All societies and ideologies need a purpose, a comprehensive metaphor that explains the role of man in the universe. For the left, the calls for social justice have to be attached to a larger understanding of who we are and why we are here for them to have a mission that is about more than just band aids and sociological surveys. Social justice provides a social argument, and for those on the left who still believe in a creator deity, even a theological justification. But as the left largely trends secular, it needs a secular theology that lays out its mission. Environmentalism provides that theology.
It's insane, yes. But it's also a belief system, one that has given rise to a post-human left, which is far less concerned with the question of human rights, and much more concerned with managing humanity, as if it were an invading pathogen. Environmentalism provides moral cover for the left's disengagement from the issues of human rights that it once pretended to care about. Its coldness toward human beings is a sign of how much it "cares" about something bigger than man. About the whole planet. Suddenly environmentalists aren't sociopaths, even when they make videos featuring the murder of children who don't go along with their creed, they just happen to be supremely caring people who are operating on a level beyond that of mortal men. Their cruelty is actually a higher form of morality.
Of course like so many other political faiths, environmentalism also a thoroughly hypocritical belief system, preaching a creed that its own elite do not practice. If the sin is consumption, then its proponents are the guiltiest of us all. Every time Al Gore or other environmental leaders jet around the world to promote the dangers of a large carbon footprint, the rest of the world is reminded that a belief system with a hypocritical clergy is rotten all the way down.
The supreme irony of environmentalism is that it is a thoroughly materialistic creed that inveighs against materialism. Buy the T-Shirt. Buy the DVD. Buy Green products. Buy Hybrid cars. Buy, Buy, Buy! Behind the facades and pretentiousness, what environmentalists really preach is a "moral consumerism" that puts the money in their own pockets and the pockets of their supporters. The upper and middle classes are told that the only way to atone for their success and consumerism is buy spending money on the right things. In return they are provided with absolution for their sins against the environment.
All that's missing is a convenient apocalypse, which we have in the form of "Global Warming". Imminent apocalyptic events are always convenient props for cults. During the Cold War, the left focused on "Nuclear Winter". Now it's "Carbon Summer". The science may be bad, but the theology is sound. Man is evil. His technology will doom us all. By distinguishing between "good tech" and "bad tech", the priest class is able to provide its Green stamp of approval, in exchange for power and money. Green technology becomes a good, or at least a necessary evil. And anyone who doesn't go along, will be blown up in environmentalist videos. The Carbon Apocalypse provides an urgent impetus for immediate action. Don't ask questions. Don't think. Just go along. Or the world will end.
Historically the threat of an apocalypse has been used to segregate one era from another, marking a massive change in how people live. Consciously or subconsciously, the Carbon Apocalypse is aimed at the same goal. An imminent disaster, a powerful profit motive and an ideological one. Environmentalism has come to echo leftist class warfare politics, retooled for globalism. Class warfare is not local anymore, it's fought between countries, with the rich Western nations oppressing the poor Third World nations. The Carbon Apocalypse will drown the Third World, while the evil Westerners will doff their top hats from atop the dikes of Amsterdam and New York, before taking their racecars for a spin along Baltic Avenue. That's what has half of Africa and Osama bin Laden jumping on board the global warming express. Not because they believe, but because they recognize a good tool when they see one.
As for the suckers, every time you see another commercial with sad eyed children looking accusingly at the camera (before they wander off and get a snack in between takes) while an announcer intones that we'll all doomed unless we start bicycling to work and eating recycled tires, you're seeing the Fireproof Umbrella lobby hard at work financing another scare campaign about the Carbon Apocalypse. The use of children, traditional symbols of the future, whose appearance stirs protective instincts, is particularly cynical considering that the ideology the ad is propounding actually believe that we need far less children in the world.
But the environmentalists excel at cynically pushing buttons, tricking the lab rats into an instinctive response even when there's no food pellet in the chute. People are being urged to save the world, not for themselves or their children, but for the sake of the ecosystem. They're condemned for buying things, and then told that it's okay so long as they buy the right things. They're worked up into paroxysms of guilt for everything they do, and then offered absolution through obedience and money.
Environmentalists mock organized religion, yet they themselves are little more than televangelists without a god. How else can one describe Al Gore pointing at spreadsheets that "prove" the world is doomed and predicting that the North Pole will be melting any time now, while jetting around the world to attend conferences and concerts. It's a bizarre fusion of New Age and Science that is anti-science and devoid of any spirituality at the same time. A cynical afterbirth of consumerism that plays on the guilt left behind by materialism, while offering only more materialism as a salve. Yet it's also more than that. Much more.
The left's chief problem in its quest for social justice, is that its activists are usually members of the political and cultural elite, and that the people they are advocating eventually want to have a say in their lives. The history of American liberalism is the history of liberal activists being shouldered aside by the people they fought for and told to go home. It happened to the defenders of the "oppressed workers" who got car loans, mortgages and big screen TV's, and bought into the capitalism they were supposed to overthrow. It happened to the Germans, the Irish, the Jews and the Italians who stopped throwing rocks at the police at labor rallies and became safely middle class. It happened to civil rights activists who discovered that African-Americans wanted to run their own organizations and weren't on board with a lot of their agenda.
The left has tried to build its ad hoc coalitions out of oppressed groups, but American and European capitalism has been a little too good at stealing their thunder. And the oppressed groups usually turn out to want other things, than to be pitied by the bored children of the very wealthy. Often they want to become very wealthy themselves. Which is a turn off to the sons of bank presidents who are very angry at daddy and want to pay him back by slumming and gathering a coalition of the dispossessed to overthrow the banks. Worse yet, the oppressed usually want to represent themselves, not be represented by Thurston Howell the VI who still has Flickr photos of himself in a Che T-shirt.
Yet people who seek a constituency that can never speak out for itself are undemocratic and dangerous. They do not want to derive their authority from people, rather from some unquestionable source. The coverup at Anglia showed how good science had fallen by the wayside of politics and power. And the increasing demands of environmentalists and their political allies for unlimited power over people's lives shows just how much danger we are in. In the Middle Ages, we had lawyers representing field mice. That is something enlightened people used to laugh at, until the lawyers reemerged representing a lot more than just the mice. We are in danger of losing our basic freedoms to people who claim to derive their moral and political authority from the Carbon Apocalypse. Such is the power of nightmares, when there is power and profit to be had.
Environmentalism has become the theology of the left, fusing neatly with class warfare and abandoning technological progressivism, for Luddite moralizing. But its only true creed is that of power. Behind the drumbeat of its invective, one may easily spot measures for control, for funneling money into "Green Products" and "Green Jobs", and for educational programs that indoctrinate this creed into the mind and soul of every child. And so the struggle continues.