#142 The Church of Environmentalism

the christian economist dave arnott

#142 The Church of Environmentalism

The latest pagan form to fill the God-shaped vacuum in humans is called environmentalism.  It has its own church, high priests, and eschatology, but the economics don’t work. 

Economics is the study of the production and distribution of goods and services under scarcity.  When applied to religion, we understand that people HAVE to believe something.  Even the most ardent existentialist BELIEVES only in what exists.  So here we are in the early part of the 21st century, and people are believing in new gods.  As it says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 There is nothing new under the sun.  Environmentalism is simply the latest god of some humans. 

A God-Shaped Vacuum

A paraphrase of Blaise Pascal’s work goes like this “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every [person] which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

I just read a new book by Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley from the Cato Institute, titled Superabundance.  Their point is that increasing the world population INCREASES resources.  It does not reduce them.  My summary of the increasing population concept is written in my little book Economics and the Christian Worldview, and is as follows: There is a limited amount of land and God isn’t making any more.  But He IS making creative people who are finding more efficient ways of using it.”  The authors of Superabundance clearly state that they are writing from a secular worldview.  So you can imagine my surprise to find a section titled, “Is environmentalism becoming a secular religion?”  

Environmentalism fulfills the same psychological needs as religion does, because it is transcendent.  It allows humans to be a part of something greater than themselves.  

Michael Crichton in a speech in San Francisco in 2003 said, “Environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st-century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs.  There’s an initial Eden which is a paradise.  Then there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all.   Mr. Crichton continues to explain that we are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek the salvation of sustainability in the church of the environment.  

Deirdre McCloskey in her 2010 book Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics can’t explain the modern world, explains that environmentalism is taught now as a civic religion in American schools.  The environmental left has now worshipfully adopted Malthus. 

….”in the absences of traditional religion, the need for the transcendent is being filled by something else,” as Jason Josephson Storm wrote in his 2017 book The Myth of Disenchantment.  He says religion has been replaced by new-age spirituality, paranormal beliefs, and pagan nature worship, which is environmentalism.

Michael Shellenberger worked in various left-wing environmental movements, then wrote the book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.  He says, “Religious traditions may be subconsciously shaping the foundational beliefs of environmentalism, thereby creating a new, secular religion.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, human problems stem from our failure to adjust ourselves to God, while in the apocalyptic environmental tradition, human problems stem from our failure to adjust ourselves to nature.”  

The Creation or the Creator?

In his article in the Epoch Times recently, titled The Green Ruse, Lee Smith writes, “Today’s climate change movement portrays mankind as something like a parasitical alien sent to Earth for no other purpose than to violate Mistress Gaia. And in this perverse anti-human scenario, the remedy—renewable energy—degrades man and nature alike.

Back to Mr. Shellenberger again for an economic viewpoint:  He says that carbon emissions are a by-product of energy consumption, which is a necessary part of eliminating global poverty.  So the economic priorities are clear: Do we choose the environment, or the people it was created to serve?  For Christians, the answer is pretty simple: People come first.  When you reduce the use of fossil fuels in developing countries, the worlds’ poorest and most vulnerable people suffer.

Belief over Facts

I read recently that electric cars will reduce global temperatures .0002 degrees.  Seems pretty insignificant, doesn’t it?  See, this is where economic thinking shows its value, because we say, “Slowing global warming MIGHT be good, but at what cost?  There’s never been a one-armed economist, because we always say, “On the other hand…….”  I made that point with more detail in podcast #136 titled Global Warming is Good.

Bjorn Lomborg’s article in the Wall Street Journal, titled How the Climate Elite Spread Misery, makes the following political observation, “Politicians’ singular focus on climate change ignores that people are much more worried about rampant inflation, especially rising food and energy prices. And climate policies are making those problems worse.”  He continues, Climate policies also increase energy prices by subsidizing renewables like solar and wind. That makes it even harder to adapt to the extreme temperatures climate activists bemoan. You need cheap and reliable energy to afford air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter.  I explain my view in podcast #119 titled Demand Destruction of God’s Creation

Rising fuel prices are also making food more expensive. Low-cost synthetic fertilizer is one of the greatest technologies humanity has invented for feeding the world, but it’s mostly made with natural gas. Even with almost a billion people at risk of starvation, climate-obsessed bureaucrats still object to producing more fertilizer because of the fossil fuels required.

