from the Claremont Review of Books, The Church of Environmentalism
In contrast to Klein’s dogmatism, Robert Nelson’s The New Holy Wars takes a measured, philosophical approach to the environment and the economy. A professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Nelson devotes a significant portion of his book to “religious” aspects of economic thought. Religious thought masquerading as empirical inquiry, he notes, is far from the exclusive province of environmentalists.
Yet his discussion of environmentalism offers the deepest insights. In Nelson’s view, today’s environmentalist religion is rooted in “Calvinism minus God.” He discusses the founding environmentalists, from John Muir to Rachel Carson, who were brought up in the Calvinist tradition, and skewers today’s climate fundamentalists for rejecting technical solutions in favor of Manichean moral arguments. “In environmental religion, global warming is a sin against God, not an issue to be resolved by economic calculations of possible future benefits and costs to human beings.”
The conservative blogger Ace of Spades has written, “God, save us from those who have no god but who are bursting at the seams with religion.” It is long past time for conservatives to develop a serious, public critique of environmental theology, which perverts the science it claims to serve. If environmentalists wish to play a serious role in future policy debates, they will have to focus more on empirical findings and less on a holy war against real or imagined adversaries. As the continued popularity of Klein and her kindred shows, environmentalism’s crisis of faith is not yet at hand.