July 4, 2008

A religion of hope

Freemon Dyson, in reviewing the books: A Question of Balance: Weighing the Options on Global Warming Policies by William Nordhaus and Global Warming: Looking Beyond Kyoto, edited by Ernesto Zedillo, writes:

There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world. Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. And the ethics of environmentalism are fundamentally sound. Scientists and economists can agree with Buddhist monks and Christian activists that ruthless destruction of natural habitats is evil and careful preservation of birds and butterflies is good. The worldwide community of environmentalists—most of whom are not scientists—holds the moral high ground, and is guiding human societies toward a hopeful future. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

A religion of hope. I like that. I am not a religious person. Perhaps I have found my religion but just did not know it. Though confronted by all the assaults on the environment, one could say I am a very cynical pessimistic follower of this religion of hope.

Hat tip to Gautam for the link to the Dyson's review, which he found via a post about it by Kevin Kelly. I have not read Dyson's article yet but this excerpt was begging to be blogged about.

Earlier blog posts about Dyson's reviews of books, which are sometimes worth reading as much or more than the books themselves: 1, 2, 3. I had posted these three posts last year while reading Dyson's The Scientist as Rebel, which is a collection of various essays, most from The New York Review, which he has written over the last 3-4 decades. The man is a genius. Treasure him and his words.

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