Audubon: The Holy & The Hawks
- 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 intersecteduntil 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
infrastructureespecially in the Middle Eastto 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 proposalsfrom
plug-in battery hybrids to the development of alternative biofuelsthat
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 independenceshorthand 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
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 sayI could be wrong, I'm not a prophetin 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 hawkswhich include Robert Bud McFarlane, once
President Reagan's national security adviser, and C. Boyden Gray, former
White House counsel for the first President Bushhave 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 PolicyWoolsey's a memberproposed
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
evangelicalsespecially those who belong to the NAEcome from common
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.
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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