Apocalyptic Environmentalism on the Streets of San Francisco
In the months since once-presidential contender Al Gore's documentary (otherwise known as "docu-ganda") "An Inconvenient Truth" came out, we have seen the Powerpoint progenitor transformed into a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a veritable object of worship. Not to mention his film, which did for global warming acolytes what the 2000 election did for George W. Bush's opponents: induced mass hysteria.
I forced myself to sit through Gore's tedious, overwrought, and stunningly inaccurate film in order to write an SFGate article on the subject. In said article, I came to the conclusion that Gore's brand of fear mongering was based on a secular religion that I labeled apocalyptic environmentalism.
Since that time, global warming lunacy (these days dubbed the "climate change crisis," as if there was a mythical time in which the climate remained static until, of course, human beings came along) has reached epic proportions, no doubt helped along by a healthy dose of advertising savvy. "Going Green" has obviously caused advertising executives to see green, hence the proliferation of environmental slogans designed to make consumers feel good about themselves while consuming.
But apocalyptic environmentalism's true believers are in earnest and they walk the streets of San Francisco, looking for all intents and purposes like normal human beings. That is, until one is unlucky enough to chance into a conversation with these prophets of doom and stupid enough to bring up the formerly banal subject of the weather.
Weather used to be the only safe subject for those trying artfully to avoid the twin topics of discord: religion and politics. But, these days, merely remarking that "it's a nice day" or "stormy weather we've been having lately, eh?" is enough to elicit a tidal wave of doom and gloom. And it matters not whether it's hot or cold outside. All variations in temperature, I'm told by these self-described experts, stem from "global warming."
Where once it was the crazy homeless guys standing on Market Street (or whatever main drag is at hand in one's respective urban environment) with signs reading, "The End is Near," now it's your average, everyday citizen who, upon the slightest provocation, launches into a diatribe about how the end of the world is imminent.
Such a creature wanders my neighborhood looking for potential converts and a friend and I once had the unfortunate experience of running into her. It was Christmas Day and in the spirit of the season we wished her a "Merry Christmas" (not a "Happy Holidays," mind you) in passing. She took this as an opening to start rambling, in a glassy-eyed manner, about how strange the weather had been lately, which soon morphed into dead polar bears, melting ice caps and, you guessed it, the end of the world.
Having lived in the Bay Area all my life and grown accustomed to the ever-changing weather ("Always wear layers," I tell visitors), I took issue with her contention that "We haven't had normal weather in the Bay Area in twenty years!" "What's normal weather?" I asked her, and then proceeded to note that local weather has always varied and that certainly hadn't changed over the past twenty years.
My companion chimed in with a few facts to contradict the global warming alarmism on display and concluded with the statement, "I'm not buying it." Ms. Prophet of Doom looked confused and, glazed expression intact, soon wandered off in search of a more gullible audience. Undoubtedly, she'd never encountered anyone who didn't agree with her apocalyptic scenario and cognitive dissonance set in.
Another locale for such exchanges are the plethora of health food stores in San Francisco, several of which I frequent. It tends to be assumed that all health food store shoppers are lefty wingnuts, but a few of us are ex-lefty wingnuts turned conservatives who simply like a little wheatgrass juice with our warmongering. My visits to local health food stores often result in revealing encounters with the young, hippie types who work in them and who, if the exchanges I've had with them are any indication, are among apocalyptic environmentalism's true believers.
I remember once, upon checking out at Trader Joe's (the more mainstream chain of the bunch), commenting innocently on what a lovely, sunny day it was outside. Boy, was that a mistake. The young woman manning the cash register suddenly looked downcast and mumbled something about, "Yeah, but what about all those cars running on oil, global warming, yadda, yadda, yadda." "Yeah, but a 100 years ago, we were knee-deep in horse shit," I reminded her, "and then we invented automobiles." "When it's time, we'll come up with the next technological advance," I added. "Hmmm," she answered, "I never thought of that," and saw me off with a smile. Let's hope my optimism rubbed off, for it is a sad day indeed when youth can no longer enjoy sunshine without feeling guilty.
Then just yesterday, at one of my local Real Foods stores, which seems to be staffed largely by young men on various mind-altering substances and/or who haven't bathed in many a day, I had another such encounter with the check-out clerk. Noting the newspaper in my hand, he asked eagerly, "Hey, does that have the weather forecast in it?" "I guess so, " I answered, not really having thought much about the matter. It's true we've been suffering a series of storms in Northern California and Nevada this past week, but, like all weather, I assume it's par for the course and don't tend to obsess on it. And I must say, I can't recall a twenty-something ever getting so excited about a weather forecast in my life.
The young man then proceeded to comment on the stormy weather, at which point I knew where all this was heading. And, sure enough, he concluded by looking meaningfully into my eyes and stating, "I think it's God, punishing us." While he didn't elaborate, it's a safe guess that he meant God (or Gaia?) was punishing us evil human beings for our presumed environmental sins, that being one of the tenets of this particular religion. "Actually, " I responded, "I think it's called Winter." "You know, that time of year when it rains and we have storms?" I added, not without a touch of sarcasm. The young acolyte merely looked away, no doubt retreating back into a comforting never-neverland of end time visions. I deemed him beyond hope, took my change, and moved along.
No doubt many more such depressing encounters are in store, as leftist-dominated San Francisco provides fertile ground for the enviro-wackos. As G.K. Chesterton put it, "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything." And as the latter case indicates, even if they believe in God, it is the God of Apocalyptic Environmentalism.