Friday, September 28, 2007

Deja Vu All Over Again

This is a day in which it’s hard to pick which topic to post. There is a Congressional government-driven health plan for "the poor" that is so bizarre that it manages to classify as “the poor” families that are so wealthy that they also have to pay the Alternative Minimum Income Tax designed for “the rich.” Only in America.

There is also news from the American Enterprise Institute detailing the devastating collapse of health care in Zimbabwe. I hope to write more about this later.

Instead, I’d like to discuss an interesting Wall Street Journal article on a split in the evangelical Christian community over environmentalism. A few years ago, the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals gained attention by claiming global-warming environmentalism as a new face of American evangelical Christianity. Now, many evangelicals are becoming more and more uncomfortable with the NAE’s stance. Both sides in this article are fairly treated. Both sides have sincere, strong Biblical foundations for their positions. But what struck me is how un-Christian it seems to have fear playing such a role, on both sides, at least in the quotes chosen by the author. The article quotes the late Jerry Falwell as saying just before his death that global-warming environmentalism is “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus.” On the other hand, some evangelicals joined in an anti-coal power plant campaign that referred to a multiple coal plant project as “a ring of fire”. Yes, coal fired power plants, as well as those fired by natural gas, have burners which can be considered fire. But this “ring of fire” accusation for me connects with the popular song and with the term for the earthquake-likelihood zone in the Pacific. Both have unnecessarily evil connotations. It seems to me that both sides are saying that the devil is on the other guy’s side. This is not good for Christians.

Finally, maybe some readers can comment on this in terms of the science that I don’t understand. Two people involved mentioned asthma among children as part of their air pollution activism. But do carbon-dioxide emissions have anything to do with asthma? And, if it’s not carbon dioxide, we’ve reduced air pollution from sulfates, nitrates, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and cigarette smoking massively over my lifetime. Why is it that childhood asthma is going up? If there is any connection with air pollution it ought to be dropping like a rock. I follow this topic modestly, and I’ve read of blame being laid at the foot of everything from diesel exhaust to increasing childhood obesity to homes that are more energy efficient (allergens tend to build-up in the house) to a reduction in bothersome mild childhood respiratory infections to changes in diagnostic criteria. None of this seems to have very much to do with global warming, and a lot of it has to do with individual lifestyles, not with emotional religious crusades.

But let’s say for a moment that the increase in asthma might have something to do with the increase in coal fired plants over the past generation. Why did these coal fired plants get built? It’s partly because way too many Christians so eagerly bought into the fears of the anti-nuclear power generation movement that they also bought into a “coal power generation will be OK” scenario. I lived through the arguments that we were just a stone’s throw away from improvements that would make coal fired power plants benign ---- eventually the only thing coming out of coal plant smokestacks would be harmless carbon dioxide. Ooops. Apparently I’m not the only one to make this connection. The authors of the book Freakonomics wrote a blog entry called “The Jane Fonda Effect.” Most to the point in their article is where actor Michael Douglas said of the conjunction of his movie China Syndrome with the accident at Three Mile Island: “It was a religious awakening…I felt it was God’s hand.” That’s why I entitled this post déjà vu all over again.

1 comment:

Bradley said...

Pollution is a sticky issue. All I know for certain is that my snot had black particulate in it after an evening of wandering about Beijing. The pollution in other parts of the world is really what should be of concern. Sure, if America reduces its coal burner, that will help a lot - but China is still burner more than America, and it's all the same atmosphere.

However, as China has astutely argued, this pollution is their ticket to wealth. Didn't a young, industrial America have a wanton disregard for the environmental havoc it wreaked?

So it's sticky: wealth improves the quality of life, but not dying of horrendous lung maladies and fierce laser blasts of unrelenting solar power is cool too, which do you choose?

Well, you do what you can to curb environmental damage and put the rest in the God's hands, I say. Pray he gives wisdom to our leaders and the prominent voices. But, if he chooses not to, it will be alright - I mean, isn't it supposed to end in fire anyway? Or is it, I cannot remember...