Liberal and Conservative politicians accuse science of climate change of doomsday hysteria, but do not see the religious plank in their own eyes.
Most people have heard about cults, which in the name of religious fanaticism commit collective suicide and mass murder:
In 1978, the charismatic leader of People’s Temple in Guyana, South America dictated that the cult’s members must commit suicide, and kill their children. More than 900 died.
A total of 77 members of European doomsday cult Order of the Solar Temple died, by suicide or murder, in 1994, 1995 and 1997.
39 members of the American UFO cult Heaven’s Gate committed collective suicide in 1997.
These examples have been widely used as terrifying warnings against ‘new religious movements’. However, these cases are marginal exceptions. The vast majority of new religions in modern times have been peaceful.
In a way, we ourselves are far worse. When you consider the inadequate action on climate change that currently characterises modern society, it is potentially a huge suicide cult.
The English Oxford-professor Stephen Emmott said that today we are in a situation, which is just as dangerous as if we had just discovered an asteroid heading towards Earth “with the potential to wipe out 70 percent of all life.”
According to a widespread theory, the Earth was struck by a gigantic asteroid 65 million years ago. This led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
This time, however, the threat is already here on our planet: we ourselves are largely responsible for the ‘asteroid’. And its characteristics are the emission of greenhouse gases, overconsumption, overpopulation, pollution and mass extinction of Earth’s species.
According to climate experts, we must make huge changes in our society very soon, or it will be too late.
If we do not substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future, the planet’s climate can end up in a runaway death spiral.
Without such a reduction, there is a risk that the global mean temperature may rise by up to 4-6 degrees Celsius during this century – and in the coming centuries, by even more degrees.
Over time, the consequences can be devastating:
Several metres rise in sea water levels, widespread flooding, massive increase in drought areas, greater frequency of hurricanes, a drastic reduction of the Earth’s biodiversity, many millions of climate refugees, and so on.
This is what we are currently heading for, and as long as we maintain that course, our modern society very much resembles an enormous suicide cult.
How could it go so wrong?
The reason is that a short-term way of thinking has replaced long-term reason, and thus society is very much in line with religious fanaticism.
In our society, constant economic growth is Holy. Nature is not. On the contrary – we use it as a sewer.
We gladly sacrifice the Earth and our children to the gods More Money, More Consumption and More Growth.
Our priesthood consists of merchants and industrialists, and our high priests are economic experts. In the Danish language, the name for the country’s economic top experts is ‘The Wise Men’. Money IS wisdom, according to this ‘religion’ of ours.
The initiation to the suicide cult happens in the so-called ‘educational’ system.
Here, children and young people are indoctrinated to become law-abiding citizens in the modern money society, consumer society and growth society.
In the shadow of the veritable climate disasters we currently are heading toward, subjects such as Ecology and Climate Change ought to be compulsory at all grade levels. They are conspicuously absent.
On the contrary, success in the initiation is often measured by young people becoming well oiled cogs in the huge growth machinery. In the newspeak of the suicide cult, which only madmen dare to question the mantras are ‘get a job’, ‘have a career’ and ‘buy, buy, buy’.
It is a popular sport in the Western world to point fingers at religious fanatics: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islamic militants, new religious sectarians, and so on.
But for our own part, we cheerfully sacrifice the life of future generations and the Earth’s future as long as we ourselves are in The Consumption Heaven. We worship Money, Growth and Consumption in a way that is similar to religious fanaticism.
What can you do if you want to get out of the claws of the suicide cult?
One possibility – if not necessity – is to exercise civil disobedience, as the Australian professor Clive Hamilton has proposed:
Given how extremely difficult it is to repeal the laws and regulations that protect those who are busy destroying the livelihood of future generations, there is nothing else to do than to break them.
Just as people have previously broken unjust laws and regulations – for instance those which protected slavery, racial discrimination or gender discrimination – the time has come to break the laws and regulations that set short-term profit over living beings.
The fact is that time is short; therefore we must act now. Delay may be fatal.
