Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Audubon: The Holy & The Hawks

Expand Messages
  • Felix Kramer
    Includes coverage of evalengelical creation care advocates http://magazine.audubon.org/currents/currents0509.html (Audubon Magazine, September 2005 currents)
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      Includes coverage of evalengelical "creation care" advocates

      (Audubon Magazine, September 2005
      The Holy & the Hawks

      In one of the unlikeliest coalitions Washington has seen in years, the
      religious right, defense hard-liners, and environmentalists have joined
      forces to save the planet.

      By Keith Kloor

      One man drives his Toyota Prius on God's behalf. The other drives his to
      fight terrorism. Although both men are longtime Washington, D.C., insiders,
      adept at working the corridors of power on Capitol Hill, the dissimilar
      worlds they belong to have almost never intersected—until now.

      Richard Cizik is the political point man for the conservative-leaning
      National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Its 45,000 churches and 30
      million members make it one of the country's most influential religious
      advocacy groups. Cizik, by his own description, is a “pro-Bush conservative
      Republican” and a devoted foot soldier of the religious right hell-bent on
      stopping abortion, same-sex marriage, and embryonic stem cell research.

      James Woolsey is a former CIA director (under President Clinton) and a
      foreign policy hawk who had long advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
      He also served as an ardent supporter of President George W. Bush's
      “preemption” policy during the run-up to the Iraq War. Since 9/11, Woolsey
      has worked as a security consultant to businesses and state governments.

      Lately, however, both Cizik and Woolsey have become consumed by one burning
      issue: the U.S. addiction to fossil fuels. To Cizik, “pollution from cars
      and power plants is destroying God's creation.” In this light, he and a
      growing chorus of conservative evangelicals are adding environmental
      degradation to their list of holy causes. In 2004 the NAE adopted an
      expressly ecologically minded charter for the first time in its 63-year
      history. It urged government to “encourage fuel efficiency, reduce
      pollution, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and provide for
      the proper care of wildlife and their natural habitats.”

      Woolsey's motivation, by contrast, is summed up best by the rear bumper
      sticker on his 50-miles-to-the-gallon hybrid: osama bin laden hates this
      car. National-security experts consider the world's petroleum
      infrastructure—especially in the Middle East—to be highly vulnerable to
      terrorist attacks. “So Bin Laden would rather we stay dependent on the
      Mideast for oil,” Woolsey explains. Any major hits on Persian Gulf
      refineries or oil pipelines, he notes, would likely cause oil prices to
      soar, sending the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

      His concern is shared by a widening cadre of prominent military hawks (many
      of them veterans of the Reagan and first Bush administrations) who,
      post-9/11, also want to stop sending billions of dollars in annual oil
      proceeds to the Middle East courtesy of America's gas-guzzling SUV fleet.
      Nearly 60 percent of the petroleum in the United States is imported, much
      of it from Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, whose
      governments fund radical Islamic schools and mosques that have turned into
      breeding grounds for anti-American extremists.

      While there may be different alarm bells going off for hawks and
      evangelicals, this hasn't stopped the two groups from allying with leading
      environmentalists to champion a slew of innovative energy proposals—from
      plug-in battery hybrids to the development of alternative biofuels—that
      would break America's oil habit. They've teamed up to produce policy
      blueprints, taken their case before Congress, and sent pleas to President
      Bush. Their partnerships cut across ideological and political lines. For
      example, one formal coalition, called Set America Free, includes analysts
      from the Hudson Institute, a right-wing think tank; environmentalists from
      the liberal-slanting Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); and Gary
      Bauer, the religious conservative activist and 2000 Republican presidential

      What's uniting this motley bunch? The catchy slogan many of them throw
      around is “energy independence”—shorthand for the replacement of foreign
      oil with homegrown, nonpolluting sources of fuel and technology. But each
      is motivated in different ways. The hawks cite national-security
      imperatives; greens point to the environmental benefits; and Christian
      evangelicals, like Cizik, quote biblical mandates (“Genesis 2:15 instructs
      us to be stewards of the earth, that we have to ‘watch over it and care for
      it,' ” he says).

      “It's an unusual and pragmatic coalition,” admits Deron Lovaas, a
      transportation expert with the NRDC, who is the group's representative on
      Set America Free. “But we all share the same goal, which is to reduce oil
      dependence.” He and other environmentalists are hopeful they will help
      broaden their constituency beyond nature enthusiasts and public health
      advocates, even though the evangelicals and hawks are struggling to bring
      more of their brethren along.

