Sally Vance-Trembath, a theologian at Santa Clara University, studies the relationships among the Catholic Church, academia, and society. In this episode, she talks with Robert about environmentalism as a religion, climate change and sin, Christian theology, and the similarities between the indulgences that were sold to build Europe’s cathedrals and modern-day carbon credits.

Episode Transcript

Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, and welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And today, my guest is a slight departure from what we’ve done in previous episodes. But I’m happy thrilled, in fact, to have Sally Vance trim bath theologian on the podcast today. Sally, welcome to the power hungry podcast. I’m so happy to be here, Robert, thank you for having me. Now, I didn’t warn you. But I always have guests introduce themselves. So if you don’t mind, imagine you’ve arrived someplace you don’t know anyone there and you have 30 or 45 seconds to give the brief on who you are. Go.

Sally Vance-Trembath 0:40
Hi, I’m Sally banister and Beth I teach at Santa Clara University. I came here from Notre Dame. But before I was at Notre Dame, I grew up in Iowa. And that’s gives you a pretty good picture of who I am.

Robert Bryce 0:55
Okay. So I asked you on because about two years ago, we had a conversation talking about the many overlapping aspects of Christian belief and climate ism, I’m going to use that term climate ism climate apocalyptic environmentalism. Okay, and so given your background and theology, those are the things I wanted to explore. And before we go on you you’re a theologian. And you study the relationships between the Catholic Church academia and and wider society is that that’s what you’re, that’s correct.

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:25
I’m really I’m very interested in the Catholic Church as an institution, and how that institution intersects with other institutions.

Robert Bryce 1:33
So there’s some connections here because of the Vatican forest and how the Vatican City that I’ll get to that in a minute about carbon credits and so on, but but you’ve also written two books, I think, john paul, the second Unum sent and the conversation with women in 1999, and then theologies and dialogue, the place of religion in 21st century University, so I wanted to give him that title, I wanted to ask you about that, about this idea of environmentalism as the new secular religion. Okay, in your own students, do you see that that there is less churchgoing and more environmentalist? Is that a fair way to? How do you see that?

Sally Vance-Trembath 2:11
Yeah, 100%. And by the way, you’re very kind, those are books, those are journal articles, you’re very kind to give me credit for books, but they’re there. That thank you for that. But yes, I do see that. And I see that and again, I teach in a Catholic University, a, you know, a Jesuit university in Silicon Valley. And a lot of my students have, you know, are raised Catholic, and the number of those of my students who are going to environmental studies, which is a new degree at Santa Clara fairly new degree at Santa Clara, it’s just exploded. And also I have and the other side of that, that I think that at least in answer to your question, lots of students going into public health, but with an environmental concern, you know, so back in the day, you’d have students who were going to I’m going to go to medical school now the language is public health, and how we, you know, intersect with the disease and the environment, you know, asthma in polluted area. So, yes, and And just to be clear, Santa Clara ism mission is very, you know, public service oriented, and it always has been. So it’s, it’s not surprising that a lot of my students would want to do public service, but I’m not nearly as many of them, many of them are directly going to serve the church, the institutional church, they’re coming in the door of many of them through environmentalism.

Robert Bryce 3:44
And that public service idea that’s part of the Jesuit ethos has verlan

Sally Vance-Trembath 3:48
Yeah, 100%, you know, do a little good without any nations and then go somewhere and do a little good.

Robert Bryce 3:55
And full disclosure, I had one very undistinguished year at Santa Clara University way back in the day, and then went on to do other things, but I remember it well. So what you’re saying is that the secular is environmentalism secular religion?

Sally Vance-Trembath 4:14
Oh, I think it is, if what you say I mean, there’s so many different layers this but so at the at the first pass, yes. And that if the what if religion is that which binds you? You know what that people say that to themselves? I’m, I’m I have a connection to this. That goes to my own identity 100%. It is a religion, then when you move to the next level of a church. So a church is a community of believers, right? It’s a it’s a community that is somehow institutionalized. So I think it’s helpful to make distinctions there because that’s a lot of what what my students will say is, well, they’ll say I’m not religious and one of the first things absolutely Yes, you are, there’s no such thing as a human who’s not bound to something. So if you’re an atheist, that’s your religion. Right? So you’re, you know, unless you just don’t care. So and that’s what I say to them. So are you saying to me that you don’t care and then they, you know, that opens up a conversation. So that that’s a really a trope for for students these days. And one of the things that you know, I’m, I’m not religious or

Robert Bryce 5:23
if I can remember you’re saying everyone is a believer,

Sally Vance-Trembath 5:26
as well, I think, to be humanist to be a believer, because, right, because the way that we enter were the were the creatures who are present to our own experience, and then boom, the next thing we do after we’re present is we have some thought about that. And that thought, you know, distills into belief but you know, so you have, you know, you have intensive, different layers of belief. But yeah, I don’t think that I, in my judgment, and certainly in Catholic theology, judgment, there’s no such thing as a human who isn’t committed to some kind of belief system. If they’re not if they’re Hannibal Lecter, then they, you know, somehow they’ve ceased to be human, right? They, you know, they’ve, they’ve, they’ve stripped themselves of their humanity. But that’s a whole nother conversation. But there’s no such thing as a human who isn’t present to his or her experience. And the way that our mind works, is the minute we’re present to it. We say to ourselves, well, what does that mean to me? You know, I’m enjoying being out here on this hike on Mount Tamil pious mean, your our minds automatically go to the next question, oh, gee, do I want to come here again? Why do I feel this? How can I feel better here than I feel in the crowded bus on the way over here?

Robert Bryce 6:44
So they’re this idea about environmentalism as the and Michael Shellenberger writes about this in his book, Apocalypse, never there are a lot of other people have made the same same observation, but that environmentalism as shown versus the dominant secular religion of the up educated, upper middle class elite in most developed and many developing nations. So why do you think that’s true? Why is this worship of Mother Earth or nature then supplanted traditional religions, and in particular in, in Catholicism is that due to the Catholic Church’s myriad issues and foibles, then including the sex scandals? I mean, how much of that is contributes to this? And how much of this is just? Well, let me ask you, why is this why is this become such a popular belief system? Um,

