Sightings from the Treehouse: Modern Day Book Burning

‘Sightings from the Treehouse’ is a new blog series on the environment from Power Wise Director, Bob Donaghue. See the first post, Fossil Fuel Industry Coup.

The destruction of Creation for power and greed is the moral issue of all time. Clergy everywhere need to take a leadership role on this moral issue and educate and prepare their congregations to care for Creation. The moral underpinnings of society’s impact on Creation offer many avenues to explore and can form the basis of future liturgy. In the meantime, the destruction of Creation is being blurred by conservative politicians, special interests and ignored by the media.
As early as 1896, Arrhenius presented a paper on climate change, On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature on the GroundThere was little follow up for more than a half century, until climate change was discussed publicly by President Johnson and others in the 1960s. During the 1970’s, Exxon Mobil (aka Exxon) conducted research on climate change and its potential impacts on the biosphere. By the 1980’s, the company recognized not only the deleterious effects from greenhouse gases on the planet, but also the deleterious effects on their future bottom line. At this point, Exxon chose deception over leadership and aggressively cast doubt on the science of climate change. Koch Industries joined the bandwagon in the 1990’s.


Today, several states are investigating Exxon’s early research and efforts to mislead the public, and are seeking legal recourse to 
penalize Exxon for their actions.  In the meantime, some in Congress are running interference for them by threatening attorneys general of several states for investigating the company’s actions in misleading the public. They claim it violates the company’s First Amendment rights obtained by the 2010 Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision.  
In parallel, President Trump and his cabinet are eliminating references to climate change in government policy and programs, defunding research, and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Congressional science committees, led by politicians with no science background, are outspoken climate deniers preventing rationale discourse in Congress on this critical national security issue. For some historical context, the Bush/Cheney Administration eliminated references to climate change in government programs and pressured leading scientists on climate change to tone down their assertions. They also withdrew from the Kyoto Protocols. Same story, different day.
Governors and legislatures in Florida, Wisconsin and Idaho and other conservative states are also suppressing climate change knowledge. Even some local school boards are changing information in science books due to the influence of the Koch Brothers and their Heartland Institute.
The destruction or interference of the free-flow of information in an open society is analogous to the book burnings of the past. Throughout history, this practice occurred in China, Germany and the United States and many other places for the following reasons:

  • Contrary to cultural, religious or political philosophies
  • Censorship
  • Replace facts with propaganda to achieve an agenda
  • Slow advancement of competing ideas or technologies

As the ecological catastrophe unfolds from increasing global warming, the worst effects will be felt by our children or grandchildren. We are leaving them a very troubled world. Each year is hotter than the last. Natural systems are trying to adapt to changing climates throughout the world. Violent storms, sea level rise, disease, drought, famine, mass migration are current and future consequences of not drastically reducing fossil fuel emissions.
It is not time for “book burning” by politicians and special interests. It is time for awareness and action, particularly by our youth for they will inherit our mess. Under the current US administration, the most powerful and influential country in the world not only resist efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, but obstructs access to knowledge and resources needed to address this global calamity. Be on the lookout for increased propaganda extolling the virtues of economic growth at the expense of environmental protection.   
Why “dumb down” and confuse society on climate change? Simple, it is power and profits. This same approach was used by the Heartland Institute and others to justify their denial of scientific facts linking tobacco smoking and cancer. It delayed action on this public health threat for a generation. We cannot wait another generation on climate change.
What else can be done to lessen the effects of obstructionism on climate change education and progress? Here are a few ideas:

  • Vote and encourage your friends and family to vote for candidates who support action on climate change.
  • Support efforts to legally confront Exxon Mobil and others for deliberately deceiving the public and shareholders on climate change.
  • Demand the media cover climate change more effectively, fairly and often.
  • Urge your local TV weather stations to adopt The Weather Channel’s policy on climate change.
  • Challenge propaganda in all its forms that minimize the effects of climate disruption by man.
  • Insist government meet their primary responsibility of protecting personal property, public safety and resources by adapting to the effects of climate change.
  • A youth revolution is needed in government, education and business to replace antiquated thinking and actions.
  • Call on clergy to take a leadership role confronting the moral issue of all time.  Pope Francis is leading the charge on climate change in his encyclical, Laudato Si, by challenging society to stop this sin against Creation.

Many of these ideas will be examined in more detail in coming Sightings from the Treehouse blogs.  Stay tuned.