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Spiritualism another weak environmental argument

When all else fails, revert to emotionalism.

This seems to be the game plan of some global warming scaremongers. They’ve traded in scientific evidence – however scrappy – as their lobbying tool for a gushing, cathartic idol even bigger than Al Gore: spiritualism.

Prime employers of this new gimmick are environmental groups in India as well as some Native American chiefs who advocate policy changes based on their religious beliefs.

In a Washington Post article, “A Sacred River Endangered by Global Warming,” the threat posed by global warming to agricultural and industrial water gathered from the Ganges is treated almost as an ancillary concern. The real danger of receding Himalayan glaciers – and hence the drying-up of the Ganges – is implied to be the loss of waters deemed to have spiritual powers.

Ramedi, an Indian Hindu, said of the river: “Ganga Ma is everything to Hindus. It’s our chance to attain nirvana.” Ramedi also believes the river’s waters – which the Post described as polluted by riverside towns that don’t have sewage systems – can somehow cure her hip. Cadavers cremated at the water’s edge are also said to be freed from the “cycle of rebirth.”

Of course, none of those claims can be proven, so if they’re being used as proof of the river’s spiritual utility – and thus its need for preservation – one should be especially wary.

Even if Ramedi’s hip were to recover, for example, there would be no evidence of spiritual power. If Ramedi had a photograph or an audio recording of spiritual power rising from the water, such a claim would be more credible.

But there are neither photos nor audio recordings. Spiritual power is intangible and invisible, whether it is Hindu, Christian or Islamic, which makes it hard to prove its existence. The only knowledge or proof currently available is belief, and belief is woefully circular. Knowing the Ganges is holy because you believe it is holy is a far cry from measurable truth, let alone the type of sound data one should base industry-altering policy on.

Still, environmental lawyer Mahesh Meta is lobbying for emission caps in India for religious reasons, saying: “If humans don’t change their interference, our very religion, our livelihoods, are under threat.”

Funny: I thought the development and industry that has come to India in recent years has created a booming middle class. Hard evidence seems to suggest that the industrial “interference” credited with environmental decline didn’t hurt Indians’ livelihood, but improved it.

Closer to home, some Native American groups are claiming that their intimate, spiritual knowledge of what they refer to as “Mother Earth” is proof of global warming.

Speaking at a United Nation’s forum on climate change, one Sioux leader explained meteorology in the type of loose, ethereal language one would expect from a New Age bookstore, not a medium for policy making.”Day and night are out of sync,” he said. “We know that Mother Earth, that beautiful, loving, most generous of all mothers, that her body has been violently treated. We live in an increasingly polluted land.”

Spiritually casting the earth in human terms like “Mother Earth” in an attempt to convey ethical obligation bites off a bit more than one can chew. When you take Ebola, head lice, spiders and cockroaches into account, for instance, Mother Earth fails to live up to her description as “beautiful, loving, [and] most generous.”

In Psalm 14 in the Bible, an atheist – one who “has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” – is considered a fool. St. Anselm of Canterbury, a medieval philosopher and monk, devoted himself to devising an argument that would convince the “fool” otherwise. I say: Fools of the world, unite! The best way to fight this spiritual, environmental hooey is to relish in first-world comforts like air-conditioning and cars and deify only one thing – the individual.

Victoria Bekiempis is a junior majoring in history and French.