Sally Vance-Trembath 7:35
well, I think a couple of things, first of all, to kind of move into Michael’s space, you’ve got that vector is a suspicion in the institutionalized religion, so people have started to distress them. And yes, the Catholic churches, and let’s be just really clear about this, that Catholic institutional churches in the worst crisis since the Reformation. And that means, decades, maybe a couple of centuries to survive this. So this is no joke. This is not going to go away in you know, 10 years. And it’s just amazing to me that we’re not really mobile. That’s a whole other conversation. But so Michaels thing is, you know, people, when it comes to beliefs, the next thing we do when we believe something, Oh, I love being on the top of Mount Tamil pious, because we’re social creatures, we’re going to look to an institution that helps us, oh, gee, maybe I’ll join the Sierra Club, or maybe I’ll go on a hike once a week. So we institutionalize that, but we’re in a time just globally as human persons. And this is wrote, you’ve done such good work on this, Robert mean? And again, full disclosure. I mean, I use Roberts work in my class. I mean, that, you know, do we trust the institutions that run the power grid, right. So we’re, we’re suspicious of institutions, for all kinds of reasons. And one of the most ancient institutions is organized religion. And what Okay, so that’s the first thing to say then the second thing to say when it comes to religion as an institution, one of the ideas about religion is that religion interprets all reality, right? It isn’t just about the power grid, or about whether or not mount Tamil pious should be preserved. But when people are talking about institutional religion, they see that as the way that they understand the universe, they understand their own existence, they understand the power of love the power, right? So religion has these long term cosmic ideas about it. And sadly, one of those ideas is what happens at the end, how does the world and what is what you know, but the meaning of our existence is the way that it ends. Now, that’s not the only belief, important belief or religion, but it’s an enduring one. So apocalyptic. cism crosses all religion, all religious traditions, because it’s it’s one of the ways to answer the question, what’s the relationship between me and mount? Tam? I’m just going to stay with Montana, here for a second, right? You know, because it once you start exploring that, why you are nourished by the environment that’s going to lead you to where did this come from? What’s my relationship between me and mount Tamil pious? that’s going to lead to the question of what’s my status in creation? Am I more important than this landmass? Because, you know, we certainly most institutions would say that we are right, our jurisprudence system says that mount Tamil pious doesn’t have any rights, but I have rights me. So you start to ask all those ultimate questions, and there’s where you get the apocalypticism. But, but Christianity and the great religions, they have a lot more to say about apocalypticism. And then last thing to say. So like, they don’t kind of run amok here. But apocalypticism are, you know, concentrating on the beginning and the end of the world? That’s a narrow slice of institutional religion. Right? It’s just in the nature of the case, it’s in there. It’s in neuroscience, if I’m trying to figure out my relationship with mount Tamil pious, the most important question for me is not when is Mount Tamil pious going to explode and the end of the world come? That? That’s an inappropriate question, but it’s by no means the center the central question. I have many other questions that I want to deal with. And that’s what most of religion deals with.

Robert Bryce 11:42
So when I, when I hear you give that, and that’s a really nice way you put it is that religion gives us context, and it gives us this meaning for what we’re doing, why we’re here, what you know, and what’s next. Right. And, and, but I’m going to follow up on that apocalyptic idea that the one thing that to me jumped out in, in in our discussion now, two years ago, in fact, it was at the break through dialogue and your son, by the way, Alex trim bath is co director at breakthrough Institute now, right, and has done great work on a lot of different issues. But this is the overlap, it seems to me when you’re talking about apocalypticism is that in both cases, with Christianity, and with this, the climate ism, there’s this overlap between this idea that we have sinned, and now we’ll have to repent and we have to get right with God. And in the Christian tradition, that getting right with God is something we have to do on a personal basis. With the climate tourism right there, we have to get right with the earth. And we have to go back in and this is one of the things I really want to get back to is this idea of going back to the garden, and I’m on course here what how do you see that that overlap, which seems to me in that apocalyptic idea about the future that somehow there’s a sin idea here really at work, particularly when it comes to the use of hydrocarbons?

Sally Vance-Trembath 13:01
Yeah, that is it. Thank you for that. Yes. I mean, there, that’s if you if we’re looking for a center of gravity, a helpful place to start is with that the creation story, or with the people of Israel call that the story of the beginnings. And if I could do one thing as a teacher it would get it would be to get people to take an appropriate look again at that story. Because most apocalypticism makes use of that story, right? says here’s what God intended. Everything was groovy, right? You know, the we had this great relationship with the animals, everything was fine. And then we screwed it up. Right? That’s the primary interpretation, that story. Okay, that is incorrect. And it’s incorrect on many levels, but at least two levels, one that both deal with, with Michael’s point, which is that we need to have a lot more respect for the people who wrote that story. And the people who wrote that story, right? Or the people that we now call the Hebrews or the Jewish community, right, but they weren’t, you know, they were still in there sort of working on their own identity when they write that story down. But I’m here you’re talking about Genesis

Robert Bryce 14:21
and the garden. Yes, right. Eden and we’re where we humans were sinless, and then we fell from grace is that right near the

Sally Vance-Trembath 14:29
original sin, we get kicked out of the garden because God created this, this this place that didn’t have nuclear weapons and didn’t have pollution and didn’t have clear cut, right? None of those things were gonna happen. And then we out of selfishness and human greed. We destroyed that. Okay? That’s, that’s the interpretation of Genesis. Okay, there’s many things wrong with that, but there’s at least two things wrong. The first thing that’s wrong is if that’s the case, then if that That’s the case if we, as these creatures can wreck creation, then our the way that we think about God is really faulty. Because if, right, if, if if the source of all reality whom the Hebrew, the people of Israel, they were geniuses about this and I mean that very clearly I believe that that’s the truth about reality. But even if it’s not true, it’s still a genius idea, the idea that the source of all reality is the living God, the God that’s on the side of life, not all these other screwy pagan gods that are killing people all the time. And then the demand sacrifice, right? So that, first of all, the notion of God, that the living God can have this plan for creation, and that one of the creatures can destroy creation. So it makes God into an incompetent. So that’s that mean it just on the face of it, don’t turn your God into somebody who we can screw up, get up. That’s the first thing to say. But then the second thing to say, and I think this is more important, because you have to do this this work first. Christians didn’t write that story. That story pre existed Christians, and Christians took that story. And they use that description of who is the living God? And what is the human relationship with what the living God has done? Right. So the living God has given life, right? It has is the source of all flourishing. And, and in that story, human persons are at the top of the pyramid out flourishing, right where we’re at, right? We God loves the giraffes and thinks that giraffes are cool. But God says humans are cooler than giraffes right are more important than giraffes. Right? drafts are good. Humans are very good. Okay, so we’re this valued creature, right? So the question for the people of Israel is to try to figure out, okay, the living God gave us this gift. What’s our status before this gift? Because we have tools. And this is what you think about right about talk about so brilliantly. We have tools that the draft doesn’t have. We can protect the, our own environment, the giraffe can’t, not to the degree that we can, right? So they’re the people of Israel to come. I’m coming for landing on this. The question for the people of Israel was, what’s our status in creation? How do we, where do we fit? And it’s the Christians who take the story of Jesus suffering, right? Jesus, the image of the crucifixion, you know, the torture and the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection. And Christians say, oh, that the meaning of that story, the story of Jesus suffering, is grounded in Genesis. Well, what? How does that work? So but that’s what what, that’s what we did, because we wanted to have a relationship with the living because we, because Christian said, Whoa, Jesus makes the claim that his daddy is the same person and the categories person, right? Jesus, Daddy is the same person who created everything, right? And then he finds himself executed and tortured by the most powerful institution on Earth. Right. So Christians, right, so people who were following him who said, Whoa, we he’s the next development of Israel, right. He’s the next deepening of our understanding of our status and creation. Right? He because he, he believes in the living God, right. He He has that view of living God. Okay, sorry. Sorry, here

