Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report
by Cindy King
“The Death of the Environmentalism: Global warming in a Post-environmental World” by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus and an in-depth response “There is Something Different about Global Warming” by Carl Pope are reviewed this month.
Shellenberger and Nordhaus interviewed more that twenty-five of this Country’s leading environmental progressive leaders, which was the basis of their article “The Death of Environmentalism” and was presented to the Environmental Grantmakers Association in October 2004.There are three main premises that their article focuses on: 1. Is it time to reexamine everything we think we know about global warming and environmental polices? 2. Has environmentalism become too much of a special interest? 3. What does and doesn’t get counted as “environmental” to the movement’s small-bore approach to policymaking?
Over the last 15 years environmental organizations have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into combating global warming, from the battles over higher fuel efficiency for cars and trucks to the attempts to reduce carbon emissions through international treaties. Yet there is little to show for it. The public campaigns of America’s environmental leaders in articulating a vision of the future commensurate the magnitude of the crisis. Instead they are promoting technical policy fixes like pollution controls and higher vehicle mileage standards–proposals that provide neither the popular inspiration nor the political alliances the community needs to deal with problems. By failing to question their most basic assumptions about the problem and the solution, the community’s political strategy has become focused around using science to define the problem as “environmental” and crafting technical policy proposals as solutions.
What the environmental movement needs more that anything else right now is to take a collective step back to rethink everything. Shellenberger and Nordhaus believe it will never be able to solve the problem of global warming unless we understand our failures as essentially tactical and make proposals that are essentially technical. Shellenberger and Nordhaus point to the three-part strategic framework for environmental policy-making that hasn’t changed in forty years: First: define a problem as “environmental,” second: craft a technical remedy, and third: sell the technical proposal to legislators. The arrogance here is that environmentalists are asking not what we can do for non-environmental constituencies, but what non-environmental constituencies can do for environmentalists.
Shellenberger and Nordhaus claim that for the environmental community the answer is easy when it comes to addressing the global warming issue: too much carbon in the atmosphere. They recommend the forming of coalitions. But the problem according to authors is that environmental leaders have persuaded themselves that it’s their job to worry about “environmental” problems and that it’s the labor movement’s job to worry about “labor” problems. If there’s overlap, they say, great. But we should never ever forget “who we really are.” They concluded by stating that environmentalism should die out and be reformed.
In response to Shellenberger and Nordhaus, Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, who was one of the environmentalists that Shellenberger and Nordhaus interviewed, replied. Pope claims that the premises of Shellenberger and Nordhaus are troublesome and their conclusions are very much flawed. This may distract us from the real work at hand.
The Sierra Club, as early as the Carter Administration, sought an alliance with the United AutoWorkers on domestic content legislation to free the union up to becomes again an advocate for change among the domestic manufacturers.
On the issue of should we junk our environmental institutions, as Shellenberger and Nordhaus claim, because environmentalists are framing the issue around too narrow of a technical solution, they ask then who will craft the proposals around vision and values? The full record which Shellenberger and Nordhaus negate is to show that in the summer of 2002 the Sierra Club joined the Steelworkers in calling for federal action to relieve steel companies of their legacy pension and health care costs, for which the Sierra Club received a lot of praise.
Pope claims the Shellenberger and Nordhaus failed to provide answers to some very basic and troublesome questions. They do not seem to have sorted out whether they think the environmental movement should abandon or embrace the “tell the world how many of its problems are due to global warming frame” or what role technological optimism should play in our efforts and communications strategies. Shellenberger and Nordhaus have not touched on the thorny question of how they stand on the long dialogue among social change theorists about whether incremental behavioral changes leads to newer and eventually larger changes in thinking, which then enables new behavior changes. Unfortunately, by failing to offer their own ideas for scrutiny they rendered their report nihilistic–able to destroy but not create.
Some of the solutions that environmentalists have to offer are multitude. For example: policy-based interest group advocacy; creating community vision and have value-driven “wrong” industrial practices or technologies banned or eliminated world wide; creating new forms of rights such that citizens could assume more control over a wider range of decisions which have impacts on them, to name a few. The conflict in solving the global warming issues is the conflict between prudence/prevention versus risk/retaliation. Environmentalists have been pretty consistent in taking the side of traditional–prudence, the precautionary principle, prevention–against the hard libertarian right. Environmental disclosure gives us tools we can use effectively to move the public conversation on global warming–even though they are not the tools of interest-group lobbying.
The Mormon Church and the ERA
When I asked my sons, individually, for their first reaction to “E-R-A,” they said “Earned Run Average,” or the baseball pitcher statistic; the lower the ERA of a pitcher, the better. Indeed, they could have learned about another kind of ERA had they attended July’s enlightening presentation about the Equal Rights Amendment by Martha Bradley Ph.D.
To begin, Bradley asserted that she would not say whether the Mormon Church’s anti-ERA campaign was wrong. Instead her goals were to understand how the ERA worked, the impact ERA had on women’s individual lives, the position of Utah Mormons about the ERA, and the long-term implications of the ERA on the women’s movement in general.
