American Elephants

Michael Crichton on “Environmentalism as Religion” by The Elephant's Child

The late Michael Crichton’s famous speech, “Environmentalism as Religion,”to the Commonwealth Club  in 2003, was widely quoted. He explains why religious approaches to the environment are inappropriate and cause damage to the natural world they intend to protect. Read the whole thing, but  if you haven’t, but here’s a brief excerpt:

The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.

We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Ever one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears. …

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs imbibe.

It was a prescient speech that foretells much of what has happened in the intervening decade. Are we anywhere near to being ready to accept reality and attempt to address it, probably not quite yet. If you haven’t read it, it is worth your time.

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[…] Warming early on became a religious issue for many environmentalists. For those who are dreaming of Utopia, saving the world from the horrors […]


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