The Wrath of Gaia

There’s a natural tendency among human beings to attribute important physical as well as personal occasions to divine interventions at the sequence of items. . Rationalist philosophers long aimed to remove this tendency when it comes to astronomical, climatological, or geological occasions by uncovering their organic causes. In modern times, Montaigne, urging that children receive a more cosmopolitan instruction than was habitual, remarked in the 1580 version of his Essays,”After the vines suspend in my village [in France’s famous wine-producing area of Bordeaux], my priest infers that the wrath of God depends upon the human race,” oblivious to the chance that at exactly the same moment”ten million parts of the world [were] with a gay moment.” Later, the catastrophic Lisbon earthquake of 1755, in which some 50,000 lost their lives, happening as it did about the major Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day, also caused significant theological tremors, causing some to doubt the possibility of divine Providence, and other people to believe that the quake has been a sign of His wrath at our enormous sins.
Attributing climatic events to celestial sources is no longer in fashion, at least in the Western world. We twenty-first century people have transcended such superstitions.
Adhering to a burst of frigid Arctic air over much of the USA on February 15 and 16 of this season, causing not merely widespread distress but real suffering in massive swaths of central and southern regions (with countless left without power, thanks partly to the collapse in countries like Texas of electrical grids that depended on”green” energy resources ), the New York Times lead story for February 17 featured the newspaper’s customary explanation for such occasions: the big chill was the result of global warming!
You read that correct. “While scientists are still examining what job human-caused climate change might have played” in the storms, the function makes it”apparent” in accordance with this Times reporter”that global warming poses a onslaught of additional dangers to power systems nationwide, including jelqing heat waves and water shortages” As the story explains, in accordance with”experts,””unless grid planners start planning for wild and erratic climate states,” grid failures like occurred in Texas”will happen again and again.”
Decades ago, in the early years of the spread of this global-warming hypothesis, whenever an unusual cold snap hit, proponents of this hypothesis were careful to distinguish between”weather” and”climate” Variable”weather” occasions, by single-digit temperatures to hurricanes (apparently belying the”water shortages” also forecast in the Times story), were dismissed as of no lasting significance: after all, inhabitants of different cities I’ve lived in like to state,”if you don’t like the weather now, simply wait till tomorrow”
Now, nevertheless, as Times reporters and editorialists together with their sympathizers deepen their fervor, they are not as cautious to make such distinctions. If weather does not conform to your overall prophecy, simply turn matters around to show that it actually vindicates your claimsmuch as cultural theologians, or twentieth-century horoscope columnists, after twisted themselves into knots to show how events which apparently belied their own prophecies really affirmed them. That is exactly what true scientists call a non-falsifiable hypothesis: heads I win, tails you lose.
The problem here isn’t whether anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions might impact ocean-currents in ways which move the jet stream. That could be confirmed. Nevertheless, it is non-falsifiable to state that global-warming is evident in events which empirically constitute donations to prospective net global-cooling.
This column isn’t the place to critique the evidence on exactly what triggered the unexpected cold front in a place like Texas. By contrast, a Wall Street Journal editorial published February 16 explained that power outages caused by the freezing of wind turbines, where Texas increasingly depends (at the behest of the green-energy lobby) for generating electricity (including for house heating). At exactly the same period, as Journal columnist Holman Jenkins observed the subsequent day, cutbacks on coal-fired plants, along with the failure to construct new atomic ones, improved the state’s vulnerability to a sudden energy deficit, since gas-fired plants (favored due to their reduced omissions), including coal- or nuclear-powered ones, lack a direct backup source. These are not, of course, the types of justification to that Times reporters and editorialists tend to give much consideration.
My focus here is instead about the quasi-religious ideology inherent the non-falsifiable global-warming hysteria. Some severe scientists, such as Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist at George Mason University and creator of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, point out that the assumed scientific”consensus” about the danger of warmingits presence, its likely rate of growth (if any) and consequent effects–is based on computer models more than on reliable empirical data, and assert that future warming will likely be irrelevant or modest whatsoever. Bjorn Lomborg, the self-described”skeptical environmentalist” who heads the Copenhagen Consensus Center, admits the probability of (moderately) increased global temperatures from the end of this 21st century, however challenges alarmist prophecies, also argues that instead of spending vast quantities of money, distracted from real economic growth, towards eliminating fossil fuels and going”carbon neutral,” we should concentrate climate-change expenditures on additional research, designed not just to evaluate its effects more exactly, but to find ways of adapting in the cheapest or invasive ways.
