Religious Convictions Flavor Huckabee's Environmental Views

Religious Convictions Flavor Huckabee's Environmental Views
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In March, 1997, a series of deadly storms swept through the South and Midwest, causing destruction from Texas to Pennsylvania. In Arkansas, tornadoes described as the worst in thirty years cut a 260 mile path through the state. Twenty-six people died.

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who had risen to his current job less than a year before when Jim Guy Tucker was forced out of office in a cloud of corruption, described the scene as "apocalyptic." It seemed to be a suitable word choice for a former Baptist preacher.

Other words, though, did not suit Governor Huckabee. A few weeks later, when a bill providing protection for storm victims against insurance cancellation came to the governor's desk, he would not sign it. His refusal was based on the bill's use of the words "acts of God" to describe the tornadoes. Huckabee stated:

''I feel that I have indeed witnessed many 'acts of God,' but I see His actions in the miraculous sparing of life, the sacrifice and selfless spirit in which so many responded to the pain of others.''

He said it would, "be violating my own conscience" to sign the bill and suggested "acts of God" be replaced with "natural disasters." Despite some bemusement at the governor's position (one Arkansas legislator said, ''We've used the term 'act of God' in insurance since there has been insurance -- before there was insurance.''), he got his way; after an attempt to include both phrases failed, the bill was signed the way Governor Huckabee wanted it. The tornadoes, according to the bill, were natural disasters. God had been cleared of responsibility.

When it comes to Earth and the environment, Mike Huckabee has never been shy about bringing God into the conversation. In 1998, while speaking to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, Huckabee said:

"God made us, and God made the Earth. . . . He gave us the privilege to use it and enjoy the resources, but never to worship it. We're to worship Him, not the thing He made. To me, environmentalists are those who worship the things that He made rather than He who made them."

This wasn't the first time Huckabee had had harsh words for environmentalists. In 1996, he said:

"Wacko environmentalists, who get out of their concrete towers one weekend a month and go look at a tree, believe they know more about the care of the land than farmers. They want to tell us what deodorant we can use and what kind of gas to put in our car."

As a presidential candidate, though, Huckabee has taken a gentler tack towards human responsibility to the Earth. In his book, From Hope to Higher Ground, Huckabee wrote:

"My own personal faith reminds me that "the earth is the Lord's" and that we are not its owners; merely its caretakers. From the very first pages of Genesis in the Old Testament we are reminded that God is the Creator and we are responsible for tending to that which he created; to preserve it and to protect it. We are indeed given the liberty and in fact the admonition to enjoy and utilize the resources, but use is not abuse and we have no right to pillage the planet unmercifully. We should see to it that our care for the environment enhances not only its aesthetic value but preserves the resources themselves for future generations."

Candidate Huckabee is all for the environment. In From Hope to Higher Ground, he reminded people that "the very word "conservative" means that we are all about conserving things that are valuable and dear. Few things are more valuable to us than the natural resources that God created and gave to us to carefully manage."

He believes that the most pressing issue environmental issue facing this country is the pollution of air, water and soil. He often points to his role in passing Amendment 75 of the Arkansas Constitution, which set aside an eighth of a percent of the state sales tax on all purchased items and used those funds for conserving land, running state parks, and fighting pollution.

Huckabee never identifies himself as an environmentalist; on his campaign website, his list of issues doesn't even include the word "environment." It does, however, present Huckabee's plans for "energy independence." He is for exploring all alternative fuels--nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass. He believes people can do things to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases: "...for example, replace light bulbs with the fluorescent types. We need to shoot for less fossil fuel, go to more energy-efficient and certainly non-carbon-producing methods of energy."

When questioned about whether he believes humans cause global warming, though, Huckabee is evasive. During the May 3 debate, Huckabee was asked whether, considering that "thousands of reputable scientists have concluded with almost certainty that human activity is responsible for the warming of the Earth," he believed in global warming. Huckabee responded:

"The most important thing about global warming is this. Whether humans are responsible for the bulk of climate change is going to be left to the scientists, but it's all of our responsibility to leave this planet in better shape for the future generations than we found it."

