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Conventional Liberal Wisdom Thrown Out the Window
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February 29, 2008                                     



                   Conventional Liberal

         Wisdom Thrown Out The Window


For years now, those concerned with rising health care costs and its implications promoted healthy low-fat eating habits to combat obesity.  Their premise was that a disproportionate share of the nation’s health costs (including the ballooning Medicare program) was due to the treatment of diseases caused by obesity.


A few weeks ago, that theory was debunked when researchers in Europe discovered that overweight people are actually cheaper to medically treat over their lifetimes because healthier people live longer.  Those who live longer apparently spend so many of their senior years taking a variety of medications that the costs far outweigh the catastrophic expenses sometime associated with illness in obese people.  This surprised researchers and policy-makers, among others.


Just as shocking is a new study published in the journal Science that questions the previous assumption that biofuels (such as ethanol/gas blends) reduce greenhouse gases.  Ethanol has long been touted as a panacea to wean America from foreign oil and reduce pollution.  Part of the mantra often used by progressives and environmentalists was that farmers in developing countries who would grow biofuels crops for export could potentially raise their standards of living.  This would be an added benefit to this “feel good” scenario.


I hate labels.  But,  it has been hard to miss the fact that recently conservatives have joined the bandwagon on ethanol.  This has been driven, in part, by politicians from the Midwest whose farmer constituents are seeing record high corn prices.  Corn is one crop used to make ethanol.


Belatedly, with the cost of oil skyrocketing, President Bush has in the last year: 1) pronounced America “addicted” to oil (twenty years or so after the rest of us realized it); and 2) embraced climate change and global warming science as he ponders his legacy.  The energy bill last year included huge subsidies and mandates that require the use of ethanol in our gasoline.


However, it turns out that these energy problems are much more complex than ever imagined according to the latest research.  The costs of making and transporting biofuels have previously not been taken into account.  Also missed, has been the impact of more land being cleared by those seeking to get in on the biofuels bonanza.  This in turn, leads to replacing the land lost that previously had been cultivated for food through additional clearing.


The New York Times in an article entitled “Biofuels Deemed A Greenhouse Threat,” published February 8, 2008 stated: The destruction of natural ecosystems — whether rain forest in the tropics or grasslands in South America — not only releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when they are burned and plowed, but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs far less carbon than the rain forests or even scrubland that it replaces.”


Many may want to gloat because the proposed progressive policy solutions have proven ineffectual.  But this whole episode raises different concerns for me.


Why do we only do what’s right if there is money in it for us? 


Likewise, healthy eating and resisting gluttony should be something that we try do because it’s right and because the “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 7:19).  I’m not talking about those who can’t lose weight because God made them that way.  The book of Proverbs is rife with admonitions against gluttony (e.g.; Proverb 23:20-21 and 25:16).    In addition, scripture generally preaches self-control (1 Corinthians 9:27; Titus 2:12). 


Just as importantly, we have been appointed stewards of the earth by God according to scripture (see Psalms 8:6, 115:16).  Man has not only been given dominion over the planet, but commanded not to be wasteful (Deuteronomy 22:6; Proverb 21:20, 27:23).


As people of faith, we shouldn’t support environmentally sound, sustainable policies because we have to because of the cost of oil, or because we can make money growing corn.  It’s time to bite the bullet.  The problem with fossil fuels will only be solved if we use fewer fossil fuels.  This means sacrifice.


This means a simpler life with less economic development; and, yes, less income for us all.  This means using fewer hi-tech gadgets that burn so much electricity.  This means walking, riding a bike, buying a hybrid vehicle or taking public transportation until alternative technologies are developed. 


Why don’t we just make a commitment to do this and do it, “all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  If we do, I am confident that the Lord will reward our sacrifice with not only the discovery of those new technologies but many more blessings as well.



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