Robert Bryce 19:02
you going? Is that that that there’s that connection? You’re saying that that, that Christianity then ties back with the Genesis and that somehow that there’s this that there’s sin there, right, that, that we weren’t the caretakers, right. And that’s the part where I see the climate ism and Christianity overlap, which is a little bit different in talking to my friend, Jared Meredith angwin, who’s Jewish, she’s written a great book called shorting the grid. I’ve had her on the podcast a couple times, with the Jewish faith doesn’t really see that fall from grace, that is a different, a different idea about know that that is that God is our redemptive Redeemer and in fact, I talked to her this morning, she said there there isn’t as much focus on this idea of original sin. But the but the, the bridge that I see or the connection the overlap that I see between the climate tourism and the and religion is this idea that Well, we’ve sinned against the earth right with the climate change is evidence that we haven’t taken care of the garden. Our way to redemption is to go back to the garden. So and nuclear energy being the ultimate in the, the truth of the apple of knowledge and that we’ve gone too far. Right? Does this rhyme with you? Does that make sense? Absolutely.

Sally Vance-Trembath 20:10
And I completely agree with your, your, your, the Dewey scholar, that we so to kind of come back so I’m not kind of running amuck

Unknown Speaker 20:21

Sally Vance-Trembath 20:23
the, the the strain in Christianity that took that story, which is about the origin of grace. Right. So Grace is how is our relationship with with with livingness with goodness, that’s what grace is, it’s the gift, right? And one of the gifts that we have that the giraffe doesn’t have is we have the human intellect. Right, we have the search for greater knowledge. And, and in that story,

Robert Bryce 20:54
and the ability to create, which is God likeness, right, that that is what connects us. Right? And that that is where we seek that communion with God is that

Sally Vance-Trembath 21:04
and that origin of sin, that that one of the great Miss, it’s that kind of backup lens, we need to be much more respectful when we read that story and say, Okay, what were they after? And they were after articulating how we’re going to navigate the origin of sin. Right, not the original sin, it felt like a virus that was passed on, which is how a lot of Christians see it. Right? That you know, because because the Adam and Eve were disobedient, which is another completely wrong category. I mean, the way that I, I think of it or, and then I’m not the

Robert Bryce 21:45
only one that we have to overcome that. Right, we tone for that original fall from grace, our original describing with God and that we have to, but that’s the same isn’t in the same in climate ism, right, that we have this? Oh, well, we live to Well, we’re using too much. We have to use less, we have to go back. I mean, you’ve even seen this in, you know, in the writings of Bill McKibben and some of these other, you know, oh, no, no hydrocarbons, no nuclear. I mean, this is the dogma of the Sierra Club. I just saw it yesterday on their website, no hydrocarbons, no nuclear, all renewables, which smacks of this, oh, we’re gonna go back to the garden that that state of innocence where we won’t transgress. And

Sally Vance-Trembath 22:25
that that is a growth, I’m with you. And that is that we need to deconstruct that story. Because that is that that notion of atonement, which is another thing we stole from the that’s, that’s too strong, that we we appropriated from the people of Israel, which means at one minute, which means to have that relationship stronger it and of course, sometimes atoning is for how you failed. But most of our relationships where we, you know, get stronger, we don’t you don’t have your kids over for your anniversary and say, let’s talk about all the ways we we failed as parents to you. Right? Right. Instead, you

Robert Bryce 23:05
want a kids will tell you that, you

Sally Vance-Trembath 23:06
know, sure, but but what you really want, when you gather, you want to be able to laugh about the few failures. But what real atonement, it’s coming together for strengthening. But there’s where I like to call attention to you know, that the gruesome death of Jesus, because that was a challenging image for Christianity, that they said, We need to figure out the meaning of this story, you know, the destruction of Jesus by human selfishness. And we need to put it in line with all the other ways that we failed. So what one strain of Christianity did, and a Gustin is the famous one, but he’s not the only one is they said, Oh, well, we can explain how we how it is that we came to kill Jesus, by what Adam and Eve did back in the day.

Robert Bryce 23:58
So that fear of rage connecting the death of Christ with the with the fall from grace in the garden, right. So Sally, I wanted to touch back on one of the points that you made earlier about this idea of credibility and the supplanting of traditional religion and church going with this secular, secular belief, the apocalyptic environmentalism. You mentioned the many failures of the church and you said, you talked about the fact that the Catholic churches in the greatest crisis since the reformation, what are the other parts of this though, is that is this just a natural evolution in our society, like in Holland, where there are very few believers, very few church goers anymore, right that, is this a natural progression? Or is there something that environmentalism offers a better set of belief systems or doesn’t require as much sacrifice or it doesn’t require to be there at 11 o’clock every Sunday morning? What were the other reasons for this? I mean, you’ve seen this in your own sins.

Sally Vance-Trembath 24:54
Yeah, I think there’s two one is we’ve done it that not now I’m doing Catholic inside baseball as a Catholic Church, we’ve done a poor job of teaching, right? Because one of the things that the institution is there for is to help you the institution has wisdom about your relationship with mount Tamil pious, right? So I fall in love with mount Tamil pious. So I want to find the community that lives in Marin that knows about Montana pious, right? So so that instance, that’s one of the things that institutions do is they guard and protect, and they pass on wisdom. I don’t care if it’s, you know, the City Hall of San Francisco, or it’s the knitting club, right? Your wisdom institutions need to do teaching. That’s why the church is the magisterium means teacher, right? We’ve done a poor poor job of teaching. And why is that? Because we’ve concentrated on the easy slogans and slogans are good, right? We all teaching is going to involve good slogans. But the best teaching takes the slogan and deepens it and helps you understand it. So we’ve done a poor job of teaching. And then another thing that we’ve that I think we’ve, we’ve tremendously failed at is liturgy is the other thing that that that our religion does view that an institution does is it allows you to express those ideas, right, the more an

Robert Bryce 26:20
effective emotion or liturgy, the public work, the people that were ritual, the ritual, the ritual part of that process, right being being key part of it, but right. But environmentalism doesn’t really have that ritual, does it? The kind of coming together and the, you know, the singing from the same song book, right? I mean, this is one thing that a lot of different religions come together, they sing from the same hymnal, right, that’s become this, you know, it’s a catchphrase that we have. But where is that? Let me put it a different way, or put that question a little bit differently. Is environmentalism a strong enough faith to sustain people’s souls?

