Politics and Religion Versus Science on Climate Change

In an NPR post from today, the issue of climate change politics was raised as one that is fundamentally moral and ethical. The article describes the motivations of citizens for ascribing to environmental action through either politics or religion, the latter which is consistently less influential, and the former which is split along partisan lines: “The partisan divide was even more significant when respondents were asked whether solid evidence linked human activity to global warming. Just 16 percent of conservative Republicans said yes, compared with 91 percent of liberal Democrats.” 

I feel this speaks directly to the society/nature or urban/nature divide.  As we envision ourselves separate from nature, creating a dichotomous relationship, it is difficult to picture our impacts on the environment.  Apparently some understand this, but I would venture a guess that this reactionary, rivalrous relationship with nature runs deeper than political affiliation. Most democratic liberals likely would not take such a radical view, but do see the value of addressing climate change as an human caused environmental impact: that way, there is a way we can manage it within our current societal arrangement. But as I said, the problem runs deeper. It is apart of the capitalist society we live in, where we feel the obligation to consume nature, to appropriate it for our needs and wants, and view it as an inexhaustible resource rather than part of our life support system. Everything is now under the rubric of second nature (as Neil Smith discussed), it has been consumed by the logic of capital, the imperative of accumulation for accumulation’s sake, profit for profit’s sake.  We have to question the inner workings of capital, the conceptualization and valorization of natural systems under this form of speculation, and get back to a relationship with nature that appreciates its use value.

So why might we deny our contribution to the changing climate? Is this a scientific divide, a political divide, or a religious divide?  I think it runs deeper, but it all politics! Science can only do so much. What we choose to do with science is politics. And when we choose actions that shake the system of capitalism, undermine it, and expose its intrinsic contradictions, we are political.

Also, do we need religion to tell us to consider the environment in our ethics or morals? Apparently not. We just need science, education, politics, and culture. We don’t need idols to live with morals.

” The making of science is also political, we argue; indeed, a central claim of our collection is that there cannot
be a proper history of scientific things independent of power and culture. Pursuing this line of thought, some S&TS scholars see co-production as a process that is as foundational as constitution-making or state-making in political
theory, because it responds to people’s deepest metaphysical concerns. It does so, in part, by continually reinscribing the boundary between the social and the natural, the world created by us and the world we imagine to exist beyond our control. “Science” and “politics” can then be treated as separate and distinct forms of activity rather than as strands of a single, tightly woven cultural enterprise through which human beings seek to make sense of their condition.” (Shelia Jasanoff in States of Knowledge)


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