When hurricanes strike, fundamentalist Christians like Noah’s Ark park builder Ken Ham often claim the storms are God’s punishment for our sins.
I have no doubt there is a link between sin and some natural disasters. But it’s not the sin Ham and his kind usually have in mind.
Greed — the lust for and pursuit of wealth — may not cause hurricanes and other weather-related disasters, but it certainly makes them worse.
“Greed is a sin against God, just as all mortal sins,” Thomas Aquinas, the Roman Catholic saint, wrote more than 700 years ago, “in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things.”
When hurricanes strike, the most obvious examples of greed are looters and price-gouging businesses. But the big greed happens behind the scenes, long before the skies darken and rain begins to fall.
Greed is at work in the reckless development of wetlands and coastal areas — places that increasingly require taxpayer bailouts after each big storm and flood.
Greed also can be seen in the corporate and ideological campaigns to discredit climate science and block efforts to fight against and adapt to climate change. President Donald Trump and Congress are a dream team for these greedy people.
Ten days before Hurricane Harvey inundated Houston, Trump rescinded former President Barack Obama’s 2015 order tightening restrictions on new construction and raising standards for public infrastructure in many flood-prone areas.
Developers had objected to Obama’s order, and a group of Republican senators wrote to complain that the restrictions would hurt economic growth.
In March, Trump rescinded a 2013 Obama order that directed federal agencies to urge states and cities to build new infrastructure “smarter and stronger” in anticipation of more frequent extreme weather.
Honestly, I don’t expect the developer-in-chief will have a problem with more taxpayer bailouts for developers. I also don’t expect his appointees to curb their shameful crusade of climate-change denial, at least until more Republicans demand that common sense trump greed.
“If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is,” said Tomás Regalado, the Republican Mayor of Miami. “This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change.”
And don’t forget Kentucky’s greed, also known as the War on Coal. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. Andy Barr and other corporate tools love to complain about “regulatory overreach” on issues involving climate change and environmental destruction. But who are their actions helping, and who are they hurting?
Rising oceans cause more flooding. Warming oceans make hurricanes more severe. The vast majority of climate scientists think these trends are being exacerbated by the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels.
Despite what you may have heard, there is little debate about these facts among climate scientists who are not funded by corporations or libertarian activists. The insurance industry certainly believes in climate change, as did the federal government before Trump and his cronies got their hands on it.
In a news conference Monday, Pope Francis, leader of the world’s largest Christian denomination, opined that “history will judge” the climate change deniers.
“Anyone who denies should go to the scientists and ask them,” he said. “They speak very clearly … climate change is having an effect, and scientists are telling us which path to follow. And we have a responsibility — all of us. Everyone, great or small, has a moral responsibility.”
This is the first year in the 166 years American scientists have been keeping comprehensive weather data that two Atlantic storms of this intensity have made landfall as Category Four hurricanes. Maybe that’s just a coincidence.
Or maybe God is trying to send us a message about sin. And maybe his messengers aren’t preachers, but scientists.