Sally Vance-Trembath 26:57
No, not without any? Well, I think, answer your question again? No, because we those deep, deep questions for most of us every once in a while, you know, some of us are meant to be monks and go pray by ourselves. And we don’t need those institutional forms, right. So there are people like that, but most of us need those community gatherings, those community spaces, and rituals and the songwriting, writing together that community that gives you a sense of belonging. But if you think about this, Robert, so yes, you know, singing from the same, the same hymn book, but now a lot of our handbooks are songs that have no meaning for our children, or they to have terrible theology. Right? Because that, that there’s a relationship, you know, so the, the way we believe is expressed in how we worship, right? So that’s one of the great principles of Catholic Christianity as what we think is expressed in what we do. So the Eucharist, the great prayer of thanksgiving, that expresses who we are, who God is, who the community is, right? So there’s, there’s an intense relationship, and we have not done a good job of making sure that our rituals continue to do that for people. So what nourishes the a young person’s belief that that God that the source of all creation is good, right? So one of the things you experience I’m out Tamil pious is you say, Oh, well, maybe I don’t need to be in despair, about the, the space of the climate, maybe what I need to do is I say, oh, what’s my role here? So that’s a different stance than

Robert Bryce 28:50
saving Mother Earth. Right? And that the earth becomes the supplants God, Jesus, Mary Joseph of the whole cast of characters, because we can see this here and touch it now. And that

Sally Vance-Trembath 29:04
are as I’m sure your, your Jewish friend would say, or it’s just continuing the work that Christians and Jews and other religious organizations have always done, which is that the appropriate way, one of the pieces of wisdom from religion is that we do have a relationship with the earth. The relationship isn’t that we sinned against it isn’t that we’re the enemy of it. That’s apocalypticism. That’s not what the book of Genesis says. The Book of Genesis does not say dominate the creation. It says 10 good. Shepherd it, guard it, protect it. You do, Adam and Eve you do have a difference status with regard to it. It needs you in this and not in the sense that it needs

Unknown Speaker 30:00

Robert Bryce 30:01
a couple steps further, right? That takes it too far. And that the atonement is recycling or driving a Prius, or, you know, whatever it is that this is your way of getting right with, with nature slash God, right? Where it doesn’t require you to go to church, right? It doesn’t write

Sally Vance-Trembath 30:19
well, and let me bark. Go ahead, well bark up your alley a little bit, because you know, what else that apocalypticism is? It’s unscientific.

Robert Bryce 30:28
How so? Follow

Sally Vance-Trembath 30:30
that, in what other area of human ingenuity, whether it’s electricity, or the Coronavirus, or, you know, what new materials we’re going to use to build bridges. Right. What other area of human ingenuity? Do we make the claim, we know, the end of this scientific discovery. We don’t do that with anything else except nuclear power, you know, way more about them than we do so.

Robert Bryce 31:02
But what I hear you saying is that, that it will, I’m paraphrasing here, you’re leaping ahead, maybe you’re saying that this absolute belief that we really have messed up the climate, and we’re doomed that that idea of that the apocalypse is upon us is wrong?

Sally Vance-Trembath 31:16
It’s well, I don’t know if it’s wrong. I mean, I, I think it’s wrong, but it’s unscientific. It goes against the way we do everything else, how do we do everything else? And you you did this so well, right, that we look at, okay, what’s the actual situation on the ground? What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? What? How do we apply our search for greater knowledge to that, we don’t look at that and say, Oh, we’ve already solved that problem. Or we have, there’s only one interpretation of that problem. In the history of human knowing, every time we do that, we end up right, somebody comes along and says, You are so wrong about that. Right. So we think we know, you know how old the world is. And lots of people come along and say, What are you gonna do with fossils? And for, right, for a long time, people say, well, fossils are all you know, we have to put them in, we have to force them into this previous idea that we came up with. That’s what I mean by it’s unscientific. It’s, it’s, um, that

Robert Bryce 32:16
goes against what’s there. And what’s popping into my head is Galileo. Right, who exactly is right, this famous feud with the church? And nevertheless, it moves right. What was his line? Right?

Sally Vance-Trembath 32:26
Yeah. So if you take it back to Adam and Eve, Adam, in the the description of Adam and Eve eating the apple, right, which we see as Oh, no, you know, they disobeyed? No, that is a description of Adam and Eve saying, Oh, we were supposed to eat of that tree. That’s the tree of the of the knowledge of good and evil. Right. That’s a descriptive story. It’s not a Oh, you know, don’t touch the hot stove story. It is. It’s the the way that the people of Israel said this is who you are. So it’s not God’s sake, tempting. Adam and Eve. It’s Adam and Eve coming to self consciousness

Robert Bryce 33:10
and becoming fully human in the garden.

Sally Vance-Trembath 33:12
Right? And what and how do they do that? This is what I mean by unscientific what’s the primary locus of of, of that story? It’s the knowledge of good and evil knowledge, human knowing the human capacity to interpret, explain, greater have greater understanding of their reality. And so if you will, science, so

Robert Bryce 33:36
that’s what I mean, personal agency in on the planet. Exactly. So let me if I could, I’m just going to reintroduce you so my guest is Sally Vance. Trim Beth, she doesn’t have a book out. She’s not. There’s no call to action. Here. She is a theologian and a longtime friend of mine. She teaches at Santa Clara University for how many years now? Sally? Since 2006, so 15 right now 16. But you’ve been teaching theology for how

Sally Vance-Trembath 34:02
well yeah, I I’ve been teaching for a long time. I Pardon me. I mean, I moved to San Francisco in 2001 is when I actually began my first you know, university teaching job.

Robert Bryce 34:14
Gotcha. But you’ve been teaching theology and looking at Christian theology in particular now for decades for decades. Right. And so let me go back to this and one other idea here that I think is interesting and applies to this overlap between climate ism and Christianity, Judeo Christianity in many different aspects, but I thought of them is messianic climate ism, that there are the few messiahs that are have been sent here and you and you know, I’ll name them. Michael Mann. Mark Jacobson from Stanford near you, Michael Mann from Penn State. Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein. These people are warning us they’ve been sent to warn us that climate changes is the apocalypse is coming. The Apocalypse is here. We have to change, we have to remake ourselves, the human species has done wrong to the earth and we have to repent, we have to atone. And there’s something about that, you know, I think of Jeremiah, the other prophets already saying, Oh, you’ve done wrong, and you’re gonna get punished and even the overlap of and you’re gonna burn in hell, right? Right. The other the other part of the the warming climate that this is, well, you’re gonna, you’re gonna suffer because it’s not going to rain and there’s going to be drought and you’re gonna it’s going to be incredibly hot. And everyone’s you know that that is the apocalypticism that that you mentioned before. But it seems these messengers, these messianic climate tests are. Yeah, they’re the messengers right here to warn us. But it’s, it seems a very much a religious aspect of that, and it particularly in in persecuting any APA state who would dare question their orthodoxy of how they see the coming apocalypse. Does that make sense to you? Am I on track?

