Green Religion

Tragedy or farce? History repeats itself; the environmental movement is divided into tendencies that match age old religious currents.

The Dark Greens are the Prophets of Doom, telling us to repent our wasteful ways because the End is Nigh. The End turns to be strangely familiar, either a Deluge (rising sea levels), or as James Lovelock said about global warming, “We will burn”. The Dark Greens genuinely think that the planet would be better off with fewer people.

The Light Greens think we have to change, but not too much. We must improve our individual behavior, pay tithe to environmental organizations (Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth), and possibly buy indulgences (also known as “carbon offsets”). Buying carbon offsets from an organization that charges transaction fees of 40% makes even less sense than buying indulgences from the Church. At least the Church used to issue handsome parchment certificates, suitable for framing.

The Bright Greens are the techno-optimistic readers of Wired magazine and the WorldChanging blog. They are the modern Benedictines. In the Middle Ages, the Benedictines, especially the Cistercians, turned their religious devotion to the useful arts into the medieval industrial revolution, pioneering the use of windmills, watermills, and new agricultural methods. Their vision was one of recovering mankind’s original perfection through technology, using technology to elevate man above nature.

Unfortunately, the Bright Greens are not in the same class as the Benedictines. Some of their ideas are truly harebrained, like supplying one laptop per child to African schoolchildren who don’t have books, paper, and pencils.

Reading the writings in any of these green tendencies is like reading science fiction, complete with doomsday scenarios and salvation through technology. Science fiction is usually disappointing. If you have read any anthropology, you realize that people on our planet behave in stranger ways than any science fiction writer has ever imagined. I myself don’t read science fiction. If I want to visit a weird, parallel universe, I read the editorial pages in the Wall Street Journal.

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