Climate alarmists took to the streets today in Washington, D.C. today with the goal of “shutting down” the city. They didn’t quite succeed in bringing about a total shutdown, but they did manage to block traffic and make life miserable for morning commuters. It remains unclear how the environment is supposed to be helped by forcing cars to sit idly for hours. In fairness, though, the protestors did more than cause traffic jams. They also threw trash and set dumpsters on fire. And if none of those measures managed to solve global warming, surely this guy in suspenders and mini-shorts got the job done by twerking.
The perplexing scene in the nation’s capital was just the latest climate change demonstration. Last week, many people across the country participated in a “climate strike.” You may wonder how a person could go on strike against the climate — at first blush, it seems a bit like boycotting gravity or trying to change the speed of light with a Change.org petition. But it turns out that the “climate strike” was really a strike against productivity. Students left their classrooms and employed adults (what few the environmentalists can count among their ranks) left their jobs for the day. They marched and shouted things and warned about the impending apocalypse. Then they went back to their air-conditioned homes and watched TV like the rest of us.
Meanwhile, the young climate warrior Greta Thunberg was invited — for whatever reason — to speak before the U.N. She tearfully scolded the assembled diplomats today and screamed about a “mass extinction,” which, she insists, is already beginning. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she cried, sounding vaguely reminiscent of Dashboard Confessional lyrics from 2002.
For their part, a group of young environmental activists in Australia have just announced they will not be having kids until the climate stops changing. These kinds of climate-inspired abstinence pledges are becoming increasingly common. And it is just one of the myriad ways that environmental activism has come to closely resemble the one thing that many of these people probably hate the most: Religion.
It is often said that religion is “dying” in the West, but that is not exactly the case. Theistic faith may be waning, yet we still remain a deeply religious people. We have simply traded in our Scriptures, doctrines, and prophets for different, albeit secular, versions. Indeed, it is quite striking to consider the many ways that climate alarmism has taken on the features of a religious cult.
Environmentalism, like religion, has core beliefs that now have the force of a creed. The Earth is warming significantly and dangerously due to human activity. Any dissenting point of view — however moderate the dissent may be — is punished as heresy. Environmentalism, like religion, has scriptural authorities. Rather than the Bible, it refers back to ancient scriptures like “An Inconvenient Truth” — or to more recent epistles like the “Green New Deal.” Environmentalism, like religion, has prophets and priestesses in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Al Gore, and the like. Environmentalism, like religion, even has its newly appointed child savior in Greta Thunberg.
Of course, environmentalism, like religion, also has moral codes and precepts. Thou shalt not drive gas-guzzling vehicles. And it focuses especially, like many religions, on dietary restrictions. Thou shalt not eat meat or use plastic straws. Environmentalists, like most religious people, believe strongly in these commandments — yet they seem more interested in preaching them than following them. Not to worry, though, because environmentalism also has a system for confession and repentance, in case you have fallen short in your walk with Gaia. And environmentalism has a system of tithing — to the state, rather than the church. Thus, environmentalism, like religion, can be unfortunately easy for snake oil salesmen to exploit for personal financial gain. The televangelists of environmentalism are just as likely to fly around in private planes as the televangelists of the Christian faith.
Most importantly, environmentalism, like any self-respecting religion, has a vivid apocalyptic vision. Christians look to the Second Coming and often imagine that they detect signs of its imminent arrival. In a very similar way, environmentalists see every heat wave or hurricane as a harbinger of Armageddon. Repent for the end is nigh, proclaim the environmentalists. Christians, Jews, and Muslims may tend to agree, though for different theological reasons.
As a religious person myself, I certainly do not see anything wrong, per se, with being a member of a religion. But at least Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have the integrity to admit that they are religions. Environmentalism wishes to retain its secular credibility while demanding the sort of devotion that systems of faith require. It cannot have it both ways.