Thursday, July 14, 2011

Peter Finnochiaro at Salon: Global-Warming Denial Concentrated in States Now Burning Up

The irony to which I pointed yesterday--namely, that the ongoing drought in the southern sector of the U.S. is occurring in states that now most fiercely defend the "right" of corporations to destroy the environment, states in which there are large numbers of climate-change deniers: that irony is not lost on Peter Finnochiaro, either.

At Salon today, Finnochiaro surveys 10 leading deniers of global warming in the very part of the nation now burning up due to multi-year summer heat spikes and prolonged drought.  Those surveyed range from pray-away-the-drought Rick Perry of Texas, who has called climate-change science "a contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight," to James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who maintains that global warming theory is "the second largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state."

In case you can't quite find the jewel of Inhofe's "logic" lurking at the bottom of his murky prose, his point is this: the notion of climate change is every bit as much of a hoax as is the notion that the Constitution calls for the separation of church and state.  And therein lies one of the primary reasons many citizens of the American South (Southwest and Southeast) resist the notion of global warming and of a moral imperative for people of faith to address the issue: many people of faith in my part of the country believe that biblical morality--the only kind of morality worth noticing--is restricted to the personal arena, and, for the most part, to the pelvic area.  And they believe that they have the right and even obligation to impose their own peculiar notion of biblical morality on the culture at large, since separation of church and state is a myth.

Whether people fornicate, engage in gay sex, run around on their spouse, etc.: that's what biblical morality is about, these theocratic citizens argue.  Biblical morality is not about issues like racism, sexism, or environmental destruction.  It's not about rapacious business practices and their destructive effect on the environment.  It's personal, and it has nothing to do with government or social institutions.  Anyone who wishes to extend the idea of sin to social institutions, and to argue that groups of people can be guilty of sin (e.g., of sins like racism or environmental destruction): he or she has departed from the gospel and its individualistic notion of salvation.

The novel by Alabama native E.O. Wilson--Anthill--about which I blogged some weeks ago is full of fascinating aper├žus re: the stolid resistance of much of Southern evangelical religion to environmental insights.  As a pastor in Alabama tells an environmental activist in the novel, in the following passage I cited in my previous remarks about the book: 
God didn't send His only Son to save bugs and snakes.  He sent him to save souls.  God doesn't give a shit about the land and the creatures on them except how his people can use them.  This is just a place on the way to heaven or hell.  Anything that's against His will is the devil's work.
And it's these parts of the country--the areas of the nation where many churchgoers devoutly endorse this kind of scathing indictment of the environmental movement--that are now burning up, as global warming accelerates.  But don't think that this development will cause chagrin to those who have fought against the notion of global warming.

To the contrary, they'll welcome the burning of the land as a sign of God's imminent approach in the Second Coming.  The faster we burn it all up, the sooner the Lord will return to claim His own.  There's a positive jubilatory glee among many Southern religionists about the mess we're now in environmentally and economically, since they see the mess as a sign of divine punishment that will return us to the Lord and, if all goes well, set the conditions for the Second Coming.  In fact, Rick Perry has pushed precisely that argument.

That's the religious "thinking" that lies behind much of the denial of global warming in the U.S., and it has worrisome implications for the entire globe, since the refusal of the U.S. to address global warming proactively and seriously is retarding the international movement to begin solving this critical problem.

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