Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Religionists for Nuclear

Stewart Brand predicts here in Technology Review that "Over the next ten years ... the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbani­zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power." The reason?
There are a great many more environmental romantics than there are scientists. That’s fortunate, since their inspiration means that most people in developed socie­ties see themselves as environmentalists. But it also means that scientific perceptions are always a minority view, easily ignored, suppressed, or demonized if they don’t fit the consensus story line.
Brand suggests a consequence of the 'romantic view' is that it can take a while to notice that the science doesn't fit their preconceived notions - sometimes up to thirty years; for example, population growth rates peaked in 1968, but the scare stories only recently began to slow down.

So will Rod and Jeanette start crusading for nuclear any time soon? Well, if their convictions on global warming and 'peak oil' are based on reason rather than religion, they will. (Yeah right.)

You see, people like Bob Bidinotto disagrees with the term 'romantic' to describe environmentalists. He prefers to call them religionists as he explains here in his blog. "Religions traditionally criticize human reason, and extol faith." he points out. "So does environmentalism."

And yes, there are a lot of them about. A 1997 survey published in American Demographics found that fully a fourth of all Americans 'see nature as sacred, want to stop corporate polluters, are suspicious of big business, are interested in voluntary simplicity, and are willing to pay to clean up the environment and stop global warming.' That’s amazing growth for a new faith in just three decades.

At this rate, environmentalism will supplant all rival religions in a few more years. "Why fight it?," says Bidinotto. Let's just accept environmentalism as a new religion and be done with it. At least then we could argue for the separation of church and state.

[Thanks to Stephen Hicks for spotting the Technology Review link.]

UPDATE: Owen McShane has pointed me to a speech by author Michael Crichton making a similar point about environmentalism being a religion. You can find the speech here.

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