Grande Rio

Aldous Huxley once defined a fanatic as someone who "over-compensates a secret doubt." That definition suggests a way to understand the recent Earth Summit in Rio, sponsored by the United Nations. The hype over this summit was enormous. It was attended by representatives from more than 175 countries, thousands of environmental groups, and media from every corner of the globe. The central feature was "Agenda 21"--a proposal by which industrial nations would give Third World governments $125 billion per year to keep them from doing bad things to the environment, like cutting down their rain forests. Here in the U.S. the media gave us daily doses of environmental catastrophe, warning that America is out of step with the rest of the world and castigating President Bush for refusing to sign the Biodiversity Treaty. But before we cave in to pressure from the media, let's return to what Huxley said: a fanatic is someone who "over-compensates a secret doubt." Beneath the frenzied certainties mouthed at Rio, there are a couple of doubts we do well to consider--doubts the environmentalists would like to keep secret. First, doubts about the basic facts. The scientific community is less than convinced that the earth really is close to ecological catastrophe. Take, for example, the Greenhouse effect. Environmentalists believe we've cast so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that it's turning the earth into a global greenhouse, causing all manner of disaster. Crops will fail, famine will abound, polar icecaps will melt, and the island nations of the Pacific will be deluged. But the greenhouse effect is an unproven theory, and only a minority of scientists believe it. A poll by the Science and Environmental Policy Project shows that a full 80 percent of the scholars participating in the United Nations' climate study see no evidence of global warming. On the basis of doubtful science like this, environmentalists construct equally doubtful policy. For decades they have recommended putting the entire world's industry, agriculture, and population growth under the control of the United Nations. The conference in Rio was intended to be a step toward creating a centralized, international control structure. The amazing thing is that in this century, with the failure of socialism evident on all sides, some people still want to entrust the planet to a cadre of global bureaucrats. Surely, a little doubt is called for. It's clear that pollution is bad for the planet and bad for people. We are called to be stewards of the world God created--treating nature as God's good creation. But the last group we should ask to lead us is some international, multibillion-dollar entity run by people overly fond of social engineering. We can be thankful at least that Rio has come and gone and President Bush didn't give away the store. Proverbs says, "A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps." Today there are people who will believe virtually anything that comes with a green label attached to it, without giving it a thought. But positive change issues from those who are prudent--who want those troubling doubts addressed first. That kind of rational reflection is, after all, part of what distinguishes humans from the rest of creation.


Chuck Colson


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