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Ed Driscoll

“Environmentalism Is School Prayer For Liberals”

July 1st, 2009 - 1:18 pm

Roger Kimball writes that pace Kermit, it is easy being green:

After all, what’s easier, more fashionable, more excruciatingly politically correct than “being green”? Longtime readers know that I am fond of Harvey Mansfield’s formulation that “environmentalism is school prayer for liberals.” Most people chuckle when I quote that (you see what troglodytes I hang about with), but the humor has a sharper edge than I’d originally realized.

Harvey wrote that more than a decade ago in an essay about the baneful influence of the Sixties on — well, on just about everything. I had thought that the nauseating odor of piety that suffused the Church of the Environment (Al Gore, B.S., Pastor) made it so ridiculous that its claim on the public’s attention (to say nothing of its claim on the public’s pocketbook) would soon fade.

How wrong I was. I knew in the abstract that being ridiculous is no bar to public prominence. Consider: Al Gore, former Vice-President and Nobel Laureate. Al Sharpton, king maker and presidential candidate. Al Franken, U.S. Senator. And that’s just people whose first name is “Al.”

But although it is clear that something can easily be both ridiculous and prominent, somehow I underestimated the staying power of environmentalism. I did so partly because I underestimated the mesmerizing power of this version of paganism on the collective consciousness of our secular elites: too sophisticated to subscribe openly to traditional religion but who nonetheless yearned for a token of spiritual uplift with which they could flatter themselves and impress others.

Then there was the immense political advantage of environmentalism. As the “cap-n’-tax” (also known as “Cap and Trade”) attack on the coal industry shows, environmentalism offers an essentially limitless opportunity for ambitious politicians. Indeed, its advantages are threefold. Since you can never be green enough, an environmental policy can always be made increasingly stringent in order 1) to increase taxes 2) to make government more intrusive and 3) to enhance the emotion of virtue among the environmentally elect.

A lot more could be said about all this, and perhaps when the U.S. Senate gets around to debating the bill there will be an opportunity to revisit the issue. For now, I wish merely to record my sorrowful realization that the aura of piety that surrounds environmentalism has effectively immunized it against ridicule. This may change someday, but for now I conclude that no amount of preposterous sentimentalized posturing is sufficient to condemn its proponents.

Read on for Roger’s take on the weirdest phrase on Gaia’s Green Earth: “Sustainable Lingerie.”

No, really!

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