• Ian Sutton

Conservative Commentator, Nature and a Benevolent God


The year 2020 has provided more than its share of bad news. But for those of us concerned with climate change there were some bright spots. The following quotation is from Tom Whipple’s January 2021 newsletter.

We may remember 2020 as the year the world started to reverse centuries of damage to the climate. Before the start of the year, the European Commission announced a new Green Deal . . . Several more of the largest global economies—including China, responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country—also came out with net-zero pledges. As oil and gas prices plunged due to the pandemic, NextEra Energy Inc., the world’s largest wind power supplier, overtook Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp as the world’s most valuable energy company. And in November, the US voted to make Joe Biden, who adopted climate change as one of his signature campaign issues, its next president.

Are targets such as ‘Net Zero by 2050’, i.e., no net carbon dioxide emissions just 29 years from now, realistic? That question is explored at our companion web site, Technology for a Changing Climate. At this site, we are more concerned about our individual and group response to the challenges that we face.


George Will (1941- )

As the year rolled over we saw signs that traditional conservatives are responding to changes in the natural world. For example, on January 3rd 2021 the conservative columnist George Will published an opinion piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper. (It is shown at the top of this post.) The article starts with the following statement.

The plague year 2020 was yet another brutal rejoinder to the belief that brute forces can be pushed to the margins of, and eventually out of, humanity’s experience.

In the article Mr. Will covered a wide range of natural events that can cause catastrophe. They include massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, a solar ‘coronal mass ejection’, viruses and typhoons. None of these are cause by human action — they are ‘Acts of God’. There is not much we can do to prevent them. All that we can do is prepare for them such that we can ride them out. He continues,

There are those who believe in a benevolent God because earth as they see it, is “biophilic”, meaning friendly to life . . . They must, however, reckon . . . with the fact that that everything is not going to end well.
Human choice can subdue all the brute forces that always lurk. Choices can, however, make a difference. And they can dignify us, a thinking, coping species.

(His comment to do with a biophilic God relates to the concept of ‘Gaia’ discussed at our post Gaia.)


One of the themes of this site is ‘Accept and Adapt’. We need to do all that we can to slow down events such as climate change, and to mitigate the impact of these events as best we can. But we also need to realize that, ultimately, we are not in control.


Maybe it is this sense of humility that is the best news of all from what Will refers to as “the plague year of 2020”.

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