By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Some days, we slip into Upside Down World, where people are just too stupid, greedy, stubborn or short-sighted to act logically.

Take Rick Santorum telling audiences that the earth is here for man, not the other way around. (A few days after he promised to sell off federal lands if he’s elected president.)

It started with Santorum positing that President Obama was practicing a “phony theology” by elevating “earth above man” and listening to those “radical environmentalists.”

“I was talking about the radical environmentalists,” Santorum said, explaining himself on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday. “That’s why I was talking about energy. This idea that man is here to serve the earth, as opposed to husband its resources and being good stewards of the earth, and I think that is a phony ideal (of Obama’s and others).”

Former Sen. Santorum is not stupid. I don’t know about greedy or stubborn. But like most politicians, he is short-sighted, and he’s working an angle. He’s trying to appeal to Christians who believe that “man” (I would have once assumed that included woman but I’m not so sure this month) has been placed by God to be above all other creatures, and therefore all things on earth.

Here’s where he crawls out on a limb: Many religious people do not see the Biblical command to rule the earth as license to stomp around in a single-minded quest for oil, or fill-in your favorite dwindling natural resource. They interpret God’s message to humankind as a mandate to be good shepherds of the planet, acting humbly, peaceably and respectfully to save it from harm.

This is a distinction with a difference.

Christians of many denominations have rallied to this cause.  They’ve formed the creation care movement, which sees Christian ideals as aligned with those of environmentalists. Jews, Muslims and members of other faiths have launched similar vigorous environmental efforts. And people have come together in interfaith networks to work for a cleaner, more sustainable earth.
Clean air, pure water, renewable power, coal plant pollution, mountain and forest restoration, community gardens, curbing food waste — Santorum and others who deride environmentalists might be surprised at the wide agenda that some of these religious groups have pursued. Some see it as necessary for effective mission work around the world, as Ed Brown, director of Care of Creation writes:

“What is becoming more and more evident in the world today is that most of the things that are making people poor and miserable are environmental and ecological at their root. Whether overpopulation, agriculture, water, energy or even health – each crisis becomes a question of how we treat our world. Will it be able to continue to support the demands the human race places on it?”

Creation care holds that humans have a divine responsibility to care for our planet. Is that “radical,” or does it just make good sound sense?

I first caught this “radical environmentalist” line issuing from Newt Gingrich during a GOP debate this winter. At the time, Gingrich was willing to trash all of San Francisco, which was where he said the “radical environmentalists” lived, apparently a place he figured wouldn’t be a stronghold for him. (Portland, you ducked the arrow this time!)

Regardless of whether this makes you laugh, or shout, ‘Tell it brother Newt!’, this is not a solid political tactic.

Santorum might want to have a heart-to-heart with himself about far he wants to travel on this path. Yes, it seems that branding people as “environmentalists” is a handy new way to tarnish liberals, who’ve been consistently supportive of saving animals and arctic areas, and all that.  But those insults could abrade the many religious Americans of varying political stripes whose idea of cherishing God’s world extends beyond their own doorway, to take in the birds, bees and bears in the great beyond.


Bears, by the way, have now joined wolves as targets in Canada, where fossil fuel companies are pushing back those pesky natural areas to make way for more toxic, forest-annihilating tar sands operations. You can read more about how bears are getting in the way of oil progress in the Vancouver Sun. While the bears are being shot, the wolves are being poisoned to winnow their numbers in the tar sands region. Officials are assaulting the wolves in a sad attempt to save the caribou, whose herds are thinning as they lose habitat as tar sands operations wipe out boreal forests. This is a cycle of action that violates the laws of nature in so many ways, it can’t end well.

Here’s yet another phenomenon currently challenging the rules as we’ve known them, in this case, the laws of economics. Everyone knows that over-supply, leads to falling demand and then lower prices, right?

That’s why they killed millions of pigs during the Depression. Supply suddenly vastly exceeded demand, which was great for pig survival, but bad for pork markets.

Now take gasoline. In fact, in 2012, take a bit more, because demand for gasoline in the U.S. is currently down, and supplies are up, according to the Oil Price Information Service.

So that means prices should be heading down, right?

They aren’t. You guessed it. Gasoline prices, despite good supply and falling demand, are going up.

Some experts predict that gasoline will continue to rise, hitting $4 a gallon before summer, the level at which Americans get cranky and even consider public transportation.

Why are we in upside down world with gasoline? Because traders on Wall Street  are speculating in oil futures, presumably because they can, and perhaps also because the fun has gone out of manipulating mortgage derivatives.

Here’s how Bloomberg Businessweek explains it:

Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. “Petrol demand is as low as it’s been since April 1997,” says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. “People are properly puzzled by the fact that we’re using less gas than we have in years, yet we’re paying more.”

Kloza believes much of the increase is due to speculative money that’s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. “We’ve seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures,” he says. “Each of the last three weeks we’ve seen a record net long position being taken.”

Draw your own conclusions. But I’d say that Kloza has it right. People are properly puzzled by extreme profiteering.

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