Sally Vance-Trembath 35:57
It absolutely makes total sense, man. And and this is, if I have a mission in life is to try to help students see this that? Well, first of all, I meant when I said it’s unscientific. I’m not a scientist, but seems to me it’s self referentially inconsistent, you know, people who are so

Robert Bryce 36:14
the apocalypticism, your rice, you said, it’s self rich, self referential, I’m sorry, say it again,

Sally Vance-Trembath 36:20
in self referentially inconsistent that you say to yourself, oh, I’m the person, I have this knowledge about carbon. So, right, I have this knowledge about carbon, and I know it fully, and I’m going to apply it well. That’s inconsistent, because you’re you’re you’re making the claim that you know the truth about reality based upon scientific knowledge. But scientific knowledge does not stop and say, okay, there’s one interpretation that will never be adjusted and changed. That’s not how science works. I mean, you QED? Dr. Fauci his emails you have the last few weeks right? At the beginning of the virus, we didn’t think that masks would help we want to right. So science doesn’t work that way. Science knows, science says, as scientific method, that the minute we come to see, understand this notion of the virus, we’re on the hunt for the next way it’s going to develop, or what other things can we learn that that’s what I mean by itself? referentially inconsistent, you can’t call yourself a scientist and then become an apocalypticism, it seems to me, because that’s not how you became a scientist, because you’re trying to freeze the knowledge free, that’s a better said than I they freeze the knowledge and what is that? Robert? That’s ideology. That’s where understanding human thinking, right, which is a good

Robert Bryce 37:47
thing as climate tourism as etiology rather than science, right? Because what it is because we as human beings, apocalyptic climate tourism,

Sally Vance-Trembath 37:56
right, we want to understand, right, so you fall in love with mount Tamil pious, and you want to understand what that means. You want to develop concepts. And again, we’ve all been around people like this a little I live near Mount Davidson in the city. And you know, one of my favorite people that I would run into, he knows everything about mount Davidson, he would say, oh, come down here some night at midnight, and I’ll show you about our walls on Mount Davidson. Well, I’m not going to mount Davidson at midnight, you know, without a flashlight, right. But he’s so Cisco, right? Yeah. But also, he’s, he’s still developing knowledge. He’s not an ID. He’s not an ideologue. Right? He’s still on the hunt. And he doesn’t say I’m the only one who knows mount Davidson. So his continued knowledge doesn’t become an ideology. Because right,

Robert Bryce 38:43
Davidson is a living,

Sally Vance-Trembath 38:44
it’s a living thing. And he’s like, You’re welcome. I invite you to come with me. And I once said to him, Tom, has anybody ever joined you? Well, once in a while, right. But he’s not an ideologue. He’s happy to see you. And and if you want to, if you want him to tell you the wisdom, of his understanding, he’ll share it with you. Right? That’s so my point is here, that’s how human knowledge works. But we also have a tendency, we as humans, and this is what the story of the garden kind of gets out to, we do have a tendency with use that is, so I’m gonna use this forever in my classroom, we have a tendency to freeze it, and then it becomes an idea, the idea, the only idea, and we use that to bludgeon or to explain everything there is about on Davidson. Well, that’s wrong, that that that is not how human beings work.

Robert Bryce 39:39
We don’t that that belief or that understanding has to continually evolve, evolve. And that’s one of the things that I think is really troubling to me about. One of the guests I’ve had on the on the power hungry podcast is Steven coonan, who has a new book out called unsettled looking at climate science, and he’s been pilloried. In fact, there was an article in the scientific journal And Michael Mann was one of the authors you may owe me a rescue is from Harvard, essentially saying, oh, how dare him? You know, he’s just trying to sell books, you know, don’t pay any attention to him. He doesn’t know that you’re not vodka. I mean, these are some of the leading academics leading institutions in America saying, Oh, don’t listen to him. We’re not going to debate this. Again. My guest is is Sally trim Beth, she’s a theologian at Santa Clara University. So Sally, we’ve talked a lot about climate ism and the overlap with Christianity. How does the repentance in Christianity? How is it similar to with the repentance we see in secular environmentalism?

Sally Vance-Trembath 40:35
Well, here’s where I would say as in a conversation with those scientists, I would say, okay, you have your discipline, I have mine. Okay. So one of the things that if you’re going to bring religion into this, you need to pay attention to religions method, right? You have you have to be respectful of that. And as a theologian, a lot of people aren’t they think, you know, religion, just some private thing that you figured out? No. So let’s come back to just like in any other discipline, like in math, you’re going to have to use learn the quadratic equation, right? So in you know it to deal with repentance, you have to understand one of the most important ideas from Judaism and Christianity, I’m not going to speak for the other traditions, because that’s not my area. But for Judaism and Christianity. Repentance goes back to what is our relationship with the living God, right? And what does the living God want from us? Does the living God want obedience? Like his chart? And you know, Zeus, you know, who want obedience? Or does the living God want faithfulness, the living God wants a faithful relationship, where we are the true people that we are right, just like any other relationship or like a marital relationship, right? So Judaism and Christianity are our genius religions, because they say about religion. Religion is not about obedience. Now, the minute I say that my students go wild, and a lot of us go wild. But anybody who’s raised a child knows the difference between faithfulness and obedience. Right? You use obedience at the most basic, lower developmental level, so that children will be faithful. You don’t our children tell the truth, not because they’re obeying their mom and dad eventually, right? They tell the truth because they have come to be faithful in a relationship with the truth. So obedience is is the wrong category. And that’s the that’s the genius of Judaism and Christianity.

Robert Bryce 42:41
And so and where does that come in? Then in that idea of repentance in in climate ism, we’re environmentalism. How does that work? Then they’re trying to get right with the earth. How does it Yes,

Sally Vance-Trembath 42:52
so it’s, which is easier to teach somebody to be obedient or to be faithful. It’s much easier to teach a person to be obedient. And so if you’re a messiah figure, and you want to get a lot of teaching, and you want, you know, specific action right now, right, you’re gonna go to the simplest the easiest thing to do, you’re going to scare the heck out of people. Because, right? So So obedience relies upon a lack of deep understanding. It does. It’s the lowest common denominator. Yes. When you’re when you’re raising a child, there is a period of time where they tell the truth, so they won’t have to stand in the corner. But if that’s all you want from your child, they’re not going to come have dinner with you when they’re 35. Right? obedience is the again, we make use of obedience whenever we’re forming an institution. So if I go to the lady, the wimp the group that’s protecting Montana pious and I say I want to join, they say, Okay, then you better show up every Saturday to help us pull out ice plant. Right? That’s the most basic level. So obedience is to have obedience is a human activity, but it’s low, it’s low on the chain of development. What we’re really after is that obedience builds toward higher level thinking and towards a deepening of relationship, where you pull out the ice plant because you love Mount tammo pious, where you go to bed on Friday night and see I can’t wait to pull out some more ice plant. Because it’s, it’s meaningful to me, right? I have a relationship. It’s not tedious, but

Robert Bryce 44:35
just like and so that redemption then in climate ism, environmentalism comes through doing through recycling or through pulling needs or something else that the good deeds are for the planet. Yeah, for other people.

