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Global Warning By: David Solway
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, June 05, 2008


But, omne bene, say I, being of an old father’s mind,
Many can brook the weather that love not the wind.
Love’s Labour’s Lost, IV, ii

No one doubts that the environment has been heating up; the controversy it has engendered has to do less with an indubitable fact than with isolating its supposed causes. The trouble is that the “science” involved is highly debatable insofar as it has been commandeered by a political crusade whose underlying purposes are distressingly suspicious. Some of the movement’s proponents, to put it bluntly, are more concerned with saving their wilting careers than saving the planet; others are building new careers at the expense of public credulity, the perks and salaries being just too good to give up. We might note that Mars is also warming at present, though it seems there are no SUVs chugging along the planet’s surface or light bulbs flicking on in its kilowatt communities. And not so long ago, we might recall, we were all getting ready to freeze: in 1971, the Global Ecology network forecast the “continued rapid cooling of the earth,” and in 1975 the New York Times brooded that the earth “may be headed for another ice age,” and in the July 1975 issue of National Wildlife, C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization warned that “the cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.”

Naturally, charges of fraud, incompetence and self-interest will fly Right and Left. Those who are resisting the official vogue will be suspected of ulterior purposes, as for example Canadian geographer/climatologist Timothy F. Ball whom the Calgary Herald, in a legal defence statement (filed December 7, 2006), viewed as “a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry.” (Ball had launched a libel suit against the Herald for printing a letter by Dan Johnson, a professor of Environmental Science at the University of Lethbridge, impugning Ball’s credentials—a suit he later and rather suspiciously withdrew.)

But the argument can cut both ways. Thus William Gray, professor emeritus of the Atmosphere Department of Colorado State University, laments that “fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong. But they also know that they’d never get any grants if they spoke out” (Investor’s Business Daily, October 15, 2007). Gray has also shown that Al Gore’s Exhibit A, hurricane intensity and frequency, plays fast and loose with the available data which imply the very opposite of his conclusions. (“There were 101 hurricanes from 1900 to 1949, in a period of cooler global temperature,” Gray writes, “compared with 83 from 1957 to 2006.”)

That Ball and Gore are both rather dubious characters suggests that neither side can claim total purity for all of its adherents, but this should not prevent us from trying to assess where the greater harm is done. We should also stay alert for purpose-built mendacity, as when ABC news reporter Dan Harris conducts a smear campaign against atmospheric physicist and Nobel Laureate Fred Singer, one of the world’s most eminent scientists (ABC News, March 23, 2008). In seeking to rebut Singer’s anti-alarmist position, Harris relies on the opinions of Singer’s “fellow scientists,” all unnamed (and whom Singer has offered to debate), and trots out the personal animadversions of Greenpeace eco-activist and “global warming specialist” Kert Davies who, as an Internet search reveals, appears to have no scientific qualifications.

As has been remarked more than once, the Global Warming Movement has filled the vacuum left by the flight of the Transcendent. Its high priests are Al Gore and David Suzuki, the former with a carbon footprint of Sasquatch proportions and the latter buying carbon credits—another swindle—to run his super sized tour bus. The Live Earth concerts sponsored by Gore and featuring celebrity performers whose greenhouse gas emissions rival their bombast in volume and output has provided the Rock liturgy for this quasi-religious movement. The hypocrisy of these new-age evangelists has been preserved in amber in Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry. Interestingly, shortly before it was announced that Gore would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, a UK court ruled that his global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, contained at least nine salient falsehoods, in particular with respect to his claim that Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming, and that the film was little more than a form of “political indoctrination.”

As we have seen, hurricane frequency is one of Gore’s central arguments in prosecuting his case. He would have taken comfort in a later, supporting study sponsored by the University College of London (Nature, January 30, 2008). Unfortunately, as Steven Millroy, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, pointed out in an article in JunkScience.com (January 31, 2008), the researchers in question left out several important variables from their computer model, such as atmospheric humidity, sea-level pressure and long-range cycle activity, which severely damaged their thesis. The researchers themselves admitted that their analysis “does not identify whether greenhouse gas-induced warming contributed…to the increase in hurricane activity.”

But the real nail in the coffin of the Gorean hypothesis comes from the hammer of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which published a study in Geophysical Research Letters (January 23, 2008) positing a recent decrease in such activity. Adding to Gore’s embarrassment, the NOAA in its February report, relying on satellite data, showed that so-called “lost” ice had been restored to nearly its original levels, and a report in the London Daily Express (February 18, 2008) revealed that Antarctic levels had risen by a factor of one third.

The scientific consensus today is slowly beginning to shift away from the catastrophism of Gore, Suzuki and the United Nations IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, to suggest that the human contribution to global warming is far less than originally assumed and that a meteorological calamity is highly unlikely. (The IPCC, which certified and entrenched the so-called “scientific consensus,” is essentially a political body with an agenda of its own.) See Inhofe EPW Press Blog, Daily Tech online, and the journal Energy and Environment, whose findings are based on a survey of the ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) Web of Science database covering almost 9000 scientific publications.

Similarly, a study published in Nature (January 2, 2008), entitled “Vertical structure of recent Arctic warming,” co-authored by Rune Graversen, Thorsten Mauritsen, Michael Tjernström, Erland Källén and Gunilla Svenson of Stockholm University’s Department of Meteorology, while not categorically ruling out human intervention in climate warming, places the emphasis elsewhere. In attempting to explain the phenomenon known as “Arctic amplification,” the study cites “changes in oceanic atmospheric circulation” as one of the main drivers of observed temperature increases in the high North. In other words, periodic “atmospheric energy transport into the Arctic” from the equatorial latitudes, via currents and storms, “may be an important cause of the recent Arctic temperature amplification.”

Other reports conclude that “solar variability” is the major component in climate change and will run its course regardless of human intervention. As David Douglass writes in the International Journal of Climatology of the Royal Meteorological Society (December 2007), in a peer-reviewed article co-authored with several prominent scientists, “The observed pattern of warming . . . does not show the characteristic fingerprint associated with greenhouse warming. The inescapable conclusion is that the human contribution is not significant and that observed increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases make only a negligible contribution to climate warming.” According to the aforementioned Fred Singer, co-author with Dennis Avery of Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, who also contributed to the journal article, the effect of the terrestrial magnetic field is an equally important element. (Singer also indicates that “The ice sheets of Greenland have not melted in historic times at all, even though it was much warmer 1,000 years ago and very much warmer 5,000 years ago.”) The Douglass study, which is as authoritative as it gets, concludes by rejecting “the proposition that greenhouse model simulations and trend observations can be reconciled.”

The most sophisticated climate models indicate an undeniable discrepancy between surface and tropospheric temperature changes, which points to the sun as the primary agent in the long-term, fluctuating temperature curve. John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel, patiently explains that the sun, which contains 99.8% of the mass of the solar system, in its hydrogen-fueled atomic fusion process, “consumes more mass in a second than all the fossil fuel ever burned on Earth,” the terrestrial impact of which reduces the human input to global warming to a level of insignificance. Though Coleman doesn’t cite actual figures, the fact is that the sun pours in excess of a million billion megawatt-hours annually on the earth. But he does quote the highly respected Australian mathematician and former carbon consultant for the Australian government, David Evans, who argues that “carbon emissions don’t cause global warming.” According to Evans, the IPCC models are wrong and the mathematics show that the human signature in the atmosphere is missing (KUSI News online, November 8, 2007).

Indeed, H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the nonprofit National Center for Policy Analysis, has shown that the famous “hockey stick” image used by the IPCC (also wielded by Gore) to support its conclusion about an unprecedented spike in global warming, is entirely flawed. The UN researchers “used the wrong time scale to establish the mean temperature to compare with recorded temperatures of the last century,” which accounted for the sudden vertical shaft rising from the blade of the hockey stick.

Another recent NCPA study found that the ICPP violated 60 of the 127 principles governing prediction assessments and strictly followed only 17 of these forecasting principles (Washington Times, March 14, 2008). A panel of statisticians at George Mason University corroborated the NCPA results. Bjorn Lomborg’s two books on the subject, The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, although advancing an economic rather than purely scientific argument, are also needed correctives to current reflex thinking. For an equally refreshing perspective on these contentious issues, one might consult Daniel Botkin’s Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century. Botkin, whose work is predicated on separating soothsaying from science, is the former Chairman of Environmental Studies of the University of California at Santa Barbara and the current president of the Center for the Study of the Environment; his qualifications are impeccable.

The Keeling Curve, named after Charles David Keeling, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, measures the gradient levels of CO2 in the atmosphere from ice core samples. It has become the standard construct on which the Global Warming Movement relies. At the top of the graph representing the year 2002/3 we find a value of close to 380 molecules of CO2 per one million molecules of air, grossly insufficient to trigger the catastrophic effects of global warming that our climate zealots have been announcing. Scientists favourable to the thesis have had to fall back on the hypothesis of “CO2 forcing,” or a chemical chain reaction producing a multiplier effect, to justify their projections.

It is precisely this theory that has come under fire and ultimately been dismissed as unconvincing by a growing number of cutting-edge scientists, mathematicians and climatologists, including those mentioned above as well as experts such as Lord Christopher Monckton who specializes in exploring scientific frauds and New Zealand climate researcher Vincent Gray who has been reviewing IPCC drafts from 1990 to the present. In addition, as Holly Fretwell, in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (January 19, 2008) indicates with respect to rising CO2 levels, “correlation is not causation.”

Moreover, there is no reason to believe that CO2 is the causative agent in temperature change, she continues, since if we “look at the data that shows CO2 levels and temperature changes over the last 650,000 years, what we find is that temperature actually changes first and CO2 in the atmosphere follows…CO2 lags the temperature change.” Her quip about forecasting is also well-taken. “Think about how well we are at predicting the weather tomorrow or next week and now try to extend that out 100 years. We really are no better at predicting long-term climate change than we are at predicting short-term climate . . . ” Tim Patterson, director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Center, concurs: “C02 variations show little correlation with out planet’s climate on long, medium and even short time scales.” But he and his team have found “excellent correlations between the regular fluctuations of the sun and earthly climate” (Financial Post, June 20, 2007).

The US Climate Change Science Program introduces an equally sober note into the current hysteria over global warming. Its 2004-2005 report asserts that the droughts of 1998-2002 “were part of a persistent climate state that was strongly influenced by…unusually cold sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Pacific.” It goes on to isolate other influences for observed differences in temperature readings, including a “natural weather pattern called the North Atlantic Oscillation/Northern Annular Mode.” Anthropogenic forcing is only one determinant in the complex dynamic of weather patterns, one that is yet far from being properly understood. And there is still, the report makes clear, a “large uncertainty about the precise effects of aerosols on Earth’s radiation balance.”

But the crucial issue, as I have suggested, has to do with the profound human predicament posed by the Deus Absconditus, the evacuation of the Divine and of the resulting consecration of moral principle from the conduct of modern life in the Western world, leaving a vast abyss in consciousness that must be filled by a substitute pseudo-celestial, a new species of pietism. In his recent book A Secular Age, philosopher Charles Taylor argues that the experience of transcendence is not obsolete and opts for an “exclusive humanism” to re-energize our “social imaginary,” but this effort at re-enchanting a desiccated world seems dubious. A strange inversion has occurred in which the Earth itself, a Divinity called Gaia, has arisen to sit upon the empty throne of Heaven. But Gaia is a false god (or goddess). It cares nothing for human activity, whether reverent or invasive, will absorb our depredations as it has metamorphic natural disasters over the evolutionary time scale, is utterly devoid of values, and confers neither obligation nor love upon us. We idealize that which has no interest in us whatsoever and which cannot open and sustain a dialogue with the human soul. We have come to revere a cold, deterministic and solipsistic deity, attributing our own values, ideals and sentiments to that which cannot feel or respond to them. The irony latent in such an upheaval is that, in effect, man is now worshipping himself; and the sense of his own planetary nobility is fueled by a kind of quasi-religious hysteria that operates in defiance of critical facts.

But can so twisted a collective response to the spiritual vacancy of modern Western life be characterized as the expression of a genuine religious impulse? Religion, properly understood and when it is not itself perverted, is about the enhancement of human life; the global warming regime envisages the impoverishment and even the destruction of human life under the sign of saving the earth. Don Feder, writing in GrassTopsUSA.com, considers the Global Warming Movement nothing less than “a suicide cult whose prophets and priests warm to the idea of the mass extinction of humanity.” Thus the spectacle of “warming alarmists” who are “content to repeal the industrial revolution, and others [who] favor the end of civilization through gradual de-population.” Feder quotes many examples of such degenerate contemporary shamans for whom self-love is the paradoxical equivalent of self-hate, of which I reproduce a selection here from his text:

• “Given the total, absolute disappearance of Homo sapiens, then not only would the Earth’s community of Life continue to exist, but in all probability, its well-being enhanced. Our presence in short is not needed,” Paul Taylor in “Respect for Nature, A Theory of Environmental Ethics.”

• “We have no problem in principle with humans reducing their numbers by killing one another. It's an excellent way of making humans extinct,” a spokes-creature for the Gaia Liberation Front.

• “Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs,” John Davis, editor of the journal Earth First.

• In the book The World Without Us, Alan Weisman celebrates what he sees as the inevitable extinction of humanity, as vine and branch, deer and bear, reclaim our cities.

• There’s even a Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, which describes itself as “the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.” VHEMT explains that “the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens . . . us.”

Feder might also have mentioned Paul Watson, Greenpeace co-founder and head of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who famously described human beings as the “AIDS of the Earth.”

One wonders what Arne Naess would say about all this. Are such abysmal depths of sheer imbecility implicit in the Deep Ecology movement, untenably extending, in Naess’ words, “the equal right to live and blossom”? But from whatever angle we look at this species of “painful thinking,” we might reasonably conclude that it’s all becoming a bit much. As William Logan says of Robert Hass’ eco-poetry (a thriving genre lazily piggybacking on current fashion): “by the time he’s done preaching about the destruction of the ozone layer” and “droning on about chlorofluorocarbons . . . you’re counting the tiles on the floor” (The New Criterion, December 2007). This state of dementia can take many different forms. Witness the nonsense spouted by Clare Short, former Secretary of State for International Development in Britain’s Labour Government. Speaking at the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held in Brussels at the end of August 2007, Short declared that Israel may cause the “end of the human race” since it represents a serious distraction from the weather—another of Israel’s unforgivable crimes. According to this eminence, Israel “undermines the international community’s reaction to global warming.” No less bananas, Penn State University law professor Regina Austin teaches a course on “Environmental Racism” in which the question of race is coupled with environmental activism and which is intended to support something called “the environmental racism claim” (DiscoverTheNetworks.org). There is, so to speak, a lot of hot air in the mental atmosphere.

Consider the sheer authoritarian looniness of David Suzuki who, addressing the McGill University Business Conference on Sustainability on January 31, 2008, stated: “What I would challenge you to do is put a lot of effort into trying to see whether there’s a legal way of throwing our so-called leaders into jail” for not acting more quickly on environmental issues. It is becoming increasingly difficult not to regard Dr. Suzuki as the Fu Manchu of the environmental movement. Or perhaps the Old Man of the Mountains, whose dogmatism resists the influx of fresh data. Dr. Suzuki predicted some 20 years ago that we had only 10 years to go before suffering environmental collapse. In the meantime what has collapsed is Dr. Suzuki’s credibility, though his authority remains intact among the naïve and impressionable since he offers a perfect example of theocracy at work in the scientific domain. For that matter, Dr. Suzuki does look a bit like God in His Sistine incarnation, a resemblance which no doubt facilitates his attempt to remake the world in his own image. But to give him his due, he is surely more sincere than Al Gore who, in essence, buys his carbon offsets from the company he co-owns and chairs, Generation Investment Management, in which Gore is heavily invested and whose stock values have skyrocketed (Canada Free Press, March 13, 2007; The Citizens Journal online; WorldNetDaily.com, etc.).

And what is one to make of the Greenpeace report, Cool Farming, released on January 7, 2008, which recommends a vegetarian diet to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions? Greenpeace is quite serious, solemnly deponing, in the language of the report, that “For individuals wishing to reduce their GHG footprint, adopting a vegetarian diet, or at least reducing the quantity of meat products in the diet, would have beneficial GHG impacts.” But this is not the least of it. Among other pollutants, Greenpeace is concerned with the amount of methane produced by ruminants, whose digestive systems work overtime to bring us ever closer to the end of days. Based on kg CO2 equivalents on a 100 year time scale, beef and sheep alone, the SUVs of the animal world, generate a whopping amount of CO2 per kg. of product, according to the “Global warming potential” tables used in the report (page 36). There is no doubt that we must work quickly to avert an impending catastrophe while there is still time. The bovine fart-and-dung ratio is evidently imperilling the planet.

No one is suggesting that humans have not had a pejorative effect of the earth’s ecosystems, an exigency that should be addressed and corrected sooner rather than later. But this is not tantamount to an around-the-corner ecological implosion and certainly not to a latter-day, man-made climatic holocaust. There is clearly a popular fascination with the prospect of imminent human extinction from “natural” causes, an obsession with cultic overtones generally signifying a hunger for spiritual nourishment that goes otherwise unsatisfied. How else explain the best-seller status of a book like Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us with its depiction of the human ripple effect on the environment, the restoration of the soil following upon our disappearance, and the epiphany of a “redesigned atmosphere.” Weisman’s book is perhaps not quite as off the wall as Don Feder thinks, but it does tap into the current frenzy inspired by an apocryphal religious groundswell.

Even so, one need not focus on the more disastrous scenarios and slap shot recommendations of what may or may not be the lunatic fringe of the Movement—those who, according to Steven Milloy, are responsible for “global smarming.” Indeed, these facile doomsayers are propelling us, in Walter E. Williams apt phrase, into “the wild green yonder” (Washington Times, May 13, 2008). It has been reliably estimated by many researchers into the subject that in fulfilling the draconian prescriptions of the Kyoto Accord or its successors, millions of jobs will be lost in the developed world, the quality of life will sink to substandard levels, and the inhabitants of the Third World will be even more severely punished as they are deprived of the minimal immunities, comforts and amenities of modern life to which they aspire. The NCPA’s Burnett concludes his above-mentioned report with an apposite warning to policy makers. Recommendations based on “flawed statistical analyses and procedures that violate general forecasting principles” should be taken “into account before enacting laws to counter global warming—which economists point out would have severe economic consequences.”

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, author of the soon-to-be-translated Blue Planet in Green Chains, is on the mark when he warns of the irrationality of the bullish “global warming” industry: “As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism . . . Let us not scare ourselves with catastrophic forecasts, or use them to defend and promote irrational interventions in human lives” (Financial Times, June 14, 2007.) Klaus quotes Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, to good effect. Lindzen wrote: “future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21rst century’s developed world went into a hysterical panic [that] on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age” (Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2006). Ultimately, we should agree, at the very least, that an enormous amount of research still needs to be done before the science is sufficiently stabilized to yield results that are not perennially contestable. We might also remember that the warmest year of the 20th century was 1934, an anomaly, perhaps, in a period of global cooling.

“Caring for nature,” as Bruce Thornton reminds us in Decline and Fall, “is the luxury of those who aren’t worried about eating for another day.” Not that caring for nature is contra-indicated—far from it—but the manner in which we now comport ourselves is actually narcissistic, cold-hearted, witless and incontinent. The prognosis is indeed a dismal one, not for the planet but for human reason. And all this to accomplish what, on the best evidence to date, may not even be necessary, a fact which would become increasingly obvious as the climate begins once again to cool following the abatement of solar activity. Indeed, climatologists Kenneth Tapping of the National Research Council of Canada and Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences have both concluded that sunspot activity has diminished to the point of presaging the onset of colder winters and leading to a period of widespread cooling (Investor’s Business Daily, February 7, 2008 and RIA Novosti, February 25, 2008, respectively). In other words, global warming is a temporary phenomenon. Similarly, geophysicist Phil Chapman, basing his findings on analyses from the four major weather-tracking agencies—the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama and the Remote Sensing Systems Inc. in California—reports that global temperature is “falling precipitously,” having decreased by .7 C in 2007, and that drastically reduced sunspot activity heralds a new approaching ice age for which we are wholly unprepared (The Australian, April 23, 2008). Global Ecology, the New York Times and the World Meteorological Organization may have been on the right track after all, though the track leads to a destination many thousands of years in the future.

Certainly, while aiming to clean up the natural environment and improve living conditions on the planet, we should not act from hysteria and panic blended with a generous amount of self-righteousness and puritanical conviction, falling into what Klaus has called the trap of “salutary flagellation” in the service of an imagined deity. The state of affairs we wish to rectify would then only continue to deteriorate. The “trap” is also one of lazy self-obliviousness, a refusal to understand how we “work” as human beings. The religious impulse, Christopher Hitchens not withstanding, will not go away; it will only be diverted into other, covert and non-traditional channels—the brotherhood of man, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Kantian dream of universal peace, the super-filial relation to Gaia—in effect, raising politics to the level of theology.

This deep-seated impulse may even exert a kind of back-channel or detour effect, offering to reinvigorate religious belief by circling back and substituting for its withering doctrinal base. As Thornton says, the church has begun to shift “its mission from saving souls and ministering to its flock, to changing the world and agitating for ‘social justice.’ ” The Reverend Joan Brown Campbell, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (of “What Would Jesus Drive” fame), stressed that climbing aboard the Global Warming buggy and participating in the Church’s “Eco-Justice Program” should be a “litmus test for the faith community.” Judging from a statement issued by the Program’s director, Cassandra Carmichael, religious worship is now only one factor among many, equated with “education, lifestyle changes, or public dialog.” She seems to have forgotten that St. Paul did not write about prison conditions when incarcerated by the Romans. He had other things on his mind.

Amongst the Western public at large, as well as many of the “experts,” global warming is more of a social and political issue than a scientific one. But because politics is now all we have, it is inevitably transfigured into a religion—or a cult with religious trappings—bringing to bear upon the empirical sphere of human life practices and attitudes that properly apply to the spiritual dimension. Far too many of these experts and activists are not so much dispassionate scientists or rational thinkers as they are instinctual religious crusaders. NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin, who has professed some skepticism about certain aspects of global warming research, especially with regard to theoretical computer models that tend, as he says, to run before they have learned to walk, was startled to realize that “you can’t express any sort of contrary opinion or a comment without it being treated almost as a religious issue” (Newsmax.com, March 17, 2008). The doxastic progression here is: science-politics-religion. To use Irving Kristol’s word, human beings are, whether we like it or not, “theotropic” beings.

Indeed, the metamorphosis of politics into a debased form of religion may be the bedrock definition of that otherwise debatable term, “fascism,” further specified as “ecofascism” by Janet Biehl and Peter Staudermaier in their book of that title. This would be true in many different spheres of human endeavour as an entire cultural world is gradually emptied of its marrow and vitality and rendered unsustainable in the long run. In our present context, as Jonah Goldberg observes in Liberal Fascism, “environmentalism gives license to the sort of moral bullying and intrusion that, were it couched in terms of traditional morality, liberals would immediately denounce as fascist.”

In particular, when the dictates of faith are allowed to impinge upon the need for understanding a range of events in the natural world and to validate solutions to problems which are either inherently ambiguous or dauntingly complex, we end up doing far more harm than good. In striving to supplant the City of God by the City of Man, the result is that we generally find ourselves living in the City of the Devil. Genuine spirituality then gives way to a profusion of cults, fads, idolatries, social rituals and hero-worship. “When men stop believing in God,” G.K. Chesterton is alleged to have said, “they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything.” Serious conviction is replaced by earnest frivolity, self-transcendence by self-infatuation masking as self-transcendence. Such are the wages of the religious sensibility when it goes off the rails and does not recognize itself as the affective and psychic distortion produced by the vestigial terror of abandonment. It is the weather of the soul that has changed for the worse.

David is currently working on Living in the Valley of Shmoon, from which this chapter is excerpted. It's a follow-up to The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity.


David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. A new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, will be released by CanadianValuesPress this fall.


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