Toussaint column: Right to Life and the Republican cult of death
I am fervently pro-life.
There’s something miraculous about the moment a heart begins to beat, whether it’s a hummingbird’s fluttering at 1,260 beats a minute or a human infant’s, pulsing at about 160 beats a minute. Or an elephant’s heart, slowly pacing out a 60-year life at 30 beats a minute.
There’s something mysterious about seeds, too. How does a seed know it’s not a stone? How does it store instructions for creating roots, buds and flowers in its minuscule dark interior?
I’m so enraptured by life that when I find “volunteers” in my garden, instead of weeding them out, I usually replant them in a better spot. I deplore thinning beets, even though I know that if I don’t, my overcrowded crop will be stunted.
I’m awed by the complexity — and sometimes the cruelty — of the interdependent web of life.
Louis Pasteur’s experiments proved “biogenesis,” the theory that life arises only from living things, and does so through reproduction. Scientists originally coined the term biogenesis to repudiate the medieval notion that life could spontaneously generate from nonliving matter (for example, maggots springing to life from dead bodies), but the anti-abortion movement has repurposed the term. They take it to mean that “each living thing reproduces after its own kind” and thus, the instant a sperm and egg unite, what’s there can only be a human being.
Intellectually, I can understand why pro-life activists feel that way, and why they’re upset about abortions. Since I find it difficult to uproot beet shoots, I can’t imagine how I would have ever coped with an abortion. I have friends who, forced by wrenchingly cruel circumstances, underwent abortions decades ago. They still feel loss and regret. Emotionally and intellectually, I can understand pro-life advocates’ reverence for the miracle of reproduction.
What I cannot understand is why their party, the Republicans, are pursuing policies that will destroy far more lives than the roughly 1 million unborn that are aborted each year. Climate change will blight the lives of every child now in the womb, and every one to come the whole world round.
How can anyone claim to be “pro-life” while pursuing policies that are destroying the earthly womb on which all life depends?
Denial of climate change — and worse, greed-driven actions that accelerate it — will prove more murderous than all modern abortions, more lethal than any ethnic cleansing in history. Together, the Nazi, Soviet Union, Cambodian and Armenian genocides cost about 13.5 million lives. Unchecked global warming could abort 555 times as many lives — the entire human race. There is no word to describe how horrendous this is; genocide and ecocide don’t really cover it.
Our profligate destruction of the environment is on track to destroy 1 million plant and animal species — ending the biogensis of half of all life on earth. That includes not only the nice-to-have creatures — the elephants and tigers you’d like your grandkids to see — but also the bees that pollinate 70 percent of our food. Plus ocean fish that feed 10 percent of the world’s population.
Ocean rise will displace 2 billion people — one fifth of humankind — by 2100. Lack of water, food and habitable land will lead to a tsunami of refugees. And that will lead to wars, disease and yet more refugees.
In May, a massive United Nations report, compiled by more than 450 researchers working with 15,000 scientific and government reports, warned that our current and “ominous” freshwater shortages and climate instability will worsen without drastic remedial action.
Denying climate change — while Americans are suffering visible damage from floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes — makes the Republican party look more like a death cult than defenders of life.
Enacting policies that hasten the destruction of our earthly life-support system will loose the four horsemen of the apocalypse: conquest, war, famine and death. Civilization may collapse. The massive extinction of species now underway may well take us too.
If that doesn’t warrant the word “evil”, what does?
Polls vary but show that a majority of Republicans support some form of climate action. So why are Republican leaders denying, delaying and courting mega-death? In January, the Center for American Progress totaled the members of Congress who challenge the scientific consensus that humans are propelling climate change. The 116th Congress holds 150 of them, all Republicans.
So why are they acting in ways that threaten all their constituent’s children — and not coincidentally, all human life?
Money — specifically $68 million in fossil fuel money.
That works out to just $110.29 for the each of the 7.5 billion humans on earth today. Allowing nothing for hummingbirds, tigers or elephants, it’s a petty amount to put on the value of human life.
Nicolette Toussaint lives in Carbondale. Her column appears monthly.
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