Sally Vance-Trembath 44:46
Yeah. So faithfulness. And this is this is one thing that is so profoundly upsetting about it is that the idea that faithfulness involves pain, that faithfulness is miserable. That faithfulness is hard and tedious. know that’s at the heart of faithfulness. Because we’re humans will involve that sometimes, you know, so being a good spouse being a good mother, sometimes, you know, it does involve going to the grocery store when you don’t want to. But that is such a narrow slice, and that’s where your Messiah, Messiah figures are. That is a narrow, narrow slice of, of, of any kind of faithfulness, sometimes you need right sometimes that you know that the parent needs to say, Okay, I told you, we’re not going to go to Disneyland, if you keep, you know, we keep making your room a mess. And but you don’t want it to have to be that way. Right? So

Robert Bryce 45:43
the Messianic climate is the ones the leaders of this movement, they’re saying, Oh, you just have to obey. There’s no right. There’s not going to be any debate. We won’t debate you. Because we know everything is perfect. And we have absolute knowledge, the knowledge on this is frozen, we’re not going to debate it. That’s it, go pick up your room, Because I said so

Sally Vance-Trembath 46:00
because I said, So where’s what you want is that you look forward to the day when they pick up the room. Because they’ve discovered, first of all, the joy of helping you because it’s your house, right? So they’re respectful. They do it because they care for you. But they also do it because of the joy of having a clean room.

Robert Bryce 46:22
and bright. So being self responsible,

Sally Vance-Trembath 46:24
right. And so you as a parent, you’ve passed on that faithful relationship with really with the world. That’s what you’re trying to do. And but sometimes you have to be, you have to take one narrow concept and say, Okay, what your cleanroom means this week is there will be no Lego pieces on the floor. Something as simple as that, right? Or the bed will be made. And those are very important building blocks. And that’s, that’s to me what climate these apocalypticism get wrong. They take a tiny little building block respect for the earth. You know, should I litter? Of course we should not litter. But does that get translated into every bag of paper that human beings have ever created is an evil thing. That that’s the most that’s the that’s the that’s the, the prophet or the Yeah, that’s the prophet or their Messiah. But But the thing to note, when do we need prophets and messiahs in times of catastrophe?

Robert Bryce 47:31
And, and yet when more people are living longer, healthy, exactly. We are not any other time in human history. And that’s the part that seems to me to be the big disconnect. Is this. The demonization anything having to do with hydrocarbons? Or any Who? Anyone who would say anything positive about hydrocarbons? No, they’ve only resulted in destruction won’t wait a minute. The woman who’s working at the job and has to commute from Lockhart, Texas into Austin will that hydrocarbons inert gasoline allows her to raise her feed her kids, that’s a good thing. I think there’s only one view is only Oh, that because you’re creating co2. That’s bad. And there’s a an absolutism here that is really, I think dangerous.

Sally Vance-Trembath 48:15
It is dangerous. And and also it as a theologian, it’s also in humane in that that’s not how much that’s not how human beings move through reality. Right.

Robert Bryce 48:28
So you that’s another thing. What part of it is inhumane? Is that by what we as humans, because we’re using energy, we’re becoming more of what we’re supposed to be, right? We’re, we’re evolving, we’re becoming our best selves, right? I’m sure there’s a whole lot of self help books that have been, but it’s through using energy that we evolve and become closer, have that ability to develop our talents, right, that if if we don’t have that energy, we won’t. So that that seems to me to be almost sinful.

Sally Vance-Trembath 48:57
Yeah, yeah, it Yeah. And what is sin, sin is, you know, damage to relationships. That’s what sin is. Sin is not disobedience to some idea. It’s damage to relationships. And of course, when you explore that, you have say, what is the right relationship? So that’s, that’s, you know, it would take us, you know, hours talk about that. But that’s what sin is. Sin is not disobedience. And that’s the genius of what the creation story was trying to say, God does not the God the true God, the living God wants you to flourish and be what you were created to be just like the dirt, but the draft doesn’t need help to be a giraffe, you and I, we have, we have to take a hold of our identity

Robert Bryce 49:43
and develop it. Right. And that and that’s where the and the second is, it seems to me in the climate ism is that the sin is overall you’ve you’ve used hydrocarbons, and we’re even worse. There are companies that sell these hydrocarbons and they’re even terrible for even giving us that ability to to go To work or to, you know, fly to see our kids get married or, you know, whatever. Right, right, that there’s somehow sinfulness in that using and the sinfulness is even in the mean if we come down to it even in the evolving, right, right,

Sally Vance-Trembath 50:13
right. And those, I think you, you do this very well, it’s our, the answer to trying to figure out the best relationship with the climate. I’m not saying there’s no problem, there’s no, there’s no agenda, because we do have to have a right relationship with the climate. But we don’t get there by stopping with an ideology. We get there by searching for greater knowledge, which is what we’re designed to do. So if people if the the Messianic climate people want to convert young people, they better get away from this, this Messiah complex, because that will not change will not bring people into right relationship. If you want to get people to eat less beef, you are not going to get them to eat less beef by saying, you know, you’re sinning. When you eat beef. No, you’re going to figure out how do I develop their knowledge about their relate? Right, but it’s all about moving forward in the relationship in the human mind at work.

Robert Bryce 51:19
Right. I like that. Because I think that that’s critical in terms of if we’re going to have any hope of reducing co2 emissions. So idea that we’re going to freeze knowledge, particularly when it comes to nuclear energy, which I’m fully convinced this is the Acme of technology. And this is what we’re going to need if we’re going to be serious, but yet the climate testers are adamantly opposed, right. Natural Resources Defense Council. You know, I’ve talked about this that closure of Indian Point and in New York and the near criminal act that was done by the Natural Resources Defense Council, and yet, Gina McCarthy is his right hand adviser to the Biden administration. But the way I’ve hammered on that point many times. Yeah, sorry, let’s let’s talk about indulgences. Because, and maybe you could just briefly give us a quick, quick history of this was one of the objections that Martin Luther had when he posted his his many objections on the door of in Wittenberg, wasn’t it? Um, yeah. But there’s a there’s a lot of overlap between carbon credits and indulgences, isn’t there?