When asked a similar question in a article, Huckabee again spoke about how the cause of global warming doesn't matter, just that humans try to do something about it.

While discussing his plans for energy independence in the Salon article, Huckabee suggested that new sources of energy could be found by giving grants and subsidies to those who were working on ideas to solve the problem. He compared it to the space program and spoke about assembling the best minds in the country to work on energy issues.

In the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment, US fifteen year olds ranked 16th out of 30 countries; in math they were 24th. A Washington Post article about the test results notes that, "The PISA results underscore concerns that too few U.S. students are prepared to become engineers, scientists and physicians, and that the country might lose ground to competitors." US students may not be able to take on Huckabee's challenge of solving the problem of energy dependence.

Huckabee has stated that he does not believe in evolution, and is a believer in creationism. Arkansas state standards include the teaching of evolution, and the Arkansas Science Teachers Association includes evolution as one of the theories that science educators should be able to teach. ASTA's site includes a lengthy breakdown of the differences between "scientific knowing" and "religious knowing."

In a 2006 Arkansas Times article, Jason Wiles wrote that although evolution is supposed to be part of the state science curriculum, it was often missing from classrooms. This wasn't part of a statewide initiative; no one was officially being told not to teach it. Instead, according to the article, science teachers were avoiding the subject because they felt they might get cause trouble by discussing it.

Wiles included the following exchange between Governor Huckabee and a student on a July 2004 episode of "Arkansans Ask," a television program where people could ask the governor questions:

Student: Many schools in Arkansas are failing to teach students about evolution according to the educational standards of our state. Since it is against these standards to teach creationism, how would you go about helping our state educate students more sufficiently for this?

Huckabee: Are you saying some students are not getting exposure to the various theories of creation?

Student (stunned): No, of evol ... well, of evolution specifically. It's a biological study that should be educated [taught], but is generally not.

Moderator: Schools are dodging Darwinism? Is that what you ...?

Student: Yes.

Huckabee: I'm not familiar that they're dodging it. Maybe they are. But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that's why it's called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I'd be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that's held by people. But it's not the only view that's held. And any time you teach one thing as that it's the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.

A July 2003 episode included the following:

Student: Goal 2.04 of the Biology Benchmark Goals published by the Arkansas Department of Education in May of 2002 indicates that students should examine the development of the theory of biological evolution. Yet many students in Arkansas that I have met ... have not been exposed to this idea. What do you believe is the appropriate role of the state in mandating the curriculum of a given course?

Huckabee: I think that the state ought to give students exposure to all points of view. And I would hope that that would be all points of view and not only evolution. I think that they also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism ...

The governor goes on for a bit and finishes his sentiment, but the moderator keeps the conversation going:

Moderator (to student): You've encountered a number of students who have not received evolutionary biology?

Student: Yes, I've found that quite a few people's high schools simply prefer to ignore the topic. I think that they're a bit afraid of the controversy.

Huckabee: I think it's something kids ought to be exposed to. I do not necessarily buy into the traditional Darwinian theory, personally. But that does not mean that I'm afraid that somebody might find out what it is...

Huckabee has said, "I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president." It's virtually impossible that, as president, Huckabee would suddenly mandate the teaching of creationism along with evolution in national science classrooms. It is, however, unclear what he would do for promoting science in general during his administration, or for scientists whose work has pointed towards human activity causing global warming. It's unclear what is the difference between wacko environmentalists who are anti-God and humans who act as caretakers of the Earth, who he believes should preserve and protect it. And it is unclear how, in the mind of Mike Huckabee, tornadoes can be the result of natural causes, without God's involvement, but the evolution of animal and plant species cannot occur naturally without the hand of God.

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