The World According to Santorum

Gage Skidmore
Rick Santorum Tries to Paint Environmentalists as Radicals, Forgetting that Many Catholics–Including the Pope–Support Taking Action on Climate Change
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is perhaps the best example of how far the right wing has fled from scientific reality. At a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, Santorum attempted to portray President Obama’s rejection of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline—a decision made because of a lack of adequate time for review of the project’s environmental impact—as some kind of green radicalism. “It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology,” he said, to what The New York Times calls “wide applause.” “Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology. But no less a theology.” Explaining further on CBS’s Face the Nation, Santorum said that this “theology” “elevates the earth above man” and consists of “radical environmentalists” who are in a conspiracy “to give more power to the government.”

By now Obama supporters have gotten used to veiled implications that the president is not a Christian, and the even more prejudiced view that non-Christians are somehow less American. But Santorum has gone further than a casual use of dog-whistle politics. He has labeled environmental scientists and activists as part of a fringe cult, undermining our reality-based approach to solving serious global issues by proclaiming the entire movement an extension of a mythical religious war. Santorum has gone even further since, speaking in Tucson about “evil forces” confronting the country. Presumably environment and climate scientists are on his list.

Santorum’s hyper-religious rhetoric should disturb environmentalists—and, indeed, American voters—for a plethora of reasons. First and foremost, Santorum is consistently pandering only to a zealous Tea Party Republican base, despite the fact that recent poll shifts have made him an even more likely candidate to represent the views of the country as a whole. Santorum has claimed that Obama is forcing his personal views upon religious institutions, but the length to which the GOP candidate is willing to go in order to win his party’s nomination threatens a push of his extremist views upon the Republican party and even the nation.

Second, Santorum is continuing the venomous stereotype that those of us who study and are concerned about resource consumption, climate change, the effects of contamination, and preserving biodiversity are equivalent to pagan Earth-worshippers (and, indeed, that the entirely separate few who actually engage in such worship should not be protected by the First Amendment). The insinuation that making our society more sustainable is favoring the environment over humans is absurd, especially because environmental activists are among those most concerned for our species’ future. Renewable energy, less reliance on fossil fuels—these are causes that should appeal to any thinking person, regardless of their religious beliefs.

In fact, these causes appeal to many Catholics besides Santorum. Despite his attempts at appealing to voters based on his faith, Santorum seems to forget that Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, have called for global action to combat climate change. Is the pope, too, a radical non-Christian environmentalist? By Santorum’s definition, it’s difficult to say.

Animal Rights National Conference 2018