First proposed to Congress in December 1923 by Alice Paul and National Women’s party, three years after women won the right to vote, the ERA wording was simply, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” ERA was not ratified.
In 1972, ERA was reintroduced into Congress with the same language as Paul’s original document:
Sec. 1: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Sec. 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Sec. 3: This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
Riding on the heels of the 1960’s civil rights movement, ERA passed in 1972 by the Senate and barreled out of Congress, getting twenty-two of the necessary thirty-eight state ratifications. But the pace slowed as opposition began to take its toll–only eight ratifications in 1973, three in 1974, one in 1975, and none in 1976.
Despite a more vigorous campaign by supporters, the amendment was again defeated in 1975. By then opposition to ERA had intensified and expanded. By 1977, five states had voted to rescind, and only thirteen additional states had ratified.
In the summer of 198l, National Organization for Women (NOW) even sent missionaries to Utah to go door to door asking Mormons to support the ERA. Despite a time extension to 10 June 1982, ERA did not obtain the thirty-eight states even though national polls consistently showed the majority of Americans in favor of the amendment. Thus in 1982, the fifty-nine-year battle for ERA came to an end, or at least to a rest. According to NOW, since 1985 to the present, ERA had been reintroduced into each session of Congress and held in Committee.
Early anti-ERA organizers included Phyllis Shafley, right wing leader of the Eagle Forum and the coalition STOP ERA, the John Birch Society, and a religious converging of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Mormons. Pro-ERA advocacy was led by the National Organization of Women and ERAmerica, a coalition of nearly 80 other mainstream organizations.
Opposition against ERA, Bradley pointed out, seemed at times alarmist and hysterical. Dwarfing the constitutional principal of equality, ERA opponents instead targeted “traditional family values” like sexual permissiveness, abortion, childcare, homosexuality, and unisexuality. They claimed the ERA would deny woman’s right to be supported by her husband, privacy rights would be overturned, women would be sent into combat, and legal abortions and homosexual marriages would be upheld.
The anti-ERA movement reflected fears about the changing roles of women and men and the changing structure of the family. There was perceived danger in equality for the ideological and cultural concept of the father as head and provider, mother as nurturer and manager, and children as replicas into the next generation. Equality would make women more vulnerable and exposed, and men would feel freer to abandon family responsibilities.
In addition, many believed equality was already guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, a belief reinforced in 1963 by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, which concluded that an equal rights amendment was redundant because of provisions of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
National polls, however, indicated that feminists believed in the necessity of an ERA.
In Utah, the attack against ERA began when the amendment was first considered by the Utah legislature in 1973. The same fears of anti-ERA opponents prompted Mormon Church leaders to join their financial resources, promotional skills and broad network of members to the anti-ERA movement. In 1976, church leaders described ERA as “a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family as individual members as a whole.” President Spencer Kimball declared it “would strike at the family, humankind’s basic institution.”
In typical grassroots fashion, ward bishops solicited donations to support the anti-ERA effort, speeches against the amendment were deemed appropriate at all church meetings, and church buildings were used as anti-ERA literature distribution centers. Church-sponsored anti-ERA organizations operated in Florida, Nevada, North and South Carolina, Missouri, Illinois and Arizona.
As the official voice of the church, the Ensign published articles clarifying the church’s position, speeches about ratification given by church leaders in different locations, and official policy statements that left no room for misinterpretation. Bishops, stake presidents, teachers and women read them in classes, and official press packets were distributed widely to local newspapers, television personalities and other individuals in the media. In March 1980, the Church went all out with the publication of The Church and the Proposed Equal Rights Amendment: A Moral Issue.
In the midst of this anti-ERA campaign, active Mormon Sonia Johnson testified in 1978 in support of ERA before the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, upsetting Senator Orrin Hatch. Her feisty testimony caught media attention, and she became a lightening rod for Mormon and other religious supporters of equality. Subsequently though, she was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in December 1979.
Normally the church’s position on politics is one of neutrality. Bradley noted, however, the inconsistencies between some public statements of policies and the way church systems and membership were used to sway political opinion about ERA. On the one hand, ward bishoprics instructed members not to use church facilities for political purposes, yet during the fall of 1978, ward newsletters repeatedly called for political participation in fighting the amendment’s ratification. The same newsletters told ward members that if they wanted ‘to support the Prophet in his opposition to the ERA, they could call or write to their Congressmen. Anti-ERA candidates were scheduled for speeches and advertisements were handed out in church houses. Notices of pro-ERA legislators were posted in the hallways of meetinghouses, and even sample letters of opposition one might send to their legislators were posted as well. At Relief Society or Sunday School, petitions were circulated and delivered to state legislators. One petition read in part: “We consider the Equal Rights Amendment a nonpartisan issue and will, in the 1979 elections, vote only for those candidates who oppose ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.”
Many sociologists of religion place the Mormon Church’s activities as pivotal in a new coalition of the religious right after their anti-ERA campaign. Women who had never before been involved in politics played a critical role in this new conservative political movement. Developed virtually overnight, they exhibited an impressive ability to raise money and to establish strong organizations that depended on mass grass roots support and tactics that persuaded elected officials.