Sally Vance-Trembath 52:22
Yes. Yes. Well, first of all, indulgences was a fundraising project. Right. That was a fundraising project, you know, Cathedral. Yes. Yeah. So and, but, but not, you’re right, it’s got a lovely parallel. So if you are human person, and you’re dealing with things like plagues, and you know, disease mean, all the things, you know, human life used to be a lot more challenging than it is right, you know, you’re all of our children. blessedly, you know, didn’t die of measles, or didn’t die of whooping cough. So just the death, it just death as a part of life. It was a was a, it has been a big deal and human society and Christianity, you know, the death of Jesus supposedly gave people the tools to deal with death. Right? So the focus was on death, and you get some corrupt bureaucrats because that’s basically mean it’s overstatement, get corrupt bureaucrats and say, Hey, we can we can monetize that to use a Silicon Valley word, we can monetize people’s fear of are they going to be with their the children that they’ve lost, or their dead spouse or whatever. And so you, you, you take an idea, right? That is that God is somehow involved in your death, right, that there is life after death. That’s a major truth claim of Christianity. And you monetize that. And Luther and lots of other people came along and said, that is not the purpose of you’re preying upon a deep relationship to solve this very narrow problem. And it’s been in in that case, it’s tremendously corrupt. So yes, I mean, it and Or another way to say that is, anytime an institution takes the deepest question that you have, which is what is my relationship? Do I have an afterlife? Right? Is love everlasting? You know, when I, when I fall in love with my children, and I have that, you know, that experience for the first time and it happens in lots of areas, but certainly with it with the birth of a child, you you do, it seems to me, you look at that child and say, I cannot bear that this child would ever not exist, right? It’s not that I don’t want them to die tomorrow. I can’t bear the thought that a person I love whatever, just disappear. That’s that’s at least one human responsible. Christianity says you don’t have to worry about that. They’re right there. Right. love is everlasting.

Robert Bryce 54:49
There’s a heaven and you’re right, right. So so to bring it back to the indulgences. This was a way that the Catholic Church in medieval times up until the time of the Reformation was raising money from the faithful in order to build it’s the kind of drills and so on that this was a, this was a get out of hell free card. Right? Exactly. So and it was a way to use human fear. And so the carbon credits, it seems to me that rhymes in a lot like, Oh, you can fly to Bali, or you can fly to, you know, to Rome, and you can have a great vacation, you go on the yacht? And I mean, you see it on airline websites, do you want to offset your carbon bait with this thing? When those carbon credit things? They’re all scams? I mean, there have been numerous academic studies that say, No, they’re not effective. This is just a it’s just a guilt. It’s a way to do a swage, your guilt of emitting co2, which, again, seems that of all of the things we discussed, the one that is the most obvious in terms of the climate ism and the history of Christianity, where it just seems like there’s this overlapping idea of sin and absolution, right? It’s not gonna be that hard, because you just need a few bucks and you cry, right?

Sally Vance-Trembath 55:57
And guilt, there’s where that’s another important category is guilt. So

Robert Bryce 56:02
yourself, you absolve yourself of the guilt, and you somehow erased the sin and the carbon at the same time.

Sally Vance-Trembath 56:06
Right, right. And that’s a misunderstanding of guilt. So there’s a lot. So guilt is a signal, right? You feel guilt, you do something wrong, you eat the last piece of cake, or whatever it is, and you you can’t get a signal. It was never enough in terms of human development in terms of who we are. It was never intended to be a state, what does guilt do? It says, okay, solve this problem. Right? act upon the guilt, whereas so many religious people, they want you to be in a constant state of guilt. And they’ll provide you with the ideas that will make use of your guilt for their purposes. So that they’re so that your guilt the purpose of nobody should ever feel as people’s I feel guilty, stop it. either fix it, or stop it. It’s a signal, same thing. And that’s what the Garden of Eden story says, God is not saying, you know, you did this thing. But what what Adam and Eve do when they eat the apple, and now they’re now they’re now they recognize each other? Now, they’re not just two giraffes hanging out in the garden, right? They’re self conscious. And they and that’s the whole notion of nakedness, right? What is nakedness? mean? It’s not some evil sexual thing. That’s Christians do that do it? What What does it mean? It means we, Dragon to mountain lions don’t see each other as naked. But humans do because that’s the most private, right? We are self aware. And our relationship with our own body and with other people’s bodies. That’s we have control over that. And that’s a part of what we do with that is how we define our identity. So it’s a positive thing, thing. So when Adam and Eve say we’re hiding over here, because we’re naked, that’s God isn’t saying, Oh, you know, I’m gonna come and get you. God says, oh, who told you you were naked? Yeah, it’s just like, again, think about that, in terms of little children. With the guilt.

Robert Bryce 58:03
I think that that idea about guilt to about the guilt of absolving yourself of the guilt by just saying, Oh, yeah, I’m gonna plant trees in, you know, know, somewhere that that that takes care of my guilt, because I’ve done something good. And further that, you know, I’m not really sitting, I’m not really impacting the climate, because I’ve gotten this, you know, this this carbon credit, this indulgence, which I think Martin Luther would have with had a field day here. Right,

Sally Vance-Trembath 58:29
right. And, yeah, and just to come in for a landing on It’s a misunderstanding of guilt. Guilt says, you have to figure out what you’re going to do with this feeling, which is an appropriate feeling. And you do something with it. Don’t just turn it over. without even thinking it through. You wouldn’t do that with any other area of life. Because there’s no discerning

Robert Bryce 58:53
there. There’s no right. So you’re not doing your homework on your carbon credits to see whether they’re really worth a darn or not. Right. And so there, you can just say, Oh, well, I’ve taken care of that. Right. Well, so just a brief side note, I looked this up again, because we talked about it now, two years ago, at the breakthrough dialogue that the was in 2010. In fact, I don’t know 2007. And Wired magazine wrote about it that the Vatican is teaming up with a Hungarian carbon offset company to plant the Vatican climate forest. Well, the whole thing was just a grift. I mean, the whole thing was a scam. And Vatican City officials, the bureaucrats said, Oh, yeah, we’ll offset all our carbon. There was never a tree planted, nothing happened. So the Vatican itself, the church itself was seeking indulgences for its own carbon. They can’t grifted as well, which seems to me just a little bit too delicious.

Sally Vance-Trembath 59:43
Yeah. And as opposed to doing what somebody like Santa Clara did under the former president father ng when he came in, he said, Okay, my your whole agenda as a president is going to be about climate change. And he didn’t say okay, every student sign up and buy carbon offsets. He said to all Center’s figure out what we can do. What can we do? How can we not waste water? How can we how can we contribute to science in ways that build a relation of a right relationship with our environment? He didn’t say do this my way. He said us in the past the Jesuit schools, we educated the cops, the firefighters, the nurses and the teachers, right. And we’re still doing that. But now we said, Our next wave of applying Jesuit education is we have another problem that that needs right relationship. And I want you to use the tools of the human mind at work. Right? That’s, that’s Ignatius, in a nutshell. That’s what the right relationship with God is, is that, you know, put your mind and imagination to work for the sake of, you know, the whole community, and the earth is a part of that community. And by the way, with regard to this Messiah stuff, you know, what Jesus said, every time people asked him if he was the Messiah, stop asking me that question. Hmm, that’s not i’m not he would say, No, I’m not. And what was his answer? You would say, you know, you just turn around, say, Don’t ask me that question asked how you can do a better job of loving your neighbor. So it’s about right relationship, whether it’s with the living God or the planet or with each other. And that that’s what you’re after. You’re not after some kind of obedience, but somebody else tells you what to do. So the better thing for the Vatican to do would be to say, what, which is what Pope Francis has tried to do is just say, Okay, here are our values. And how are we going to write? How are we going to call upon the various institutions to do things that establish right relationship? So go through you you perish in the middle of Illinois, you take a look at how you’re spending your money. And you know, take a look at your furnace. Isn’t it real seriously, is an efficient furnace.

