Global warming is heating right back up, with ex-Senator, ex-Vice President, ex-Presidential candidate, best-selling author, Oscar winner, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and all-around creep Al Gore Jr. announcing some new initiative that will cost a mere $300 million. Some kind of education thingie to increase awareness and sensitize the hitherto clueless to the profound challenge that faces our civilization in this darkest hour of crisis. Or something.
This sort of project has a new name, which I feel a profound obligation to promulgate in the culture. It is a “public advocacy campaign.” No great skills of augury are required to offer the prediction that these will soon be “acronymized” as PAD. What a wonderful opportunity to PAD the numbers, PAD the facts, PAD the truth and, ultimately, PAD the pockets. When I consider that I have not put up a single one of those three hundred million simoleons (I hope), a shiver runs down my spine. Is it guilt? Nah. More like dread of the there-but-for-the-grace-of-common-sense-go-I variety.
It used to be that we could hide behind the Velvet Curtain, i.e. the religious-secular divide. We could say, with the late, G.K. Chesterton, that one of the redemptive features of faith in the Creator is that we are freed of the primal tug to believe all sorts of arrant nonsense. Those who do not believe in God, said Chesterton, do not believe in nothing, they believe in everything. The late Rabbi Jacob Kanievsky (1899-1985), one of the great Jewish scholars of the recent era, used to marvel at the fact that brilliant scientific thinkers who rejected religion always seemed to have a troll hanging for luck from their rearview mirrors.
So it was with global warming, until recently. The intellectual formula that gave us solace was simple. People who do not believe in a Creator are living in a world defined entirely by chance. As easily as it emerged in randomness, it could disintegrate into chaos. Their lives are fragile tendrils clinging for support to the slender reed of a world governed by habit rather than purpose. They are only too easily gulled by the soothsayers, the naysayers, the doomsayers. Although they scorn our mercy, they are more to be pitied than to be censured.
NOW, SADLY, THIS formula has broken down, as major religious figures have succumbed to the propaganda. From the Catholic Church to Pat Robertson, the clergy has taken of late to haranguing us for hastening the demise of the planet with our excess. As the drumbeat grows louder, it apparently becomes more difficult for good sense to prevail.
Let me offer here two brief arguments, one from faith, one from science. From faith I would maintain that man must be humble in stewarding individual offshoots of nature, the things provided for his comfort. In this spirit, Jews do not chop down fruit trees, they do not spay animals, and they frown upon hunting for sport; all restrictions that accept a higher moral commitment to the integrity and productivity of fellow creatures. Yet that same humility should translate itself into an awareness that nothing man can do will truly destroy the world. The scale of global reality dwarfs our minuscule effect.
It is a spiritually absurd idea to think that the world will end one minute before God is ready for it to be shut down. Or, conversely, that we could extend its lifespan an instant beyond that appointed time. As long as mankind is engaged in the enterprise of bringing the Divine vision for this planet into fruition, there will be no oops moment of auto-incineration.
The argument from science goes in another direction. All the disciplines of physical science are in agreement that in human terms, this planet is billions of years old. Even most religious people understand that although the history of mankind begins 5768 years ago with the advent of Adam, there is no reason to refute the notion that the cumulative processes leading up to that point could well pass through stages that would represent billions of years if codified mathematically. (Since God is above time, all of history is simultaneous to Him, so the actual numbers and the experience of waiting for things to develop is relevant only to humans.)
Bottom line, this planet has endured billions of years by mathematical and scientific measurement. In that amount of time, the degrees of permutation in temperature and infinite other chemical variables is some mind-bendingly huge number. If this planet has survived every possible heating, cooling, burning, icing, watering, steaming, gassing and drying that billions of years in this solar system have produced, the thought that a bunch of humans driving trucks for a hundred years could destroy the system is profoundly, you should forgive the expression, unscientific.