      When Richard Cizik unfurled a banner at the annual antiabortion march last
      January in Washington, D.C., he was met with quizzical looks. His placard
      proclaimed stop mercury poisoning of the unborn. “People were kind of
      scratching their heads as they walked by,” recalls Cizik, whose official
      title is vice-president of governmental affairs for the National
      Association of Evangelicals.

      At the rally Cizik sought to show that pollution violates the “sanctity of
      life,” which is a popular evangelical term that translates into protecting
      the rights of unborn fetuses. So he and Reverend Jim Ball, executive
      director of the Evangelical Environmental Network, who helped carry the
      banner, also distributed fliers that cited government studies showing that
      one in six babies is born with harmful levels of mercury. The leaflets
      urged Christians to speak out against the Clear Skies Act, a (currently
      stalled) Bush administration proposal that would loosen regulations for
      coal-burning power plants, the major source of mercury emissions.

      “You need a hook,” explains Cizik, referring to his grand strategy for
      educating conservative Christians about environmental issues. “I say that
      care for the environment is a ‘pro-life' concern. So mine is the abortion
      hook.” One of Cizik's pet environmental causes is mercury pollution. Since
      the major route of human exposure is through the consumption of fish, this
      has major implications for pregnant mothers. “You ask people about global
      warming and their eyes glaze over,” says Cizik. “But when they learn the
      fish they eat has neurotoxins that produce brain damage in an unborn child,
      that gets their attention.”

      For conservative evangelicals, however, the environment has never ranked
      high as a priority. That's why the mercury banner at the antiabortion rally
      drew befuddled looks. “We still need to do a lot of work educating folks in
      the community about this, so much of what we're doing is planting seeds,”
      admits Ball, who has been sowing the evangelical ground with green messages
      for the past decade. In 2003 one such seed sprouted into the mainstream,
      when his “What Would Jesus Drive?” campaign sparked a nationwide debate
      over fuel-efficient cars.

      Ball's Evangelical Environmental Network website (www.creation care.org) is
      also full of fact sheets on a host of environmental issues, from air
      pollution to endangered species. The site includes tips for creating a
      healthy home environment (by avoiding the use of toxic cleaners and
      solvents) and promotes organic gardening. The advice is tied to biblical
      passages pertaining to proper diets, personal cleanliness, and safe homes.

      It's hard to believe anyone could quarrel with such wholesome notions, but
      Cizik is taking heat within his own camp. “For four weeks in a row the
      senior senator from Oklahoma [Republican James Inhofe, a rabid
      anti-environmentalist] has chosen to refer to me by name, as part of ‘the
      liberal, enviro whackos who are sidling up to pro-abortionists and
      pantheists,' ” Cizik recounted indignantly when I visited him in his
      Washington, D.C., office in the spring. “I can only suspect that he feels
      threatened by our [the NAE's] advocacy,” Cizik says, his gaunt face
      squeezed tight with anguish. “But he hardly needs to go ballistic against
      us, because we are hardly his enemies. We are his conservative friends,
      fellow pro-Bush Republicans.”

      Cizik, who has a sharply angular frame and hollowed cheeks after shedding
      40 pounds on a major health diet, has grown used to facing friendly fire. A
      month before Inhofe's rant, he held a global warming seminar for NAE
      members, at which prominent scientists spoke about the ecological threats
      from climate change. Within 24 hours James Dobson's Focus on the Family
      organization, an influential conservative Christian group, blasted the NAE
      for caring more about plants and animals than people. Fumes Cizik, “These
      are our friends! We've collaborated with Focus on the Family for years on
      the pro-life cause.” In truth, the attacks were not unexpected. Cizik
      himself prefers not to be called an environmentalist. “We prefer the term
      creation care.”

      Cizik doesn't have anything against established Greens, like the NRDC. But
      he knows what he's up against. “Those who want to discredit us will smear
      us with being left-wing environmentalists,” he explains. In the socially
      conservative worldview of many evangelicals, environmental groups are
      perceived as secular liberals who would rather worship trees than God.

      Then there is the matter of priority. The religious right wants to keep the
      focus on outlawing abortion and getting conservative judges confirmed by
      Congress. Cizik, though, has come to view global warming and other
      environmental issues with equal urgency, and is unafraid of warning
      evangelicals about standing on the wrong side of history. “It was to our
      eternal . . . ” he says, struggling to find the right words, “it was to our
      discredit that evangelicals didn't join [Dr. Martin Luther] King in the
      civil rights movement. It was forever a black mark on us that we weren't
      part of that. And I dare say—I could be wrong, I'm not a prophet—in a few
      years people will say, ‘Were the evangelicals engaged in the environmental
      issue?' And again, it will be to our discredit if we are not.”

