Book Review : Resisting the Green Dragon
Preface: I first encountered the Green Dragon on a blog post by Publius Redux where he introduced it with: “Now, here is a novel analysis of the undercurrent of urgency and irrationality characteristic of climate doomsayers’ prophecy. This explains the haunting familiarity of the preaching and proselytizing we have endured from the climate change fearmongers.” Curious, I tracked down an article about Resisting the Green Dragon by Dr. James Wanliss, Associate Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College. Finding no religious or scientific arguments that could possibly address the issues in the article, I wrote a play about what the future might hold for Dr. Wanliss, Publius and their followers.Sometime later I received a critique of my play from Dr. Wanliss and subsequently offered to write a proper review if Dr. Wanliss would send me a copy, which he did. Dr. Wanliss said he wrote the book in part because he had been bullied by environmentalists. That is certainly a very bad thing, however replying in kind is usually not the correct response and revenge often hurts others than its intended victims. If you identify with environmentalism, mainstream religions, or believe we should be good stewards of the Earth, you may feel bullied while reading the book.
The book claims not “to provide scientific or economic answers” as that is done by “multiple excellent resources that appear in the endnotes.” However those resources and end notes do not accurately represent the views of scientists, economists, or environmentalists – but are carefully picked from extreme positions, as are his examples. Dr. Wanliss gives examples of vegetarians, PETA members, Eco terrorists, environmental extremists, and someone who thinks men are “useless breathers” – and tries to claim they are representative of the Christian stewardship movement. They are not. Environmentalists may want you to make responsible choices, but that does not mean they want to “control how you live, eat, drive, and even the light you use to read by .” Environmentalists may have a goal of achieving balance in nature and sustainability, but Dr. Wanliss claims sustainability places “human life directly in the crosshairs of violent men.” And, are those violent men found in the Christian stewardship movement?
The Cornwall Alliance: The book was published by the Cornwall Alliance which has chosen the Green Dragon as a symbol of their opposition to the growth of environmentalism in Christian churches. The Cornwall Alliance describes itself as a grassroots Christian movement. It does not disclose its funding sources but many paths to it come from corporations and fossil fuel interests and its message is certainly favorable to them. Dr. Wanliss says that he did not receive an advance from the Alliance and profits only from the royalties on the book. The Alliance has produced a series of videos based upon Resisting the Green Dragon , assailing its hold on the churches. There is little truth to much of the propaganda in the videos. They seem designed more to protect the profits of the fossil fuel companies than to protect the Earth, or the people who depend on the Earth for survival.
It became apparent in the early 1980s that carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels was causing changes in the environment that would impact mankind, particularly those in poor and indigenous societies who do not have the resources to adjust to the changing climate. Many churches have adopted statements encouraging environmentalism based upon good stewardship, some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. For example, the denomination sponsoring the Presbyterian University where Dr. Wanliss teaches stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.”
Dragons: The Green Dragon on the dust cover of the book is a very ugly Dragon, but Dr. Wanliss may have misjudged what is in its heart. Though some mythical dragons were portrayed as evil, Draco in Dragonheart and Sapphira in Aragon imparted their ancient wisdom to mankind and helped them in the times of crisis. And it was the flying dragons in Avatar who helped the Na’vi drive out the greedy corporation destroying their planet and their homes for the sake of ore. Perhaps the Green Dragon is being vilified by the Cornwall Alliance so that we will not heed its message.
Science: Although Dr. Wanliss is a physicist, there is very little climate physics in the book. He seems to have arrived at many of his opinions about climate science, not from peer-reviewed literature, but by films made by Al Gore and Martin Durkin, neither of which are scientists. Dr. Wanliss points out the errors in The Inconvenient Truth, and rejects it entirely. However, Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work and his movie won an Oscar. The movie also had its day in court in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, a suit which sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown.
Dr. Wanliss embraces Martin Durkin’s movie, The Great Global Warming Swindle, though it is based upon bad science and fraud. How do I know that? Mr. Durkin gives the impression he is a geophysicist but his degrees are in medieval history and financial journalism. The movie distorts the work of some of the scientists that appear in it. For example, Dr. Friis-Christensen, said, “parts of the graph were made up of fabricated data that were presented as genuine.” He should know as it was his research that was distorted to support claims that recent climate change was the result of solar activity. Also, Dr. Carl Wunsch points out that the movie uses his data but distorts it. Ihe ocean would have had to release more CO2 than they had absorbed, so impossible that he calls it fraud. The movie also distorts NASA’s temperature record, something that can be easily checked. The two graphs are below, with the screen shot on the left showing how Durkin redrew the graph to support his claim that most of today’s global warming occurred before 1940.
A 2010 StanfordUniversity poll of 1,372 climate scientists found that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and man activities are the main factor. Research shows that global warming is causing many undesirable changes in the Earth and that no natural factors are significantly responsible.
Ecology: Dr. Wanliss does not seem aware of the principles of ecology or the interrelation among species, as he says: “There has been, in past decades, a cosmic shift towards a social climate that begins to favor the environment — polar bears, trees, and bugs — over human beings.” Well, where would we be without the bears, trees, the environment, and umm … bugs? He thinks that “destruction of one species can enormously benefit many others” and that man had a right to hunt sperm whales to extinction if we needed the oil. However, he does not seem aware that many species depend on the nutrients that the whales distribute throughout the ocean. Passenger pigeons, once an important source of food, were hunted to extinction. And whooping cranes and buffaloes almost disappeared forever, but were saved from extinction by chance and a tremendous effort on the part of conservationists. Would we have missed them? The book tells the story about the Canary being used to test the safety of coal mines, using it to point out that some bird lover may have objected, putting the bird’s safety above that of the miners. Ecologists now tell us that many species are beginning to disappear from the Earth and many more are threatened by global warming. Would we want our grandchildren to go into a coal mine where the Canaries are dying?
