Secretary of State John Kerry declared climate change “a threat to national security” and likened it to a “weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”
His declaration during a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia came on the heels of President Obama’s visit to drought-stricken California to deliver both aid and pointed remarks on the need to make climate change a political priority.
At least one senator—Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)—thinks Congress is getting closer to taking some action on carbon-limiting fees and regulations. But his is a “contrarian view” stoked by pending EPA regulations on coal-fired plants and, perhaps, the demonstrable link in other nations between the increasingly bad weather that people experience and their growing trepidation about a changing climate they may not fully understand.
Could droughts, heatwaves, superstorms and, for good measure, a polar vortex or two finally force a real change in U.S. policy?
Not if God’s Plan gets in the way.
That’s the dirty little secret sustaining the Holy Trinity of big oil, natural gas and “clean” coal. They preserve their grip on both U.S. policymaking and those swollen wads of taxpayer-amplified profits by greasing the palms of political roundheels who, more often than not, are elected by a political base built on the Evangelicals and various mega-churchgoers who dominate gerrymandered districts, act as gatekeepers in primary elections and protest loudly over Biblically-bereft school curricula.
The “protest loudly” part is important because Big Carbon and their coterie of concubines cannot endure without some reliable public acquiescence or, even more alarming, the mechanical recalcitrance of their political base, even in the face mounting evidence. That sort of recalcitrance in the face of evidence is contrary to the practice of science, but almost requisite for adherence to creationism, climate denialism or the idea that our destinies are made manifest by the will of the Almighty.
According to a 2011 Baylor University study, seventy-three percent of Americans believe that God has a plan for everyone. And the more strongly they believe in God’s Plan, the more likely they are to see government overreach in the affairs of Americans. As Christianity Today pointed out, this distaste for government’s role in human affairs “…diminishes as belief in God’s plan wanes.”
It’s a simple juxtaposition—God’s preset course for history trumps any scheme concocted by humans. And any human-centered efforts that deny the Almighty’s heavy hand in the writing of history are, at best, apocryphal and, at worst, heretical.
In the case of the environment and climate change, human impact on something as big as the whole of God’s creation is, in and of itself, a dubious proposition. This makes human-centered explanations of climate change or the sixth mass extinction not only incidental, but even self-aggrandizing. It also fosters a willingness to accept the otherwise unacceptable, and this willingness is predicated on one simple turn of phrase—it’s all part of God’s plan.
Climate is part of God’s Plan.
Extinction is part of God’s Plan.
In fact, the end of the world is part of God’s Plan.
And because it nullifies Genesis—the alpha that sets up Armageddon’s omega—the science of evolution remains the biggest challenge to the veracity of that plan. If evolution is right, then Genesis is wrong. If Genesis is wrong, then God is either a liar or superfluous. And if we are not created in God’s image or living out God’s script for our lives, then humans are not quite as special and unique as we’d like to think.
For that thirty-three percent of Americans who, according to the most recent Pew poll, refuse to accept anything but Genesis, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Without God’s Plan, humans alone have to shoulder the burden of responsibility for turning a once quite real Eden into sweltering Hell on earth.
That’s why almost a century after the sad circus of the Scopes “Monkey Trial” and over one and a half centuries after Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was first published, the obvious fact of evolution remains a relentless, if completely mind-boggling, controversy for a group of devout Americans who inadvertently, subconsciously or intentionally abet the greed and avarice of Big Carbon.
Maybe it is just a coincidence that two primary fronts in the war on evolution are Texas and Louisiana. They just so happen to be two of America’s most oil-centric states and, therefore, most prolific producers of carbon. Both states are also steeped in fundamentalism. Texas may or may not be the shiny Buckle on America’s Bible Belt, but there is little doubt its political class is awash in oil dollars and its environment tainted by the toxic consequences of fracking. Louisiana is not only in the midst of a $60 billion oil, gas and refining boom, it’s also the home of duck-hunting Bible experts and it’s a national leader in vouchersthat allow parents to steer their children away from perilous “humanism” and into “classrooms” featuring anything but the basics of science.
Not coincidentally, America’s kids are perennial laggards in math and science education and too many of America’s adults lack a general knowledge of basic scientific facts. This works hand in glove with Big Carbon’s use of the Big Tobacco playbook for dealing with troubling scientific evidence. When in doubt, create doubt—but call it “scientific” doubt.
This doubt reflex dominated a flaccid debate on Meet the Press between tenacious science educator Bill Nye and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), vice-chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Ms. Blackburn, a red-blooded social conservative from Tennessee’s 7th District, benefits from an almost Pavlovian voting pattern that has seen her and her GOP predecessor win anywhere from sixty-six to one-hundred percent of the vote over the last seven elections. In the last year, she’s raised $38,000 from the oil and gas industry and she scooped up over $93,000 for her 2012 campaign. She practically has a Minnie Pearl-style price-tag dangling off of her hat.
So, it made perfect sense that she dismissed the scientific consensus about climate change even as another polar blast was inundating the East Coast. The indefatigable Nye, fresh off his debate with creation science promoter Ken Ham, implored Blackburn to “…really look at the facts. You are our leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”
But denial is her bread and butter. She, like so many others who use the specious specter of doubt to cloud complicated scientific issues, basically runs interference for the geologists, chemists, engineers and corporate captains who profit from the oil and gas industry, but should know better.
Science and religion can and do work together, even if not for the greater good. A brand new survey by Rice University found that nearly fifty percent of Evangelicals “…believe that science and religion can work together and support one another.”
Alas, they do.
This marriage of convenience works together to deny inconvenient truths about the real and lasting damage Americans are causing each and every day. It’s a match made in heaven, like God and mammon.