But such discussions will elicit just scorn from authors like journalist David Wallace-Wells, writer of The Unhabitable Earth: Life following Warming, a 2019 Times bestseller which has been made compulsory reading that year for freshmen entering the school where I teach. The book grew out of a 2017 article in New York magazine, also stated to have been the very widely-read piece in the magazine’s history. The article began with the warning that”[I]f your nervousness about global warming is dominated by fears of┬ásea level rise, you’re barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible.” While the article elicited numerous criticisms from the global-warming community for various factual mistakes and rhetorical exaggerations, Wallace-Wells then defended his approach by explaining”it didn’t seem plausible to me that there was much more danger at scaring folks too much than there was not scaring them … my perception was, and is, if there is a one percent chance that we’ve set off a chain reaction which could stop the human race, then which should be something which the public understands and thinks of.” The injuries caused by individual well-being by accepting excessive”measures” to stop a one percent (less) threat of presumed global tragedy apparently didn’t enter his calculations, even as they do people of Lomborg and other scientists.
Pantheism is a philosophy whose effects are wicked, in Tocqueville’s judgment, because they exacerbate the already-too-natural tendency in a contemporary democracy to erase the distinctions not just among increasingly homogeneous people, but between human beings and the remainder of Creation.If anything, Wallace-Wells’s publication was more bemused, or alarmist, than his article. As a sympathetic reviewer in The Guardian observed, following the article”frightened the life out of everybody who read ,” in the publication Wallace-Wells”is much more remorseless in his delineation of everything the not nearly distant enough future probably holds for us. The book’s longest section, entitled”Components of Chaos”, consists of 12 brief and brutal chapters, all of which foretells a more specific measurement of our forecast doom, and whose titles — Heat Death; Passing Oceans; Unbreathable Air; Plagues of Warming–are sufficient to cause an honest-to-God panic attack” Really, to a Jewish reader, at least, that this particular parade of horribles is reminiscent of the Biblical Plagues enforced against Pharaoh, which we recite annually at our Passover Seder, to remind us of God’s power and of His mercy. But just how much is Wallace-Wells, a journalist instead of a scientist, an admittedly error-prone author, along with a professed alarmist, eligible for such awe or credibility?
I believe that the inherent ground of the allure of novels like The Uninhabitable Earth in contemporary, democratic, allegedly rationalistic societies like America was characterized by Alexis de Tocqueville in the second volume of his amazing Democracy in America. In Chapter 7 of Part I of the volume,”What Makes Your Mind of Democratic Peoples Lean Toward Pantheism,” Tocqueville admits”the terrific progress” which pantheism, the belief which the universe is divine, is made in his period. Tocqueville describes this advancement by observing that because societal conditions”become more equal and every man… becomes” more like his fellows,”one forgets individuals so as to think just of the species” In those instances, people become obsessed with”the notion of unity,” seeking to enclose even”God and the world in just a single whole.” At this point, the generally sober Tocqueville issues a remarkably harsh dictum: since among the many philosophic methods that want to describe the world, pantheism”appears… among the very suitable to seduce the human brain in democratic generations, all who remain conscious of the genuine greatness of man should combine and do combat against it” (Trans. Mansfield and Winthrop; emphasis added.)
Pantheism is a philosophy whose effects are wicked, in Tocqueville’s judgment, because they exacerbate the already-too-natural tendency in a contemporary democracy to erase the distinctions not just among increasingly homogeneous people, but between human beings and the rest of Creation, and the notion of a divine spark which above sets us apart from (and greater than) other parts of the specified world.
The popularity of climate anxiety on school campuses now harmonizes with this of novels like The Planet without Us (2007), in which the other American journalist,” Alan Weisman, determined how the ground might change whether the human race gradually disappears. He concludes by recommending reconsideration of this”one-child policy” infamously pioneered by the Communist government (which compelled moms who already had a child to abort any following fetuses), confessing that while the policy of compulsory birth limitation remains a”draconian measure,””The main point is that any species which overstretches its resource base suffers a people crash. Limiting our reproduction would be damn difficult, but restricting our consumptive instincts might be even harder.”
As others have remarked, global-warming fanaticism of this sort that currently pervades our campuses, press outlets, and a few Democratic party cliques is a new secular religion. It has its own priesthood (allegedly rationalistic intellectuals), its own rituals (driving electric cars), and its very own fear-inspiring deity (the ground itself). And its secular clergy feel less free than their theological predecessors to condemn our instincts like ingestion and reproduction, even in the name of our assumed salvation as they conceive it.
People who actually care about the future of the planet, but particularly about man’s position in it, will perform better to consider the recommendation of sober-minded scientists, scientists, and responsible politicians who understand the requirement for analyzing the likelihood and seriousness of possible future evils against existing needs, rather than fear-mongers who seek absolute authority over our lives, and ultimately our souls. And they’ll abstain from the rush to attribute each uncomfortable climate occasion on the wrath of Gaia.