Environmentalism: A New Religion?

Published July 27, 1995

As humanity enters the twenty-first century, you might think we would have outgrown our fascination with doomsday prophecies. Yet the end-of-the world con game — nearly as old as the world itself — goes on.

Today, the doomsday prophets are environmental scaremongers who rake in millions of dollars frightening the gullible with contemporary fables of ozone depletion, acid rain, and oceans ruined forever by tanker accidents. They may think their racket is new, but it’s simply the same old game the evangelists have played for centuries, dressed up in a jargon more effective for audiences born in a scientific age.

Paul Boyer, a University of Wisconsin professor of history, describes in When Time Shall Be No More the efforts of Christian fundamentalists to interpret current events as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies foretelling humanity’s final days. Each generation of fundamentalists, Boyer explains, has thought that it was living in the end-times, and each generation has been willing to pay to hear and read about humanity’s imminent demise.

Capitalizing on this demand, evangelists in each era have interpreted the events of their days as signs that Jesus is about to return, the antichrist is about to emerge, and the Bible’s final battle of good and evil (Armageddon) is about to unfold.

But Boyer’s book misses the most interesting development in the time-honored doomsday-foretelling trade: its recent evolution into environmental hysteria.

Rabbi Daniel Friedman, of Deerfield, Illinois, considers environmentalism to be a lay rehash of end-times mythology. “It is striking,” he notes, “the extent to which Environmentalism resembles classic religious [prophecies about the end of time]. Man is still the rebellious sinner. The source of evil isn’t Satan but the industrial revolution, technology, productivity, and capitalism. Redemption is to return to that Eden-like state of nature before man’s corruption of Earth.”

Regardless of whether the Bible’s Eden is a myth, the pre-industrial Eden imagined by environmentalists certainly is: Prior to the industrial revolution, most children didn’t live past age five, and existence for the average adult was a plague-ridden, hungry affair, pretty much like “life” today in those societies that have never discovered free enterprise.

In the religion of environmentalism, it is the power of the state — not the supernatural power of God or church — that is designed to bring about salvation. Instead of Adam and Eve, the Burning Bush, and the Splitting of the Red Sea, environmentalism has alar, acid rain, asbestos, dioxin, global warming, and ozone depletion.

The scientific literature exists to debunk these modern fables, but when it comes to environmentalist propaganda, ABC’s “Nightline” and the weekly news magazines prefer to interview Hollywood celebrities and spokespersons for self-proclaimed “environmental groups,” rather than interview authentic scientists.

And so the con game continues, even as one environmental “crisis” after another is proven groundless. Take the acid rain scare, for example, which enjoyed a brief popularity. Dr. Edward Krug, a soil and water scientist and a participant in the 10-year National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program, reported: “NAPAP researched the lakes of the Adirondacks — the area of the Northeast predicted most likely to have massive lake acidification. We found, however, that the average Adirondack lake is no more acidic now than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution.”

While nobody likes oil spills, even they aren’t the monumental catastrophe environmentalists make them out to be. The late Dr. Petr Beckmann (1924-1993), a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Colorado and former research scientist for the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, explains: “The facts of the matter are that you lose a few birds in the short run, but you gain a lot of them, and fish, in the long run. The sea is starved for nutrients, and it has its own bacteria that eventually break down petroleum products and other hydrocarbons. These oil-ingesting microorganisms at the bottom of the food chain are themselves ingested by the predators along the chain all the way up to the fish, which are themselves eaten by sea birds and humans at the top of the chain. And all of these predators, including man, prosper after an oil spill.”

But the environmentalists, like prophets of doom since the beginning of time, don’t care about facts. Oh well, in the words of Ecclesiastes (1:9): “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Written for The Heartland Institute by David G. Danielson, a freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin.