Through Scientism to Neo-Paganism. On Millennialism of the Ecological Rite
The environmentalist ideology tends, in my opinion, to supplant what was referred to as “political education” during the communist era (Marxist humanism or the Marxist concept of education). It is explicitly or implicitly covered in the kindergarten and elementary school curricula. However, neither high school nor college are spared. Furthermore, few believe that this fact warrants attention because, after all, what could be wrong with environmental awareness? Environmentalism appears to be a completely harmless discipline that encompasses all aspects of life: nature, animal species, pollution prevention and cleanup, tree planting, waste reduction, and recycling. Teamwork, “extra-curricular” activities, activism, walks, outdoor excursions and volunteerism are all included. Irresistible to children, adolescents, and decent, sensitive women. Once again, there is no way to fail. It is especially true as preoccupations can develop an aura of serious activity, public commitment, and even a genuine green apostolate over time. Moreover, when it comes to the apostolate, even for religious persons or believers, the concept does not appear – and can hardly appear – to be in the slightest bit suspicious. It is all due to the idea that man is merely God’s messenger at the helm of the created world, which he should treat with respect and reverence rather than mockery.
When we add a layer of public funding (local, European, or even international) for high-profile “projects”, environmentalism becomes appealing to even the most pragmatic individuals who have moved beyond the romantic phase of generosity. It appears to be regaining that utterly innocent and pure aura associated with childhood-appropriate activities, but it remains a service to society – and, ultimately, whomever works must eat and one can do well by doing good.
As is almost always the case when anything appears to be too good to be true, something is concealing itself below the façade. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, written by Christopher C. Horner, provides a concise and thorough study of what lies behind “green” rhetoric. Furthermore, the scenery is anything but tranquil.
The fundamental environmental thesis is that the natural world has been subjected to a visible crescendo of degradation induced by human activity during the previous two centuries. The symptoms of man’s corrosive action on nature were, in turn, global cooling, the hole in the ozone layer, and global warming (or simple climatic variability, possibly more pronounced) with the accompanying auxiliary phenomena: melting glaciers and ice caps, rising sea and ocean levels, the multiplication and intensification of natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, acid rain, floods), and the destruction of various species’ habitats. In this scenario, man, particularly the industrialized one, is the “aggressor”, while the environment is the “victim”. In the best-case scenario, the aggressor is “today’s humanity”, while the victim is “tomorrow’s humanity” or “future generations”, along with the environment.
Before we inquire whether this thesis is valid, it is necessary to take a step back and examine it in its whole complexity. While it appears to be a very factual, descriptive, and technical statement based on a specific type of specialized or unique skill, a deeper examination reveals the numerous planes they employ. Although a more in-depth division might be created, this preface summarizes the following five: the visionary worldview plane (or metaphysical; or religious); the natural sciences plane; the political plane; the legal plane; the economic plane.
First, it is becoming increasingly evident that environmentalism – or, more precisely, contemporary environmentalism – is frequently associated with a particular worldview, often with overtly religious overtones. There was talk of reviving an ancient type of paganism as a tributary to the “gods” of nature, or even to “Nature” itself (Gaia), in the framework of affirming the environmental movement. Horner includes in this book a brief subchapter entitled Environmentalism as Religion. On this level, the issues are highly challenging, as they bring dry concerns of “small children”, to which, until recently (and within the context of Western civilization’s Christian heritage), the answer was straightforward, such as: “Which is more important, man or nature?” The author illustrates by quoting various authors for whom mankind is cancer in the universe (in particular, Susan Sontag’s affirmation that the white race is the cancer of human history). Alternatively, if someone approaches the issue of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere with such a vision, it becomes evident that the issue is far more profound than the “atmospheric chemistry”. Practically, at this level, environmentalism becomes a form of what Father Seraphim Rose called “the religion of the future”. That is a thin spiritual soup with New Age, Gnostic, and millenarist/contemporary elements. Salvation is here, on Earth, in the green, eco, or bio “millennium”. Moreover, speaking from personal experience, in the higher education economic environment, where disciplines (or at the very least, subjects) of environmentalism have a broad platform for expression, I noticed a gradual retreat of generations of students’ opinions from welcoming with smiles questions such as – “Which is more important, man or elephant?” – with the air that by asking the question I am somehow mocking them – towards a deep and balanced doubt. In fact, in recent years, a student may wake up to the impression that elephants are more important than humans – and no one can explain why this opinion is not “earnest”.
Around the turn of the 19th century, the French economist Paul Leroy-Beaulieu noted that as Western civilization’s relative loss of attachment to Christianity progressed, the void would be filled not by science or any cold reign dogma-free rationality or obscurantism, but by more primitive or rudimentary religions. I believe that we are living the fulfillment of this type of prediction with environmentalism.
In the field of natural sciences – second on our list – where things should be, apparently, the most straightforward in clarification, the situation is also not entirely obvious. The first thing that strikes me as questionable is the – in my opinion – delusional claim of “scientific consensus”. Even if such a “consensus” existed, it would be more effective the less it was mentioned, since it is a form of argument by intimidation. It would mean that the arguments are so strong and compelling that it is worth forgetting for the moment about the consensus and presenting them as such. Most likely, the consensus – slightly marred by “skepticism” – would be restored after the discussion.
However, as the author points out, do we judge scientific realities based on consensus? Horner provides examples of scientists who do not subscribe to the concept of “consensus”, ranging from Al Gore’s mentor, Roger Revelle, who did not share (along with other researchers such as S. Fred Singer) his student’s certainty and alarmism about global warming caused by man, to William Harper, Phil Cooney, Julian Simon, Bjorn Lomborg, William Gray, and Richard Lindzen, among others. Moreover, the author points out that the concept of consensus, popularized by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth, is based on a problematic study conducted by a historian named Naomi Oreskes, who evaluated a large sample (“more than 928”) of “specialized” works published in respected “specialist” journals, concluding that, despite the absence of any clear rejection of the environmental rhetoric (in particular that global warming exists, is significant and is caused by man), it turns out that it is a consensus. I will not summarize Horner’s analysis here. However, in the chapter entitled The “Consensus” Lie, he convincingly dismantles this ideological mist, showing how even the full report of the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is much more reserved in its extensive analysis by comparison with the alarmism “extracted” for “communication” in the media in the widely circulated summary.
At this point, it is worth noting that The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism is also quite valuable for the scientific evidence it presents in support of critiquing environmental alarmism. First, there is a balanced presentation of the known and plausible history of the Earth’s climate, which has constantly changed and varies naturally regardless of human presence and influence. The geological presence of glaciers separated by warming periods, the Little Ice Age of the late Middle Ages, which follows the Medieval Warm Period (most likely warmer than the current period), as well as variations within the twentieth century (heating up to the end of the 1930s, cooling down until the 1970s, heating up again until 1998 and relative cooling down since then – or in any case no conclusive continuation of warming up), suggests this natural process of climate change. Given the “constant variability”, if we can call it so, on a historical and geological scale, the question of whether the man and his actions may still be considered a relevant factor in this discussion. To this idea of natural change, the environmental party opposes the vision based on the so-called “hockey stick graph”, the creation of Professor Michael Mann from the University of Virginia. After a long period of relative stability (about 1000 years, or 1000 AD – 2000), he says, the global temperature began to rise around 1900, giving rise to the hockey stick shape we see today. Again, Horner goes into great depth on the development of this graph, emphasizing how flawed it is.
The author includes some fascinating information, such as the fact that after the dissolution of the USSR, a large number of temperature measuring stations, most located in Siberia, were shut down (the total number dropped from about 12,000 before 1990 to about 5,000 in 2000). Furthermore, it seems suspicious that the “hottest decade” ever coincides with closing a considerable portion of surface measuring stations. Concerning the natural disaster concentration designed to illustrate the “already known” dangers of global warming, the author discusses in significant detail issues such as the frequency of hurricanes in the US (whose natural cyclicality is ignored by alarmists), melting glaciers (cherry picking those which are reduced, to the detriment of those that grow, sometimes even in the not too distant neighborhoods, or the media privilege of the North Pole, somehow in the process of warming up compared to the South Pole, which is cooling), or the level of seas and oceans (which in the past was even lower in some periods, but also significantly higher in others).
Let us wrap this up with one final thought: the distinction between reality and models. Models of climate change are the basic foundation of climate alarmism. The reality on the ground is much more challenging to comprehend, let alone predict for decades or centuries. Also, a model’s importance can be drastically altered by factors like clouds or solar radiation. Simply said, the climate is currently too complex to predict its evolution with reasonable accuracy.
Thirdly, at the political level, the environmentalist movement belongs to statism, even statolatry (state idolatry) to a great extent, I would dare say. Horner also reiterates the fair observation that environmentalists are “green on the outside, red to the core”. In other words, they are socialists, followers of centralized, top-down action. I cannot help but remember the first time someone had described environmentalists to me before: essentially, all they want is two things – taxes and regulations. As a matter of fact, the author points out that Jacques Chirac let the cat out of the bag after Kyoto, calling it the first genuine element of global governance.
Moreover, as Robert Higgs well notes in his book Crisis and Leviathan, those seeking control over the lives of their fellow humans have more opportunities and excuses in times of crisis, from the largest of them (the war) to mere economic crises. As a rule, the state and the power of politicians can often be enhanced during such moments, ensuring that they are only seldom curtailed in the future. From this vantage point, climate catastrophe is as inevitable as a hand in glove. It can, ingeniously, lead to large-scale societal changes (with far-reaching implications, many of which are impossible to forecast) while costing less for the proponents (than other methods of social change such as entering a war). So environmental activism can become an incubator for moral hazard and social-political irresponsibility – although, declaratively, responsibility is one of the main virtues and key characteristics extolled by its followers.
Fourth, there is the issue of legality, which seems to be almost entirely overlooked in most conversations. Here, too, the environmental movement breaks from traditional principles of law, which demand, in their application and applicability, specific aggressor, specific victim, and specific harm, as well as the presumption of innocence, specific standards of proof, and principles such as the proportionality of the punishment against the injury. Alternatively, environmentalism is accompanied, in my opinion, by a paradigm shift in legal philosophy. Until there is evidence to the contrary, everyone is presumed guilty because no one can be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt (according to classical standards). From this point of view, we are confronted with legal crypto-nihilism. The established rules no longer apply, and the pressure is on the enactment of special laws, as has occurred previously in the banking sector or about the issue of pollution. The threat of environmental dictatorship becomes increasingly plausible. The “environmental consciousness” will take the place of “revolutionary consciousness” from Lenin’s time – which was revolutionary but lacked the conscience. Both are ad hoc, arbitrary courts designed to replace precisely the traditional ways (including the right) of solving problems and disagreements in inter-human relations. When we consider factors such as the classification of carbon dioxide not only as a greenhouse gas – which no one disputes – but as a pollutant, in the context in which we produce it by our simple breathing (so, implicitly, we pollute), we can understand what kind of society will be environmentally “aware” or “conscientious”.
I have left the economic discussions on the final plane, the fifth one. That does not mean it is the least important. On a theoretical level, environmentalists appear to have resolved the conflict between state-free markets or forced cooperation versus voluntary cooperation in favor of the first terms. Socialists or interventionists are typically opposed to the free market, particularly in its industrial capitalist manifestation. Many climate “skeptics” who switched sides from the alarmists admit that many environmentalists are driven by a desire to destroy capitalism rather than save the Earth.
Furthermore, the plea of some for “flexible” versions of intervention, such as the systems for trading pollution certificates or permits (or “rights”), is just a tasteful disguise of this centralist approach. Like voucher schemes in conversations about education reform, such solutions adorn the outside of something that is monopolistic and a fiat product of the state (or states) with market and competition hues. They represent the rejection of conventional concepts of justice, but also efficiency, by creating an artificial asset (“pollution permit”) that was initially distributed in a discretionary manner, arbitrarily at the state level and within states between firms (which, of course, resulted in corruption), eventually becoming a form of centralized planning (with the appearance of a market or an exchange). One of the book’s strengths is precisely in emphasizing the corporate interests that underpin these recommendations.
The most dramatic example cited by Horner is the lobbying efforts of Ken Lay, the tragic figure who led Enron during the 2001 scandal, alongside the US administration in favor of signing the Kyoto Agreement (1997). The author’s testimony is noteworthy because he spent a brief period in 1997 working on legal issues at Enron (from where he was forced to leave as soon as he demanded less comfortable explanations). While restricting the energy market ultimately impoverishes everyone, in the short run, it benefits precisely the companies that manage to contribute to the establishment or shaping of the “new” (limited) energy market, where prices will typically be higher. If we add to the landscape subsidies granted to particular sectors, we get an even more complete picture of the denouement of enviro-economic policy measures: a green “crony capitalism”, where most ordinary people will lose. Moreover, if we (re)consider the scientific issues raised by the perspective, we will not achieve a cleaner or more climate-stable environment for which we are allegedly taking all measures. For we cannot conclude this point without empathizing with something mentioned at the end of The Guide: all efforts and attempts to prevent climate change (currently embodied in compliance with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol) will yield no substantial outcomes, despite their incredible expense. Kyoto is a cynical agreement in some ways because it proposes “to do something, anything”, even if it costs much money and resolves nothing. The cynicism would be even greater if the protocol were to be implemented in developing or poor countries.
To conclude, and as a plea for the importance and relevance of this book and the subject it addresses, I must mention two events. First, the United Nations panel on climate change, the renowned IPCC, released one of their yearly reports (October 2018) in which they summarized all subjects mentioned in The Politically Incorrect Guide. Then, the second event, the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, was awarded jointly to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer. The first of them was awarded for “integrated climate change into long-term macroeconomic analysis”. In doing so, environmentalism is receiving a new kowtow at the highest level, ensuring that it will continue to dominate the political agenda in the next period. So, a brief review of the essential concepts does not hurt at all. Good reading!
Note: Preface to the book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, by Christopher C. Horner, English translation by Mihaela Moșoianu, Contra Mundum Publishing House, Bucharest, 2020.
 In the book Heresies of the first eight centuries and their pearling at the beginning of the third millennium of Fr. Pompiliu Nacu, PhD. (Partener Publishing House, Galați, 2010), in chapter V (last), entitled “Pantheistic theories that tend to confuse divinity with the world. The neo-Gnosticism of modern times”, the author makes room even for feminism, but does not address the issue of environmentalism at all.
 We could add a rhetorical plan to the mix, as well as a psychological one.
 See Seraphim Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, St. Herman Press, California, 1997.
 Gnostic accents are seen at work, for example, in the underlying idea that, being us, humans, a plague on the face of nature, it is likely that the demiurge played a party in bringing us to existence, so the best thing we could do would be to escort (resorb) each other (back) into non-existence.
 And, so that there is no doubt, I mention that the students believed naturally and emphatically that humans are more important than elephants.
 The same author also said that the last great religion before the invasion of the ersatz religions (or perhaps the first among them) will be the deification/worship of the state, also known as statolatry.
 The state of things from at the time of publication of the book in 2007.
 There is also a small group of people concerned with environmental issues but who rely on the virtues of private cooperation and free market mechanisms (so-called blue environmentalism). See Anderson, Terry & Leal, Donald R., Free-Market Environmentalism, Palgrave Macmillan, USA, 2001 or Michael Novak’s relatively recent article entitled Blue Environmentalism (available online at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/michaelnovak/2015/06/blue-environmentalism-part-one/). See also note 12 below.
 Higgs, Robert, Crisis and Leviathan. Critical Episodes in the growth of American Government, Oxford University Press, 1987.
 Murray N. Rothbard in Law, Property Rights and Air Pollution, available online at https://mises.org/library/law-property-rights-and-air-pollution provides a valuable investigation, little taken into account in the way in which even environmental issues could be approached in light of the classical legal system.
 Which, in principle, can only be – by abdicating from classical principles – a perversion of law and the rule of law. Hayek would call this a deterioration, or a degeneration of the law into legislation.
 Walter Block recalls in his work (coordinated by him as editor) Economics and the Environment. A Reconciliation (Fraser Institute, 1990, from page 282) of the change in American and Anglo-Saxon law in general in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. In this case, the earliest moves toward industrialization introduced difficulties such as pollution, but in a very precise way, rather than an abstract or vague-general meaning. Namely, a factory that contaminated a farmer’s crops or a housewife’s clean, dry laundry was usually sued for damages or even cessation of activity, through a common law legal procedure. The consolidation of this practice would have led to the achievement of industrialization by “internalizing” all costs, as economists say. However, for the sake of “economic development”, state authorities have suspended this type of process, handing polluters a blank check. And this is so that the same authorities might subsequently “discover” pollution as a “market failure” and find a further task (“a public good” to offer).
 The author captures well the problematic nature of the targets established in Kyoto in 1997, specifically the reduction of emissions of particular greenhouse gases by signatory states to 1990 levels. He shows that the European states did not plead innocently for that year, because it was a year with sufficient emissions to give them flexibility (Horner suggests that if 1997, the year of the protocol, had been chosen, the standard required to European states would have been significantly more demanding). Additionally, after 1990, the United Kingdom and Germany were the leaders in reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The first country accomplished the reduction by a shift to natural gas (and nuclear) energy production, while the second one through the closure of numerous polluting manufacturing plants from the former German Democratic Republic. Or these actions would have occurred anyway. Until 2007 – the year of the book – the US, despite not having signed the protocol, was reducing emissions in absolute terms; whereas the EU, as a signatory to the agreement and an eco “rewarder”, “performed” by increasing its emissions in absolute terms but “reducing” them in counterfactual terms, in the sense that they remained below the 1990 negotiated level.
 See Global Warming of 1.5°C, available online at http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/. From the start, one can see the report’s at least twisted tone, in my opinion. Not only do we no longer argue for global warming in general (that only “consensus” has proven the truth), but we discuss the comparative advantages of heating by only 1.5°C rather than 2°C.