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Environmentalism is a religion

From Richard Choi, Weston, FL:

Environmentalism is a religion. That does not diminish environmentalism any more or any less than saying that Christianity is a religion.

The difference is that there is real science behind the matters of environment. And there is debate on that science. I accept this debate as a constructive, natural, required part of the process of coming to the truth. I am content to let the scientists continue this discussion. We should not allow this process to get derailed by fear mongering, prejudice, or vilification.

I am not an environmentalist. This does not exclude nor contradict the conservation efforts I support and take part in every day. But I will not accept as fact unsubstantiated, politically motivated pseudo-science. I will however, continue to recycle when it is appropriate and convenient to do so. I will turn off unused lights in my house. I will opt for recycled products when I'm given a choice. I teach my children to do so as well. But I also teach them of the trade-offs they are making by taking these actions. It usually means that we have less time to play or read a story or clean up. But we should make these informed decisions as choices between legitimate alternatives -- (1) putting the newspaper in the recycling bin every day and putting the bin on the curb every week vs. (2) playing an extra minute a day and an extra five minutes every week. Usually recycling wins, because our community makes it easy to do so and in that way minimizes our costs to recycle.

So I'm a bit pragmatic when it comes to conservation. I won't immediately disagree with converting one acre of wetlands into a one acre shopping center. I'll reserve my judgment until I know the facts. Shopping centers are not inherently bad. Wetlands are not inherently good. And by the same token, I won't immediately disagree to crush my water bottles before putting them my kitchen recycling bin. Here I know the facts: it will take me 10 seconds and I'm willing to trade that time for reducing the volume of my trash. Don't condemn me for my consistency.

And what about the facts? I don't believe that it has been conclusively proven that the modest rise in global temperatures is largely the result of human activity. I believe that natural, large-scale, chaotic, cyclical factors are also a cause.

I also believe that as a race we should expect to leave some marks on the planet we live on. There is a price for our progress. We have books and music and art and McDonald's french fries and half gallons of milk we don't have to milk ourselves for and chocolate and cheap clothing from China and robot vacuum cleaners and electricity delivered to our door and telephones in our pockets and polio vaccine and air conditioning and The Red Cross and bullets and newspapers and the internet and subways and airplanes and land mines and sport utility vehicles and fuel cell research and stem cell research and National Parks and Michael Crichton novels and movies like "An Inconvenient Truth". We should mitigate this price as much as we can, but to expect zero impact is unreasonable. Let me be clear: we have an obligation to minimize our impact on the environment. But in my heart, I see a system of trade-offs here.

I am not an environmentalist. And I resent being treated like a pariah for these beliefs. I don't judge others for theirs. But this resentment I feel isn't my largest concern. My biggest fear is that people are closing their minds to this debate. Films like "An Inconvenient Truth" can become a catalyst for this dangerous behavior.

I believe it was Einstein that once said: "If I say 'I know', I stop thinking. As long as I keep thinking, I come to understand. That way I might approach some truth." Until the truth behind environmentalism becomes universally understood, I will treat environmentalism as a matter of faith. And treat it carefully with respect and detachment. I would hope that others would treat my non-environmental beliefs in the same way.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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