Friday, 8 December 2006

Al Gore : The Real Inconvenient Truth

 Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth, impressively demonstrates the reality of global warming while also giving a warm glow to his presently upbeat Democratic Party. Saving the planet, unlike the invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act or capital punishment, is an issue that they can all get behind. And Al does it well. In presenting himself as above politics, he is the consummate politician.

The film admirably indicates the steady rise in temperature, carbon dioxide emissions and disappearing polar ice caps.That decline, however, continued throughout the years when Gore was Vice President, and no significant measures were taken to reduce the damage. While the Clinton administration signed the Kyoto Protocol, it also attempted to further weaken that already inadequate agreement on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.

Gore's advice to individual households to cut back on heating and air conditioning and to keep unnecessary lights switched off is all very well. But the big polluters - certain corporations- receive barely a mention for their role in environmental destruction. This is the economic dimension that's almost entirely missing from the film. The inconvenient truth is that Gore, the social liberal and environmentalist, remains, paradoxically, comfortably on the right of The Political Compass economic scale.He is a consistent champion of unfettered market forces, which is just fine. But he has created a film that purports to seriously address the alarming issue of climate change, while sidestepping the essential need for more vigorous regulation of industry. Ultimately it's about as meaningful as a documentary on lung cancer that fails to mention tobacco.

The Lust For Certainty

...that was the title of a stimulating public discussion held recently at St.Mary's Church, Putney, London. Hosted by Rev. Dr.Giles Fraser, philosopher and theologian on the libertarian left of Anglicanism, the event featured several keynote speakers of various shades of scepticism.Their concern was the rising tide of religious - particularly Christian - fundamentalism, and how to address it.

The discussion, however, never strayed from the social scale of The Political Compass. Economics were entirely missing, yet, without them, it is difficult to make real sense of the lust for certainty. The return of religious fundamentalism in the west seems to be inextricably linked to the concurrent rise of economic fundamentalism. As economic power transcends political power and welfare states become farewell states, various populations, to a greater or lesser extent, can no longer be certain of a social safety net in adversity. God is the alternative, and (s)he's making a comeback. In the United States, where 40 million of the population have no access to health care, God is widely counted upon for social security.( According to an ABC News poll of February 2004, around 60 percent of Americans believe the story of Noah's Ark to be literally true.)

New Zealand's well- established welfare state was subjected to extreme market forces in the mid 1980's. The rise in Christian fundamentalism there was a parallel phenomenon . And today as Denmark, that most secular of welfare states, moves towards a market economy, there are official suggestions that intelligent design is worth considering in school curricula. In the UK, the Blair government pursues a broadly Thatcherite economic direction while maintaining more than a whiff of Old Testament morality.

Christian fundamentalists have been traditionally mindful of the difficulty encountered by camels attempting to pass through the eyes of needles.They have consequently kept a distance from big business and power politics. The Bush administration, however, has succeeded in significantly denting this barrier. In the midterm elections 71 percent of white born-agains voted Republican, down only a smidgen from the 2004 election .

Calvinism's lust for social and economic certainty holds great appeal to the Christian right. The doctrine that being rich is a sign of God's favour, and poverty an indication of divine disfavour, allows the wealthiest to continue accumulating with impunity while encouraging the poorest to humbly accept their lot . This helps explain why school prayers, gun control and gay marriage tend to remain hotter political issues than health care, education and a manageable minimum wage.