by Simon Caldwell
A Catholic charity has launched a scathing attack on the Green movement, describing the excesses of environmentalism as an ideology every bit as dangerous as Communism.
While global warming should be a "crucial issue" for the Church, worshippers must be deeply sceptical about many of the claims made by the environmentalist lobby, a new booklet published by the bishops of England and Wales has said.
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Written by Russell Sparkes, an expert in ethical investments, it argues that there is a proven tendency among some "Deep Green" activists to exaggerate the threat of global warming to vindicate their calls for government measures to "forcibly" move the world toward a "sustainable path".
It says such tactics are comparable to those of 20th century Marxist ideologues who were determined to impose their views on the world. "Just as Marxism advocated Communism as the only solution to the world's ills, so Deep Greens warn us of major catastrophe to come if we do not adopt their calls for 'radical change'," said Mr Sparkes in the book, Global Warming: How Should we Respond?. Mr Sparkes acknowledges that even ideological neo-conservative opponents of environmentalism have begun to accept scientific evidence to support theories of global warming.
But he is relentless in his criticism of the type of environmentalists "who argue that mankind is just one species among many, sometimes suggesting that it has lower rights than those of other animals because of the alleged damage it has done to the planet". This was evidence, he said, that Green ideology was so incompatible with Christian beliefs that calls from many bishops and priests for the "greening of the Church" were "misguided".
He said: "The reason I do not think the Catholic Church can go 'Green' is that as an ideology, Deep Green thinking runs counter to the Church's teaching. The example of liberation theology illustrates the point. In the 1960s and 1970s people called for the Church to learn from Marxism under the banner of 'liberation theology' in response to the gross social injustices of the time, particularly in Latin America.
"Of course the Church refused to do so in view of the brutal atheism at the heart of Marxism, whilst at the same time repeatedly condemning the political and economic injustices which fuelled social unrest. History has also proved the Church right. In 1989-1990 Communism collapsed in most parts of the world. Think how the critics of the Church would have had a field day mocking it if it had allied itself with Marxism shortly before the Marxist systems fell apart."
The 64-page booklet has been published by the London-based Catholic Truth Society, a Catholic charity under the patronage of Auxiliary Bishop Paul Hendricks of Southwark.
Its publication comes a month before the release of a Government report proposing a raft of highly controversial legislation to tackle global warming, including increased use of abortion and contraception to control population growth.
Jonathon Porritt, the chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, believes that money should be diverted even from curing illnesses to increasing abortions, according to the Sunday Times.
"I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate," he said. "I think we will work our way towards a position that says having more than two children is irresponsible.
"It is the ghost at the table. We have all these big issues that everybody is looking at and then you don't really hear anyone say the P-word [population].
"My mission with the Friends of the Earths and the Greenpeaces of this world is to say, 'You are betraying the interests of your members by refusing to address population issues and you are doing it for the wrong reasons because you think it is too controversial'."
In contrast, the new Church booklet argues that population programmes targeting the "supposedly feckless breeding" of the poor, especially in developing countries, were the result of racist and unfounded prejudices.
It suggests that a false anthropology underpins the beliefs of many Green activists which contained "elements of militant atheism, population control and New Age paganism".
"Environmental campaigns which demand that the natural world should be treated with 'greater respect' imply that this is the only issue which matters, ignoring the plight of humanity or any spiritual values," said Mr Sparkes.
"Even an atheist can presumably see that there is something quite distinctive about mankind compared to all other animals in humanity's ability to plan for the future, and to compare the possible outcomes of its actions. Likewise human self-consciousness is quite obviously unique," he said. "Yet for many Green thinkers these important considerations are swept aside in their desire for the wild and primitive."
Mr Sparkes recommends Catholics to work for the responsible stewardship of the planet, in the light of existing social teaching of the Church, but not at the expense of "human ecology".
The concerns raised by the booklet echo those voiced two years ago by Pope Benedict XVI when he warned governments to be wary of "ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions" on sustainable development.
However, the Church's acknowledgement of ecological problems has spawned a number of Christian environmental initiatives. Mark Dowd of Operation Noah, a faith-based group campaigning against climate change, said that "concern for the environment is right at the heart of the religious enterprise", and is evident from the Book of Genesis.
He said Catholics have always been called to be good stewards of the environment and co-creators with God. "We don't need any lectures about creation because we got there first," he said. "The problem is that we have lost our way, partly because of industrialisation and partly because of misreading of biblical texts which has led to the earth being treated as a plaything."