Problem Management — examples
The New Religion

A new religion has arisen over the last four decades, one that has recently gained considerable momentum. But since it's not obvious that it really is a religion, many people, organizations, news media, and even other churches have given it their support.

It's very likely that you yourself are a member and don't even realize it yet.

Like older religions it offers a story of an original paradise, lost through human actions, a chance for forgiveness, redemption, and salvation, and has a goal of spreading the gospel message to the world. But it improves on those traditional religions in ways that make it acceptable to almost everyone, regardless of their current faith.

It does not require a belief in God, nor does it require disbelief. Members may continue to practice both their current religion and this new one without fear of chastisement from either side.

Its sins are not those of traditional religions, but something quite different. And since God is not required, it is the members themselves that provide forgiveness, and actions of the members themselves that can earn salvation.

Nor does it matter that its gospel message is used and abused by other organizations or that it is commercialized and exploited by advertising agencies. Anything that spreads the gospel message is good and to be encouraged.

Much like some other religions, it relies upon convenient untruths to make converts, to encourage supporters, and to refute skeptics.

Millions of years ago, the Earth had only one continent. It gradually broke up into pieces that spread around the globe. Thousands of years ago, much of North America was covered with a layer of ice several kilometres thick. As that ice melted over the following centuries, plants and forests slowly regained ground and aboriginal people moved in. The forests and plains continued to change, as did the animals and birds, and eventually the human population. The world today is unlike it was thousands of years ago, and very much unlike what it was millions of years ago.

It's not unreasonable to think that humans can affect how the world will change. But to think that the world will not continue to change would be unreasonable. And to think that humans have the power to halt, much less reverse, all future change is totally ridiculous, making King Canute's legendary attempt at stopping the incoming ocean tide seem minor by comparison.

Yet this is precisely what this new religion preaches. Like the Amish, they want to stop time; but unlike them they mistakenly believe that they can control not only their own behaviour, but prevent nature itself from changing too. Their self-centred arrogance, in believing that the world they live in now is the best it could possibly be, is surpassed only by their naïvete in thinking that their trivial sacrifices are actually saving the world.

It's difficult to do anything today without encountering the gospel of this unofficial Church of Environmentology. Every product is green or energy smart or environmentally friendly. The commercial exploitation is incredible, but not nearly as incredible as the number of people that fall for it. Meanwhile, the media don't want to miss out on a good thing so they too jump on the bandwagon, promoting the gospel message. We don't even need to mention politicians.

Yes, there's no question that humanity's masses are polluting the world, that we are destroying natural resources and affecting the climate. But to think that buying into this new religion is going to help anything but the financial well-being of the organizations selling it is being naïve.

David Suzuki rides his white horse and everyone follows, making token changes to their lives, spending money, sacrificing, and saving the world. Electricity usage levels off, power production crises are postponed, and politicians and bureaucrats keep their jobs for a few years longer. But really, the world is unaffected.

Corn crops are turned into biofuel and everyone feels righteous for using clean renewable resources. Meanwhile millions of others suffer and starve for the lack of this food. Yet no one in authority is willing to admit this was an ill-conceived idea, not based on fact but on popular opinion.

This is the same popular opinion that says high-voltage power lines cause leukemia, silicone implants cause cancer, and the DC-10 was unsafe to fly. There is no evidence to support any of these beliefs, and much evidence against them, but nevertheless fortunes were spent burying power lines, Dow Corning was sued into bankruptcy, and the DC-10 ceased production. Many still regard these miscarriages of justice as victory for the people.

The world was not a paradise before being destroyed by Western culture and big business; it was already a mess, just not as big a mess as we have now. The Noble Savage is a myth. Aboriginals did not live in peace, communing with nature; they fought vicious tribal wars and slaughtered various species of animal to extinction. Some practiced human sacrifice, some cannibalism, and almost all slavery. Western culture won out because it worked better and had bigger weapons and armies, not because it was any more or less evil than what it conquered. But these are facts, things that often get in the way of popular opinion and which must be ignored by the Church of Environmentology.

Ask a believer for hard facts and you'll get answers like everyone knows that … or just look at …. Give them hard facts and you'll get responses like research sponsored by … or perhaps, but ….

If all the countries that even considered signing the Kyoto Accord actually met its targets, how much effect would it have on global temperature? Almost none; it was a symbolic gesture to indicate seriousness of intent. How much are carbon emissions reduced during the winter in Ontario by switching to fluorescent bulbs? They actually increase. How much were carbon emissions reduced in Ontario during Earth Hour? They increased then too.

Please don't confuse me with the facts.

Environmentally friendly products are friendly in the same way that hitting someone on the head with a smaller hammer is friendly. Driving a Prius really doesn't clean the air. We daren't ask Asia or Africa to do anything, but even if the hundreds of millions of people in the West and Europe were all to switch to these green products, the long-term environmental effect would be almost negligible.

However, everyone would feel good that their sacrifices were helping to save the world, and those good feelings are all that really matter aren't they?

We are great. We are free. We are wonderful.
We are the most wonderful people in all the jungle.
We all say so, and so it must be true.

Thinking of beautiful things we know;
Dreaming of deeds that we mean to do,
All complete, in a minute or two--
Something noble and wise and good,
Done by merely wishing we could.
— Rudyard Kipling — 1894 — The Jungle Book