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The writer below, a real pagan, asked if the environmentalism as espoused today by Al Gore, etc. really pagan? The professional environmentalists have no connection with Gaia anything. As a non-pagan myself, I have a deep loathing for the environmental movement that more than anything seems anti-human and totalitarian. So I will let an actual pagan set the record straight.

The best definition I see is "Paganism is a religion of nature, in other words Pagans revere Nature." But that doesn't include hatred of Christians, technology, capitalism, or Western Civilization. It should be an individual belief system, not another organized fundamentalist, tyranny.

Also see New Age Religion and What is paganism?

Lewis Loflin

Counterpoint: Pagan Environmentalism

2001 GT [Originally posted to Themestream on 2001-03-21.]

In the second of my series of "Counterpoint" articles, in which I attempt to present alternative viewpoints, I would like to explore the issue of environmentalism and it's relation to paganism.

First of all, is there a relation? It would seem that for people of a predominantly earth-centered spirituality, there would be. It certainly seems to be assumed by many that if you're a pagan, you must love the earth, and therefore be supportive of efforts to protect her. Some would go as far as to say that if you don't, you aren't really pagan at all. But does loving and protecting the earth necessarily imply support for environmentalism?

I guess that depends on what exactly you think the earth needs protection from. Like many pagans, I believe in Gaia, the planetary-scale organism of which we are all a part. I consider the well-being of Gaia to be of extreme importance. It is precisely because of this that I frequently find myself opposed to the actions and attitudes of most environmentalists.

I frequently find it difficult to believe how disconnected they must feel from Gaia. I have a hard time comprehending how they can hate such large and important parts of her. And I'm utterly aghast at how often they attempt to interfere with her continued natural growth and evolution.

The essential anti-Gaia strain that I see running through much environmentalist thought centers around the absurd distinction between "natural" and "artificial". If you truly understand Gaia, then you know that you and every other living thing on the planet is a part of her. We are all Gaia's children. We are all natural. Thus, to consider a beehive natural but a skyscraper any less so is patently absurd.

I get tired of hearing how "modern people living in cities have lost touch with the natural world." We all live in the natural world, folks! You can't claim to believe in Gaia while denying that someone living in Manhattan is as in touch with nature as someone living in an old-growth forest in some remote part of Alaska.

The person in Manhattan is perhaps out of touch with a certain type of natural environment, but the person in Alaska is equally out of touch with a different type of natural environment. Both environments are the result of the actions of particular species and wouldn't be there without them. Why would you consider the terrain that's a result of one species more or less natural than the terrain that's the result of another? You can't, if you're sincere in your Gaian beliefs.

You see, if you recognize the beauty in Gaia, you will see it in all her parts. And that includes her human parts. Hate humanity and its creations, and you hate Gaia herself. You also doubt her wisdom. Would she have given birth to clever evolved tool-users without reason? What reason do you have to think our actions are anything other than exactly what is required?

You point to endangered species and decry extinctions. And yet, we know from Gaia's past that these are sometimes required. None of the wondrous variety of life you see today would be here if, several thousand million years ago, a certain species had not evolved. This species did not think much of other species.

It produced a gas that was lethally poisonous to the other 99% of life on the planet, and it produced it in such massive quantities that before long, this noxious gas became a major component of the atmosphere. As you would expect, this nearly wiped out all life on earth. Only those few species tolerant to this new gas, oxygen, were able to survive. And yet this was necessary to create the kind of atmosphere that complex and active life forms like us require.

Many more mass extinctions would follow over the eons, each time clearing away a great deal of old, moribund species that hadn't changed in millions of years, clearing the way for newer, more advanced, and more innovative species. It seems to happen on a fairly regular basis, every thirty million years, give or take. Perhaps this is because it needs to happen on a fairly regular basis.

The fact of the matter is, Gaia's environment changes all the time. It's supposed to. Species are supposed to adapt to the changing environment, or die off if they can't. This is the way of things, the way it has always been. Species have gone extinct on a daily basis for eons. Let them go in peace!

It's not that trying to save endangered species is wasted effort. It's rather that to do so is to try and stop a process that is vital for Gaia's continued growth! If we try hard to preserve Gaia as she is today, to prevent the natural environment from changing, habitats from disappearing, and so on, I have no doubt that we can succeed in doing so.

But as someone who loves Gaia, I must oppose this! We must not stunt Gaia's growth in this manner! Who knows what wonders she has in store, if only we let her continue to grow? Given the chance, in the wake of massive environmental change, she has never failed to recover. In fact, she has always succeeded in not only recovering but in producing things even more wonderful than before. Do you have so little faith in her that you think she won't do it again, that she must be protected from anything ever changing again?

Seventy million years ago, the world was far more lush than it is today. The species may have been less advanced by our standards, but they were certainly plentiful. Of course, in those days, Gaia had no ice caps, and tropical climes ranged north of the Arctic Circle. This, of course, was because Gaia's air contained far more carbon dioxide than it does today.

It was a greenhouse heaven for her flora, and the fauna thrived off this bounty. Given that, from a Gaian perspective, is global warming a bad thing? The Ice Ages have been good for Gaia in that they promoted extinction and evolution, including the evolution of some particular precocious primates, but perhaps the time has come to dispense with the ice caps and return to the days of warmth.

Hundreds of millions of years ago, certain types of seaweed evolved that started spreading iodine in the atmosphere, where it would settle on continents. It had no use at the time, but it laid the groundwork for the biochemistry of future land animals. We would all quickly sicken without it. Today, we spread plastics in landfills that won't degrade quickly, if at all. But these chemicals may be vital to some future species. Who is to say we aren't laying the groundwork for some future biochemistry?

You see, the problem with most environmentalists is that they don't know the answer to that question, but they're so concerned with doing something that they do things without any clue of whether it's the right thing or not. They engage in knee-jerk responses to anything that might in any way change the world for fear that it may be a change for the worse. But the world must change if Gaia is to grow! Change is vital for her continued well-being!

Environmentalists need to temper their concern with careful consideration. Then they can begin to carefully choose what issues are worth fighting for and what ones are not only wasted effort, but discredit their cause. They will be more effective in achieving their goals if they learn to be reasonable as well as passionate. But as long as environmentalists remain enemies to any change to the natural world, they remain enemies to Gaia, and all those who love her must oppose them. I am pagan, and I love Gaia too much not to be extremely critical of environmentalism.

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