Climate activists tell us that if we don’t trade fossil fuel sources for “green” energy, the world will come to an end. However, observation of physical reality shows that the infrastructure needed for so-called clean energy is disastrous for the environment.

The Green agenda does not make economic sense.  But then, religion seldom does, because it’s based in belief, not facts.  As Ginger often says to me, “There you go, thinking again.”  Environmentalism is all about feeling, with almost no consideration to thinking. 

Referring again to the book Superabundance by Tupy & Pooley “Reason is needed to reveal the quasi-religious role that the belief in the coming of an environmental apocalypse plays in the lives of many well-meaning but increasingly unreasonable individuals.  Evidence provides rational grounds for cautious optimism about the state of the planet.”

Sacrifices to the Gods

Amidst a heat-wave in California, officials are calling for less heat and cooling, less transportation, and shorter showers.  We all have to sacrifice to the gods of the environment.  Californians paid on average about 29 cents per kilowatt hour in June, by far the most in the continental U.S. and twice as much as in neighboring states.  I still pay ten cents in Texas, because we still have a competitive market for electricity.  About every two years, I go to a website called Power to Choose, and select a provider who meets my needs.  I pay one-third what Californians pay, because I purchase from a market, and they purchase from a monopoly. 

Like all religions, environmentalism has its high priests.  In Superabundance, Tupy & Pooley explain that, in the new secular religion, the priesthood is played by scientists who interpret the natural order of things.

Europe is about to enter the 21st century “Dark Age” this winter.  A blind obedience to the church of Climate Change is the reason.  There can be no enlightenment until the curtain is pulled on the environmental wizards who act as high priests. 

Economic self-interest is at work in the climate change movement.  Quoting Lee Smith in the Epoch Times again, “The economic numbers give evidence that the transition to the Green New Deal is catastrophic for humans.  So why are U.S. and EU politicians determined to push Western civilization back into the Dark Ages? Because it’s an extortion racket. There’s big money at stake for global elites invested in the climate agenda.”


Environmentalists are committed to terrorizing people into believing that unless we agree to their demands to shrink our means while they expand theirs, Earth will burn to a fiery crisp.

Lee Smith again, “Climate change activism is fundamentally an end-of-times movement and, thus, it attracts a fanatically committed constituency. they proselytize on behalf of the expert class and threaten violence against a humanity that they believe is worthy only of damnation.”  Whew!  Pretty strong stuff.  But, when you’re saving the world, you have to get tough with people.  

In his book Factfulness, Hans Rosling tells about turning down, then vice-president Al Gore’s pressure to scare people about the state of the environment.  Good for Dr. Rosling for sticking to the facts.  

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore has changed sides on the environmental debate and now serves on the board of the Co2 Coalition that advises us about the dangers of environmentalism.  As Mr. Moore put it, “Climate change activists are primarily focused on creating narratives—stories that are designed to instill fear and guilt into the public so the public will send them money.”

Tupy and Pooley seem to agree, stating that rather than striving for a green utopia, the contemporary green movement has become obsessed with fear, predicting the end of the world by technology-induced climate change.

The most watched of my 140 podcasts is #88 titled Don’t Fear the Future.  As Tupy and Pooley point out in Superabundance, we have a negativity bias.  We are attracted to bad news.  But, I encourage you not to believe it.  My favorite question to ask in seminars, speeches, and classes, is to complete the following sentence, “Life was better on earth before we ran out of……”  Far as I know, there is no answer.  What SHOULD we fear?  How about this: Fear God, tell the truth, earn a profit. 




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