On the afternoon of Friday, November 16 in the African, Latin, Asian, and Nativa American Cultural Center, Garret Keizer, former teacher and Episcopal minister, now full-time author of books and essays, including one in Harper’s titled “The Politics of Global Warming,” gave a heated talk on the issue of global warming and the social issues surrounding mankind’s response to it. The brown bag, sponsored by Visiting Writers and ENST, drew more than fifty people at its highest point.
Once Keizer got past a brief talk on the importance of writing and his position as a “moral writer,” the former minister delivered a passionate sermon that uncovered what he feels to be the hypocrisy in the environmental movement and its problems as well identifying the problems of capitalism.
Mr. Keizer started by railing against Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. He called it “blatant self-promotion,” and said that Gore was trying to be an “environmentalist martyr.” He took further issue with the way the film constantly used a laptop and “iconic view of the earth,” which makes the cause of environmentalism out to be an abstraction.
“The world…is made of cells, not pixels,” Keizer said, as he pointed to the bucolic backdrop outside of the windows to his left. “It is not an abstraction, it is not on the screen, it is there.”
The environmental movement, Mr. Keizer feels, ignores the real issues that have caused the problem in first place — capitalism — and only reinforces the source of the problem.
“[The current environmental movement is] a corporate invention instead of a social change which calls for small communities to make way for grand plans, dictated by those with the lion’s share [of wealth and power],” Keizer said.
He does not like the attitude that, “Good old market capitalism will take care of the problem of global warming by creating a new gizmo.” He cited the example of how wind turbines are being put only into the poorest communities in Vermont and how that enforces the injustice created by market capitalism. He sees that economic justice and global climate change are linked and that it will take more great disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, to bring society to change.
Despite Mr. Keizer’s condemnation of the sate of the environmentalist cause, the atmosphere in the room — which was mainly filled with students and professors who are highly interested and involved with environmental programs on and off campus — remained pleasant.
“He gave us a refreshing, critical look,” sophomore Shae Frydenlund, one of the students the event, said. “Even though he had some critical things to say about the movement, it is important to take an abstract look on our cause through a different lens.”