      James Woolsey, by dint of experience and intellect, can, without missing a
      beat, pivot from a discussion on Mideast instability to the viability of
      converting prairie grass into ethanol. The former CIA director and Rhodes
      scholar has pursued an arcane interest in alternative energy for 25 years.
      “I originally came at this from the national-security path but over the
      years have also become a committed environmentalist,” Woolsey tells me
      during a tour of his 35-acre Maryland farm near Annapolis. (He grows hay,
      mostly as a hobby; by day, he is a high-profile vice-president with Booz
      Allen Hamilton, an international consulting firm.) His heavy travel
      schedule and boardroom-packed days have left his owlish face with a wan
      complexion. But on his farm he seems rejuvenated by the outdoor air. A
      devotee of clean energy, Woolsey proudly shows off the solar panels on the
      roof of his family's Cape Cod. “We should not have slacked off in the 1980s
      on renewable technology,” he says. “We'd be in a lot better shape today if
      we had continued improving on it.”

      In recent years a confluence of forces has spurred another round of
      hand-wringing over America's energy policy. Terrorism jitters and rising
      world demand for energy have driven the price of oil to more than $60 a
      barrel, sending ripples through the U.S. economy. At the same time the
      continuing war in Iraq and tensions with Iran and Syria underscore the
      volatility of the Middle East, the source of two-thirds of global oil
      reserves. A number of petroleum experts and even government reports have
      recently concluded that the world's oil wells are running dry, prompting
      Pentagon consultants to warn of an all-out scrum among countries for the
      dwindling supply in the decades ahead.

      “It's what I call the perfect storm,” says Frank Gaffney, a neoconservative
      hawk with the Washington-based Center for Security Policy and a member of
      the Set America Free coalition. He has been outspoken about the need to
      wean America off foreign oil. “There is a combination of compelling
      national-security and economic issues that make this an urgent matter.”

      The prominent security hawks—which include Robert “Bud” McFarlane, once
      President Reagan's national security adviser, and C. Boyden Gray, former
      White House counsel for the first President Bush—have not been shy about
      wielding their clout. Last March, in a letter signed by Gaffney, Woolsey,
      and several dozen other foreign policy experts, the coalition urged
      President Bush to “launch a major new [energy] initiative” emphasizing
      domestic development of biofuels derived from agricultural and animal waste.

      It's telling that they made no mention of the Republican-sponsored energy
      bill in Congress (backed by President Bush). But instead of slamming it,
      Gaffney and his allies have touted their environmentally friendly energy
      alternatives in op-ed pieces and in meetings with legislators. As this
      issue of Audubon went to press, the energy bill's fate remained uncertain,
      but behind the scenes, Woolsey and his fellow hawks were twisting arms to
      add stronger fuel-economy and renewable-energy provisions.

      For his part, Woolsey is down on hydrogen fuel cells (they're decades away)
      but high on plant-based energy sources, such as switchgrass, that, unlike
      corn, require little fuel to convert into ethanol, while also acting as a
      global-warming-reducing carbon sink. (Midwestern farmers are excited by the
      potential and eager to get aboard the biofuel train.) Last year the
      bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy—Woolsey's a member—proposed
      a 10-year, $1.5 billion research and development program for pioneering
      commercial production facilities.

      Perhaps surprisingly, the hawks are not all keen on the Bush
      administration's plan to ramp up domestic oil production, especially in
      Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “I'm not for it, because it's
      just a drop in the bucket,” Woolsey says, “and because I think the
      trans-Alaska pipeline is very vulnerable.”

      That there is suddenly a powerful convergence of interests between
      evangelicals, military hawks, and environmentalists has not been lost on
      leaders of the respective camps. “I think it's a marriage made in heaven,”
      says Cizik, who believes, in particular, that hawks and many religious
      evangelicals—especially those who belong to the NAE—come from common
      conservative stock.

      Woolsey is also tickled to have members of the influential religious right
      embrace clean energy and broader environmental issues. “If we can create a
      coalition of hawks, tree huggers, sodbusters, do-gooders, and Christian
      fundamentalists supporting these initiatives, then we have a pretty good
      share of the country.”

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.