Why did such resistance erupt to an amendment that sought to remedy injustices long experienced by American women? Why would an organized coalition engage in such a vigorous and exhaustive campaign against ratification? Because ERA represented a symbolic challenge to traditional gender roles that spanned historical boundaries and crossed over religious and cultural lines. This challenge, profound in the way it might alter the lives of men and women, had great potential for creating fear and anxiety.
The campaign, the “right fight,” Bradley said, was largely a rhetorical battle fought with words, but words nevertheless with profound impact on the lives of all American women. It was a battle no one won, with still an undecided outcome.
Author’s note: For a complete history of ERA in Utah and in the LDS Church, look for Bradley’s upcoming book published by Signature Books: Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and the Equal Rights Amendment.
Other helpful references about ERA include Linda Sillitoe and Paul Swenson, “A Moral Issue,” Utah Holiday Magazine (January 1980); Rex E. Lee, A Lawyer Looks at the Equal Rights Amendment (1980); Mary Frances Berry, Why ERA Failed (1986); and Joan Hoff-Wilson, ed. Rights of Passage (1986).
The Evil Empire
The other day I was watching the original Star Wars movie. In one scene, Luke and Obi-Wan are looking down at the port city where they are going to look for transport off the planet. Obi-Wan states, “You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” I had to laugh, because I thought he could just as well be talking about Washington D.C. or at least the group in charge at present. They are the same group who are presently trashing the Constitution and claiming to be the only ones who are patriotic and righteous. Sounds like a real-world evil empire to me.
And, of course, now that I’ve criticized them, this letter will go into some database or file. So that if the time comes that they somehow amass enough power, they can come and haul me away with all the other “undesirables”: liberals, nonbelievers, freethinkers, feminists, gays, and lesbians, humanists, atheists, believers in non-mainstream religions, “noncompliant” scientists, evolutionists, and environmentalists and on and on. They will haul us away to some Topaz-like compound or make the “worst of us” just disappear.
Sound a bit dramatic and over blown? Perhaps, but then again, maybe not.
The End of Faith. The Future of Reason
Sam Harris, PhD, delivers a startling analysis of the clash between reason and religion in his book The End of Faith. The Future of Reason, published by WW Norton, 2004.
He calls for a modern foundation for ethics that is both secular and humanistic. These few quotes from his epilogue summarize his thoughts.
“In the best case, faith leaves otherwise well-intentioned people incapable of thinking rationally about many of their deepest concerns; at worst, it is a continuous source of human violence…Many are still eager to sacrifice happiness, compassion, and justice in this world, for a fantasy of a world to come…
“…whatever changes await us, one thing seems unlikely to change: as long as experience endures, the difference between happiness and suffering will remain our paramount concern.
“…it must be possible to live ethically–with a genuine concern for the happiness of other sentient beings–without presuming to know things about which we are patently ignorant.”
You will be lavishly rewarded for the time you spend reading this scholarly work.
Teaching About Religion
I hope to revive interest in teaching about religion in public school. It seems to me that this is the best way to mitigate the narrow parochialism that is pervading our culture. Tolerance is still a defensible value, and it should be easy to make the case that tolerance depends upon acquaintance. The United States has become a religiously pluralistic society, and honest teaching about our society cannot ignore these varied religiosities, as well as the non-religious and freethinkers. Nor can we ignore the varied roles that religion has played in the past, here and elsewhere.
Thirty years ago there was a significant movement to promote the teaching about religions, avoiding any teaching of any specific religion. The American Academy of Religion has renewed interest in the field, as has our own Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. It will be important to keep this spectrum broad, exploring various alternatives to traditional religions, freethought, and humanism.
–Robert B. Tapp
Faculty Chair, The Humanist Institute
From the June 2005 Newsletter of the North American Committee for Humanism
Note: For several years Robert Tapp was the Dean of the Humanist Institute. He retired this past April but will remain with the institute as Faculty Chair.
When a boyfriend took me to my first humanist meeting, circa 1992, I was intrigued and have been a humanist since, at least in spirit. Indeed, where would we be without Flo, Wayne, and Rolf as Earl Wunderli so passionately pointed out in his letter last month? Without the monthly dedication, work, and time these three have expended to this chapter over the last fourteen years or so, there might be no Humanists of Utah, period. As a new board member, I feel honored I could give a little back.
This is why when the board has a retreat this fall, two critical items should be addressed: 1) How to maintain and increase membership participation which means how to make humanism more vital to our members and meet their needs. 2) How to ensure that the committed leadership we have now continues to be sustained and strengthened. Obviously without both strong leadership and strong membership, our chapter could die.
With Earl, heartfelt thanks to the three and to the many others who have worked devotedly to keep this chapter alive and kicking.
Response from Wayne: Did we die? Is this a wake? Yes we three have been involved for a long time, but there are many others equally dedicated to humanism in general and Humanists of Utah in particular. As Sarah notes, volunteer to help the cause; it is worth it!