In the wake of inaction in the Gulf of Mexico and my daily growing depression about that, I have discovered my own, personal Antichrist. And I'm still waiting for my own, personal Jesus as promised by Depeche Mode. But the dude pictured above could actually be the evil version of me in that "Mirror, Mirror" universe where Spock has such a fetching goatee.
What, you don't recognize him? His name is Jonathan Katz and he's a physicist at Washington University who, for a very brief while, was part of the White House's brain trust for solving the oil gush in the Gulf. Maybe they should have done a better job at vetting their geniuses, but I am at least thankful that they dropped him like a bag of hot gerbils once they checked out his former publications.
Publications that include "In Defense of Homophobia," a screed that opines that it is okay to hate the gays. After all, being gay is a choice and those gays, they do like their risky behavior. Hey, if it weren't for the gays, straight people wouldn't have to deal with AIDS, right? According to Katz, being gay is a choice -- or more accurately, a temptation that gay folk can't resist giving in to. Katz is grumpy because part of the human condition is resisting temptation -- he apparently does it every day. Uh-huh. I just bet he does. But so, the bottom line is that anyone who is good and resists temptation is justified in judging, condemning, and hating those who don't. Therefore, homophobia is justified and moral. Good to know.
Right, so here's another out and proud homophobe who probably uses his hate to hide his own queer desire. Anyone want to bet if RentBoy.com is bookmarked on his computer? There sure are a lot of these types coming out of the woodwork (or is that closet?) these days. So why is he my own, personal Antichrist?
Well, let's add to this mix his Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) denialism. In his essay, "Cold Thoughts on Global Warming" he outlines his "why worry?" stance on climate change. Admittedly, he more or less starts the essay with, "The conclusion that anthropogenic emissions of [greenhouse] gases will likely warm the climate has been generally accepted for a century. It is a consensus, but it is not emerging or new. It has been there all along. Only a panicky fear of the consequences is new." That doesn't really sound like denialism, does it? I call it AGW Denialism 3.0. The original version denied the climate was warming. Version 2.0 asserted that the climate is changing but humans were in no way a significant cause of it. The latest version, which Katz so masterfully articulates, is that climate change is happening, we're a significant cause of it, but there's (a) nothing we can do about it and (b) it's not really going to be so bad. So enjoy business as usual.
It's these two essays side by side that so annoy me. In one, he notes that sexuality is a matter of choice and that gay people should be held accountable for making a bad one. In the other he offers that it is unrealistic to think that anyone in the world will be able to curb their desire for fossil fuels and control their pollution. See the contradiction? And that's what really irritates me.
Because my frustration is bigger than Katz. We are coming up on a month of allowing oil to flow at unknown but very high rates into the Gulf. And our response has been tepid at best. BP still calls the shots on the "recovery." The Obama administration still only has expansion of off-shore drilling "on hold." The Senate is consumed with Wall Street reform and facing endless GOP blocks on regulation -- delay tactics that will likely work because they need to get on to approving funds for our foreign wars. And the "Drill, Baby, Drill" crowd who, by all rights, should have egg on their face, moves blithely forward with calls for energy independence through domestic oil production. How's that oily, drilly stuff workin' out for ya?
I might actually agree with Katz about the hopelessness of AGW mitigation efforts. For me, addressing AGW is less about actually mitigating climate change and more about waking up as a species to the unsustainability of our collective practices. It is an opportunity to demonstrate we can act collectively to say no to our baser desires, to not be in denial about the consequences of our actual choices and behavior. Global warming is the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Can we talk about endocrine disruptors and other toxins that flow into our waterways and rise into the atmosphere with those greenhouse gasses we seem so unable to regulate? Can we talk about that island of trash growing in the Pacific? Can we talk about asthma, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other environment-related diseases being on the precipitous rise? Hell, can we acknowledge that one of the reasons die-off in the gulf in the wake of this "spill" has been less than expected (so far) is that it is occurring in an area that suffers from hypoxia (dead zones) as a result of agricultural run off down the Mississippi?
At the core of all of these problems is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of will. We like to imagine there is limitless "away" for us to throw our trash and pass our gas. We are fascinated with what our technology can do for us, but less willing to consider ahead of time solutions to myriad problems when it fails. We have made the precautionary principle anti-capitalist and made the pursuit of profit at all costs our holy mission. We cannot even begin to seriously consider changing our life-styles or cutting our profit margins or investing in more sustainable energy technologies. Those are impossible choices. But let's distract ourselves by bashing on those vain, nelly, promiscuous, immoral gays. Hallelujah!
I am an out gay man and a proud environmentalist. I believe that both of these identities inform each other. I know that my sexuality is not so much a choice nor is it the moral failing proselytizers like Katz would have me believe. I know that there are some things more important than my sexual identity, foremost among them the planet that sustains me, that sustains all of us. Understanding it, caring for it as our ecological impacts reach global proportions is the moral challenge of our time. I believe embracing diversity, from human to bio-, is a big part of that challenge. Whatever knowledge of physics and hydrodynamics Katz might have brought to stopping the oil flow is outweighed by his failure to see diversity as a good thing and by his failure to imagine that we, as a species, could live more sustainably on the planet.
Now if only we could make some meaningful legislation and regulations to prevent anything like this from happening again. Dare we dream? Or shall we give into the fantasy (and self-fulfilling prophesy) of "End Times"? Reach out and touch faith.