Quick: what is the fastest growing religious movement in the United States? No, not Islam, but the Church of Environmentalism. It is a low church, adamantly non-ecumenical, but aggressively proselytizing. More than a decade ago, the philosopher Harvey Mansfield observed that “Environmentalism is school prayers for liberals.” How right he was. But I wonder whether even so astute an observer as Professor Mansfield foresaw just how widespread, and how passionate (as in Yeats’s “the best lack all conviction, the worse are full of passionate intensity”), the Church of Environmentalism would be in the early 21st Century.
There is a lot to be said about this church, and I will doubtless have occasion to return to say more about it in the future. For now, I’d just like to reprise a little quiz I propounded some time ago. You’ll need a pencil and a piece of paper. Ready?
Who said this, Al Gore or Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a., the Unabomber? Take your time . . .
“The twentieth century has not been kind to the constant human striving for a sense of purpose in life. Two world wars, the Holocaust, the invention of nuclear weapons, and now the global environmental crises have led many of us to wonder if survival – much less enlightened, joyous, and hopeful living – is possible. We retreat into the seductive tools and technologies of industrial civilization, but that only creates new problems as we become increasingly isolated from one another and disconnected from our roots.”
OK, time’s up: that one was Al Gore, from his book Earth in the Balance.
How about this one:
“It is not necessary for the sake of nature to set up some chimerical utopia or any new kind of social order. Nature takes care of itself: It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries, many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Only with the Industrial Revolution did the effect of human society on nature become really devastating.”
Stumped? That one is Mr. Kaczynski, from the Unabomber’s Manifesto.
“Modern industrial civilization, as presently organized, is colliding violently with our planet’s ecological system. The ferocity of its assault on the earth is breathtaking, and the horrific consequences are occurring so quickly as to defy our capacity to recognize them, comprehend their global implications, and organize an appropriate and timely response. Isolated pockets of resistance fighters who have experienced this juggernaut at first hand have begun to fight back in inspiring but, in the final analysis, woefully inadequate ways.”
What d’ya think? Don’t be hasty! That one’s big Al, that chap Mark Steyn once described as our first alien candidate for President.
But this one should be easy:
“The positive ideal that is proposed is Nature. That is, wild nature: those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control.”
Did you guess Al again? Nope: it’s the other insane fellow, the chap whose hobby was mailing letter bombs to people. Gosh, this is confusing. But after all, Al Gore is a Serious Person: former Vice President of the United States, possible Democratic nominee for the top slot in 2008. Did he write this:
“The modern individual on the other hand is threatened by many things against which he is helpless: nuclear accidents, carcinogens in food, environmental pollution, war, increasing taxes, invasion of his privacy by large organizations, and nationwide social or economic phenomena that may disrupt his way of life.”
Yes, that’s Al! Oops–nope, my mistake: that one’s the unabomber. This one’s Al:
“Any child born into the hugely consumptionist way of life so common in the industrial world will have an impact that is, on average, many times more destructive than that of a child born in the developing world.”
Surely you can tell the difference. Right? I mean, one are the insane ravings of a homicidal lunatic: that’s clear enough. And the others? What are they? The clarion call of conscience by one of our elder statesman–aren’t they?
“Industrial society seems likely to be entering a period of severe stress, due in part to problems of human behavior and in part to economic and environmental problems.”
Quick: who said that one? Nope, not Al.
“All pre-industrial societies were predominantly rural. The Industrial Revolution vastly increased the size of cities and the proportion of the population that lives in them, and modern agricultural technology has made it possible for the Earth to support a far denser population than it ever did before.”
That’s not Al, either. But this is:
“What does it say about our culture that personality is now considered a technology, a tool of the trade, not only in politics but in business and the professions? Has everyone been forced to become an actor? In sixteenth century England, actors were not allowed to be buried in the same cemeteries as ‘God-fearing folk,’ because anyone willing to manipulate his personality for the sake of artifice, even to entertain, was considered spiritually suspect.”
Have a nice day. (Hat tip to this link, which has a fuller version of this quiz.)