It began in the early 1970s near the end of the hippy era. The Vietnam War was finally over, civil rights legislation had been passed and the dope-smoking, psychedelic peaceniks found themselves without a reason to protest. New and troublesome venereal diseases were throwing cold water on the embers of the free love movement and many of the flower children were dropping out and returning to more conventional lives. The counter-culture needed another cause and another reason to rebel. They found their voice in radical environmentalism.
Born during the hippy communal living experiments of the 1960s, the environmental movement offered everything the far-out people found agreeable about anti-war and civil rights protests. Greenism offered a chance to rally around a radical cause, a way to justify confrontations with "the establishment," and a reason to protest capitalism, patriotism and "organized" religion.
In fact, over the past forty years, radical environmentalism has become more than a cause. It has become a new religion. No. Actually it is the reincarnation of an old religion. The worship of mother earth is a form of Paganism. The ancient Greeks and early Romans were earth-worshiping pagans, as were the Druids of the Celtic isles. It is one of mankind's oldest religions, rooted in a time when men lived in caves and prayed for global warming to melt the glaciers of the Pleistocene world. The practice slowly died out in the early centuries of the Christian era. By the age of enlightenment it was gone.
But now, earth worship has been resurrected. Some even call it Gaia, after the ancient Greek earth goddess. This time, pony-tailed priestly pundits wearing vestments that include expensive hiking shoes, spandex and backpacks, hope to make the world wilderness again. They want to remake civilization following a green, pre-industrial model that is impossible without purging the world of about 70-percent of the current population.
Modern earth worship attracts old hippies because the doctrine is unstructured and delightfully vague. Worshipers make it up as they go along. There are few standards of behavior or belief, other than Earth First! Anything goes. None of that Christian self-denial stuff in the worship of things green. Moral relativism prevails. Cutting down trees and drilling for oil are greater sins than industrial sabotage, malicious lawsuits, bearing false witness and spiteful obstructionism. The ends justify the means. Heaven is a world without people and hell is an ATV track in a wilderness study area.
To some worshipers of dirt, The Sierra Club and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are the saviors of the planet. To others, more radical groups like the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), and Green Peace are the organizations Mother Nature prefers. To those people, Ed Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang is a volume of scripture. At the other end of the spectrum we have Al Gore in a suit and tie and a private jet, leading a holy crusade against global warming.
The movement has gained real power. Wilderness and global warming have become moral issues in our society. Children are taught the gospel of environmentalism in school while TV networks preach the doctrine of global warming disguised as news and world events. Even our president champions the cause, plotting to redeem the western states from the sins of the oil companies by creating as much new wilderness as possible.
The debate is beginning to define who we are. From the preachers of earth worship we learn that good people want wilderness and bad people want coal mining, electrical power plants and jobs. Good people recycle and drive itsy-bitsy little hybrid cars with bicycle racks on top. Bad people drive SUVs and buy motorbikes for the kids. Good people eat veggie-burgers. Bad people step off the trails. Good people want global warming stopped at any cost. Bad people don't believe people cause global warming.
What's behind it all? For Al Gore and people like him, there's a lot of money to be made converting to a green economy and a green lifestyle. It shouldn't be a surprise that the environmental lobby has a chokehold on most of our politicians. Greenbacks will flow like water in a world of cap and trade. Unfortunately, a whole lot of that money will be taken from people like you and me through higher taxes and increased costs of goods and services.
We live in a troubled world. Radical Islam threatens our freedom and our lives. Radical environmentalism threatens our quality of life, economic well-being and national security.
To Uncle Spud and me, they are threats of equal proportions.