Economics: Cap and trade is considered to be the free market solutions to reducing carbon emissions. It may not be the best, but it will help and it appears to be the way the nations are heading. Dr. Wanliss argues against it because he thinks it will lead to the creation of a world government and because of its high cost. We all share the same atmosphere and it is necessary that all industrialized and developing countries cooperate, but that is not the same as establishing a world government. Dr. Wanliss claims the cost of cap and trade regulations would amount to an annual cost of “$120,000 for the average family of four”. That value is unrealistically high – and it also ignores the cost of not acting. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program by 2020 would average about $175 annually per household.
It is possible to estimate the cost of inaction on global warming. The Stern Report, using the results from formal economic models, estimates the overall costs and risks of climate change is equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year. And unaddressed, the cost could rise to 20% of GDP or more by 2050 – and increase the risk of an environmental catastrophe. Using 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. Reducing carbon emissions would also reduce particulates which the American Lung Association cites as the primary cause 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths each year as well as 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma – which they estimate has an economic cost of $281 billion. Those two add up to about $1.01 trillion annually, and that is just for theUnited States. And what cost was should we put on premature death?
Religion: Dr. Wanliss’ view of the relationship between man, other species, and the Earth’s resources is based upon the doctrine of Dominionism. He bases this belief upon his interpretation of Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” From there, he uses a number of carefully selected Scriptures to argue how “ the humans’ filling and ruling of the Earth can release it from bondage.” It is his view this will bring about the Second Coming which will render efforts to protect and sustain the planet useless.
But, is the Earth not growing full? There are now 7 billion people on the planet and at our present birthrate, the population will double again this century. And have we not established dominion over the Earth? We now have fish and game laws, catch limits, and international treaties to protect other species as our needs have grown until we threaten their existence? The caveat in Dr. Wanliss’ argument is that the Second Coming will not occur until man has established Christian dominion. There are many religions on the Earth, and even among Christians, there are many different interpretations of the Scriptures. What he believes is necessary is very unlikely to happen in the next 50 years, and even if it did, there is no assurance that Dominionism is the true religion.
Those who argue for Christian stewardship think that dominion means “benevolent rule”. Does it seem reasonable that God would make the heavens and the Earth and all the species, proclaim them good, and then give man a license to destroy them if he wished? And do some men have the right to seek dominion if by doing so they damage the lives and resources of other men? Dr. Wanliss makes a special point that dominion is not domination; however, men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit will certainly find his arguments useful.
Native people: The book claims that the environmental movement is” dreadfully harmful to the environment and humans, particularly the poor” and at one point claims that environmentalists may be responsible for millions of deaths. It is most cynical and wrong to claim that environmentalists are somehow responsible for deaths and damage in the poorer countries of the world. Global warming is changing the environment and increasing the probability of severe weather events, particularly droughts. Last year’s drought on the Horn of Africa led to widespread famine and many deaths among the poor. The people of Kashmir are concerned that the glaciers that feed their streams in the summer are receding – making less water available. The Sherpa of Tibet worry that their villages may be flooded by lakes that now form each summer from melting glaciers, held back by unstable ice dams.
The Inuit in Greenland cannot use their traditional hunting grounds at the ice is too thin for their dog sleds to traverse. Those in the Arctic are having to move their coastal villages to keep them from being eroded away by wave action of open seas, which used to be ice year-round. Their inland villages are threatened because the permafrost upon which they are built now becomes a quagmire in the summer. They are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed.
Population: Dr. Wanliss says God has commanded us to fill the Earth and that we should let God decide how many children we shall have. But do not men and women have free will and the right to decide such things? And, what happens when the earth is full? The Earth’s population has just surpassed 7 billion people and, at our present birthrate, will reach 14 billion sometime in the latter part of the 21st century. The Earth is finite and evidence suggests that the carrying capacity of the Earth is somewhere between 10 and 12 billion. When a population exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment, there is usually a massive die off of the population. For us, this might mean the deaths of billions of people through starvation and wars over resources.
Prudence: Dr. Wanless believes that man has a remarkable ability to reason, and that is certainly true. God has given us science so that we may understand nature by observation and reason. Scientific research shows that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that is damaging the Earth and will do so even more in the future. The EPA has determined that CO2 is an endangerment that may be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court has upheld that ruling. Dr. Wanliss opposes action to correct the problem and thinks that when the Earth is full and Christian dominion is achieved, God will make our problems disappear. What if he is wrong? We will have a very full and a very hot, inhospitable Earth through our own ignorance, and not through God’s will. The Green Dragon, though a mythical creature created by Dr. Wanliss, would be a good symbol for Prudence.
Resist? Dr. Wanliss is advising us to resist the Green Dragon based upon his religious views and personal philosophy. His book would certainly encourage some interesting discussions about the meaning of Hebrew words, the interpretation of scriptures, the meaning of free will, and the responsibility Christians have toward mankind, other species, and the Earth itself. Those discussions should occur among scientist, theologians, and philosophers who have the knowledge to defend their ideas. However, it seems wrong to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance does just that, as resisting the Green Dragon aligns with profit motives. The only time Jesus showed anger in the Bible was when he drove the money changers from the Temple. How might Jesus feel about the Cornwall Alliance using Dr. Wanliss’ book to bring their corporate interests into places of worship? Perhaps Dr. Wanliss should rethink whether he wishes for his book to be used in that way.
(c) 2012 J.C. Moore