certainly not alone among his Republican colleagues and electorate. A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, in their 2008 study “A Deeper Partisan Divide over Global Warming,” found that while 58% of respondents who identified as Democrats and 50 percent of Independents believe that global warming is mostly caused by human activity, only 27 percent of Republicans believed this.
Among Democrats, those with higher educational levels, 75% with college degrees compared with 52% with less education, expressed the view that solid evidence has shown human activity largely as the cause of global warming. Opposed to the Democrats, however, educational levels of Republicans resulted in an inverse relationship in trusting the scientific evidence with only 19% of Republican college graduates compared with 31% with less education believing in the human connection to climate change.
Pew’s updated report in 2013 found that overall 67% of U.S. residents believe global warming is happening, but only 25% of Tea Party Republicans believe this.
This month, record temperatures and fires in California; multiple strong storms in the South China Sea; record temperature drops in the U.S. Rockies in a 24-hour period.
How many more British Petroleum and Exxon Valdez oil spills, polluted and poisoned waterways and skies, dead lakes, clear cut forests, mine disasters, mutilated and scorched Earth, nuclear power plant accidents and meltdowns, toxic dumps and landfills, trash littered landscapes, extinct animal and plant species, encroachments on land masses by increasingly raising oceans and seas?
How many more unprecedented global climatic fluctuations will it take for the anti-science Republican party to put the health of the planet and by extension of the health of all Earth’s inhabitants on the front burner, if you will, of policy priorities over the unquenchable lust for profits by corporate executives?
When will conservatives begin to conserve our Planet?
For a party claiming to stand as “pro-family,” what kind of legacy and what kind or future are they really bequeathing to our youth? For a party that claims to promote political conservatism and “traditional values,” what is more traditional and valuable than conserving and thus sustaining the Earth’s resources responsibly and equitably?
While differing marginally on specific issues, many Republicans march in lock-step to the drummer of conservative political and corporate dogma centering on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulation over the private sector; privatizing governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care, and social welfare; permanently incorporating across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, advancing market-driven and unfettered “free market” economics.
I ask, though, how “free” are we now as mining, oil, and lumber companies lobby to exploit the land, and as legislators grant corporations enormous tax breaks and subsidies?
How “free” will we be if conservative Republicans succeed in abolishing the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Protection Agency, the US Department of Education, the US Department of Commerce, and other governmental agencies?
How “free” will we be if conservative Republicans succeed in the US Congress with their threats to privatize our national parks, and to loosen environmental and consumer protections of all kinds?
The conservative Republican battle cry, seemingly coined by Sarah Palin of “drill baby drill,” unfortunately is what the Obama and Trump administrations have forwarded, resulting in significantly more domestic oil production than under the George W. Bush administration. This, however, is simply unsustainable since the US currently consumes approximately 20–25% of the oil produced worldwide, though we hold in the range of only 2% of planetary oil reserves.
Webster’s dictionary defines “oppression” as a noun meaning “the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power” on the individual/interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels. Human treatment of the environment certainly falls under this definition.
As opposed to “oppression,” I define “social justice” as the concept that local, national, and global communities functioning where everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordination.”
This concluding phrase is of prime importance, for when humans place themselves into “hierarchical positions of domination and subordination,” environmental degradation inevitably results.
This is no different in a US context from other hierarchies of power and privilege: White people over People of Color, men over women, rich over working class and poor, heterosexuals over homosexuals and bisexuals, cisgender people over transgender people, able-bodied people over people with disabilities, native-born English speakers over immigrant linguistic minorities, adults of a certain age over youth and over seniors, Christians over member of all other religious and spiritual communities as well as over non-believers, and the spokes on the oppression wheel continue to trample over people and over our environment.
A non-regulated privatized so-called “free-market” economic system lacking in environmental protections is tantamount to a social system deficient of civil and human rights protections for minoritized peoples.
If people wish to quote scripture, they would do well to heed biblical warnings, such as Isaiah 24: 4–6:
The earth dries up and withers, the world languished and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth lies under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statues, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt.
This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.