» Here is a range of examples of the kind of civil disobedience which is currently taking place around the world: Activism: Fight of our time
Secondly, we must continuously demand from our politicians that they act ecologically and with a long-term perspective. For the simple reason that greenhouse gas emissions have enormously long-term consequences.
If politicians do not do this, they have not deserved our vote, and they should expect a merciless treatment in the media.
Thirdly, we should say no to anything that goes beyond the fulfilment of our basic needs. If we can’t do that, we risk becoming the executioners of our children and grandchildren.
As the American mycologist Paul Stamets once said:
“What I hear in my dreams are generations in the future screaming back to us in time saying: ‘What are you doing? Don’t you see it?’”
Jens-André Herbener is a historian of religion at University of Southern Denmark.
This article was published in Danish language in Politiken.dk on 20 September 2013 and has been translated to English by Trish Jardine.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
Aldous Huxley, author
“Humanity will have to respond in a meaningful way. Otherwise we chose to engage in an act of self-harm.”
Tom Arup, environment editor, The Age, 28 September 2013: “Evidence is there, so what are we waiting for?”
Cut the carbon, save lives and save money
A new study broke the potential lives saved from reducing carbon emissions into increments:
• in 2030, aggressive carbon cuts would save 300,000-700,000 premature deaths a year, jumping to
• between 800,000 and 1.8 million in 2050 and
• 1.4 million to 3 million in 2100.
The study also found another surprising co-benefit of reducing emissions: By cutting each ton of CO2, the associated cost savings of were $50 to $380, based on a cost-benefit analysis that associates saving lives with saving money — more, the study found, than the estimated cost of cutting carbon in the next few decades.
“It is pretty striking that you can make an argument purely on health grounds to control climate change.”
Jason West, one of the study’s lead authors
ThinkProgress / ClimateProgress – 23 September 2013:
Cutting Carbon Emissions Could Save 3 Million Lives Per Year By 2100, Study Finds
Article by Katie Valentine
The Earth League – 16 September 2013:
Are we heading towards 4-degrees warming? And if yes, should we be concerned?
By The Earth League members Johan Rockström, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Mario Molina, Brian Hoskins, Guy Brasseur, Carlos Nobre, Peter Schlosser, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Youba Sokona, Leena Srivastava, Jennifer Morgan
The Earth League is a self-organized network of scientific entities consisting of representatives from 18 institutions from both hemispheres, as well as both developed and developing countries.
The World Bank’s report from November 2012:
‘Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4C Warmer World Must be Avoided’ (PDF, 106 pages, 15 MB)
Utne – September 2013:
Scientists as Modern-Day Prophets
Have scientists become our modern-day prophets? By Linda Walsh
Inside Climate News – 18 September 2013:
Ahead of IPCC Climate Report, Skeptic Groups Launch Global Anti-Science Campaign
Leading scientists will soon tell the world they’re 95% certain that humans are driving global warming. Skeptics are busy trying to sow any doubt.
The Guardian – 22 September 2013:
Climate change: IPCC issues stark warning over global warming
Call to ‘stop dithering about fossil fuel cuts’ as expert panel warns entire globe is affected. By Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer – 22 September 2013
To fight climate change, we must trust scientific truth and collective action
Sceptics will rubbish a new report on climate change, dismissing calls for governmental action. Don’t be swayed. By Will Hutton
“Particularly in the Western industrialized countries we’ve gotten used to levels of consumption that are not only environmentally unsustainable, they also don’t make us happy. They’ve in fact hollowed out our lives. We’ve given up things that actually do give us satisfaction and pleasure so that we can work more and more hours to get more and more money with which to buy more and more stuff — more flatscreen tvs, bigger SUVs, bigger houses and it’s not making us happier.
Well, guess what, it’s possible to downsize, it’s possible to use less, become more self-sufficient, grow more of your own food, have chickens in your backyard and be a happier person.”
Richard Heinberg, author of the book ‘The End of Growth’, senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute in California.
Published on youtube.com on 26 September 2011.
Hang on, there’s more
Clippings from the newsstream: The bad news
Our governments – bizarre as it is – choose to continue subsidising fossil fuels: Crowdfunding to cancel fossil fuel subsidies
Clippings from the newsstream: The good news