Though I agree with it on the specific topic of Iraq, whatever faint tinge of camaraderie I might once have had with the liberal antiwar movement has long since faded.  The critiques of the Green Movement in your November issue (“Wanted! Enemies of the Planet”) inspire a similar reaction in me.  Environmentalism does not even rise to the dignity of being a poor but well-meaning solution to a grave problem.  Like antiwar liberals, eco-crusaders are themselves a grave part of the grave problem.

In “Wiccan Warming” (Perspective), Dr. Thomas Fleming attributes the Greens’ idolatry of the Earth to a combination of “romantic misanthropy,” hygienic morality, and calculated hedonism.  I am inclined to agree, particularly with the first item.  Modern liberals do not so much love Mexicans as they despise Texas; similarly, the Greens do not so much love the natural world as they despise civilization.  Their idealizations of Nature reflect a desire to compose an immaculate victim/avenger for the villain of their drama.

The only quibble I have with Dr. Fleming’s analysis is that to revere and to worship are not precisely the same thing.  Naturally, we should not worship the natural order—but, then, we should not worship saints, either.  I suspect, however, that the danger of falling into the heresy of planet worship is lessened by substantive and lasting relationships with the land.  As I grow ever more familiar with my neighbor’s idiosyncrasies over the years, I may learn to love him or to despise him—but I am unlikely to idealize, much less deify, him.

This brings to mind Prof. Tobias Lanz’s concerns about the abstract quality of the environmentalist’s vocabulary (“Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” Views).  Environmentalism is yet another universalist movement that mocks the very meat it feeds upon.  To understand it, we may employ the familiar Chronicles image of the progressive humanitarian who “loves” humanity while neglecting his duties to friends, family, and neighbors.

In much the same way, the Green crusader inevitably betrays the very values he purports to cherish—by striving for a global, god’s-eye view of the world.  Serious defenders of the natural order do not dwell too long on grand abstractions; the proper environmental concern is not for Nature or the Environment, but for this particular river, grove, or valley.  If Al Gore spent less time strutting and fretting on the international stage about “the fate of the planet” and more time addressing the fate of Tennessee, he might actually do some good.

Professor Lanz rightly recognizes that the natural world will not be put in order till more fundamental matters—such as the meaning of freedom—are revisited.  We also need to define science—what it is and how to conduct it.  At present, science and materialism are often synonymous—which is deeply problematic and leads to the conviction that language grows more accurate as it is made more alien to human conception.  To describe, say, a jungle as an “ecosystem,” while claiming that the latter is more accurate, is similar to insisting that “enhanced interrogation technique” is more accurate than “torture.”

The sentiments of the better sort of farmers and hunters provide us with a hint for how to love the natural order without worshiping it, and without turning it into an intellectual abstraction.  Or, to use a slightly different perspective on the natural order, I have never once met a sailor—no matter how enthusiastic for his trade—who seemed tempted to construct a religion around the ocean.  Professional seafarers and fishermen relish seeing dolphins and whales and the like—but, by and large, the ones who wax drippy about such things tend to be landlubbers.

        —Jerry Salyer
Louisville, KY