Robert Bryce 1:01:59
Right? And do your best? Yeah. Well, so we’ve been talking for for nearly an hour, and my guest is Sally advanced trim bass. He’s a theologian at Santa Clara University in California. And we’ve been talking about the many overlaps between climate issues or climate, tourism and environmentalism and Christianity. Just a couple of last things that I asked a lot of guests or most of my guests, sadly, so what are you reading these days? What? What’s on your bookshelf?

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:02:25
Oh, I’m reading that fabulous overs, the overstory by Richard Richard powers, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, it’s, it’s fabulous. And the other thing that I’ve been doing during the pandemic, I’m reading everything I can about Hamlet,

Robert Bryce 1:02:40
really, Hamlet, yeah, what, what captivates you there?

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:02:44
Oh, well, part of it was just I couldn’t, I was becoming obsessed with the news. And it was killing me. So it was, you know, making a decision about you know, don’t do that. And then I’ve always, my, I’ve always loved Shakespeare as an English English major in undergraduate school. And I just thought, Okay, I’m going to, here’s a play that I’ve always been drawn to, but now I’m going to read the people who actually know things about it. And so those are the two things that I’m reading, but that oversee the overstory is, is just a fabulous novel. But it’s, um, I’m not all the way through it. But if I could say what it is, it takes a look at trees as the center of gravity for all of life. And it’s a it’s a beautiful, beautiful book.

Robert Bryce 1:03:34
Well, I have to look that up. You know, I know I had one more question for you. But I’m gonna interject one other thing, because you’re from Iowa. And very closely, you know, we’ve talked about renewables and this idea that renewables are the way to get back with nature, right, we’re going to get back in communion with nature, because that’s natural energy, right? And what, and it represents this kind of back to the garden ID, right. But in Iowa, it’s almost impossible now to cite wind turbines. And in fact, in Madison County, famous for the Bridges of Madison County have passed an ordinance banning wind turbines. So there seems to be a conflict. And this is just a quick observation. This this idea of going back to nature willing, it requires this carpeting of nature with massive amounts of industrial infrastructure in order to achieve this lunatic idea that somehow it’s better energy, which to me is a perversion of this idea of return to nature. I mean, it’s absolutely the wrong way to go because it requires this massive energy sprawl, massive mining etc to make that even remotely even comm even attempting it would require this massive waste of resource but I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that yourself. But

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:04:38
I have two thoughts on that. First is, you know, to go back to nature is to is to create the world as a zoo. Right this the Adam and Eve didn’t get kicked out of the garden of Eden. It’s a description, right? They had to leave the garden. The garden right? They we are not animals, not only animals, we’re more than animals. We have to tend to that garden. Okay, if that’s the first It’s a misunderstanding. So the idea of going back that’s wrong. And then in terms of Iowa, it’s just sad because I can remember as a kid, you know, driving to the University of Iowa from Davenport, when the, you know, like that my mom was terrified on the interstate, but she wanted to go to a man and I have cinnamon rolls. But you know, you had the interstate highways and on the ramps, in the late 60s and the early 70s, the state of Iowa was planting prairie grass. It wasn’t paving them over. But it said, Let’s plant the things that like to grow here to get rid of erosion. So the Iowans are ahead of the curve with environmentalism because I can remember going to Indiana and there’s not those same kinds of things. So it’s, again, it’s a sadness. So you had agriculture ag guys, we’re saying, Hey, I know how to stop erosion, right? And it wasn’t some ideological thing. It was what’s going to grow here, so that I don’t have to keep planting it right, let that prairie plant send its roots down, because it’s the best. It’s the right relationship.

Robert Bryce 1:06:11
That it’s been planted. It’s not paving nature, it’s right working more in. And that’s the part that it is in fact, paving. And you see this reaction all across the country of people saying no, we don’t want our pastures covered with solar panels. No, we don’t want our viewsheds covered with wind turbines. And that’s exactly what I heard from fact, one of the guests Diane Fitch, who’s the supervisor in Madison County, Iowa, she’s no we this is not, this is not what we want for our county, we’re gonna This is going to be the wrong thing for us. So that that is this idea of saving a we have to we have to destroy nature in order to save it just as this kind of insanity. But yeah, Anyway, I digress. So it last question, Sally, if you don’t mind. So what get you. We’ve talked a lot about faith. And we’ve talked a lot about belief and redemption and sin. What gives you hope,

Unknown Speaker 1:07:01
gives me hope.

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:07:07
The energy of my lots of things, but the the Let me start over. Since I’m primarily a teacher on this podcast, the energy of my students, they, they they are not ideologues, they are so excited to figure out what are we going to do next? And so a lot of people are in despair and talk about Oh, the nuns and the students, the students don’t care about religion, that and that kind of stuff. And it makes me sad that the institutional churches, in many ways left them behind. But what are they doing? They’re building right relationships, they’re treating each other with care and respect. They have a sense of their responsibility to the wider world. And so does it make me sad that they haven’t learned how to be nourished by the Christian liturgy, yes. But they’re creating their own new institutional forms. And they’re doing things together as communities. And, and actually, I see them as more energized than then even 10 years ago, they’re there, they’re ready to solve these problems. And that gives me hope that they really are looking at, and they’re not going to be oppressed. So that’s the other thing about, you know, the Catholic Church, they are not going to let the institution let them down. Right, they’re not going to put up with it so that they don’t go to church, well, they’re not going to put up with bad liturgy. They’re not going to put up with these ignorant ideas about the human body and about, you know, personal activity as opposed to, you know, social activity. And they look at something like Catholic social teaching, and they say, Okay, I know how to, I’m smart. I have a degree from engineering or public health or English literature from Santa Clara. And I don’t need, you know, somebody to explain Catholic social teaching to me, I’m going to figure out how I’m going to use Catholic social teaching in my junior English class. They’re there. They’re not frozen in ideology, that’s going to be one of the positive outcomes with the collapse of with the crisis that the church is in, but it’s going to be decades, maybe centuries. You know, it took Vatican two centuries to respond to Martin Luther. We didn’t really respond to Martin Luther until 1962. Think about it.

Robert Bryce 1:09:34
It was only 300 years.

Unknown Speaker 1:09:42

Robert Bryce 1:09:44
Vatican City they had to cut there as

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:09:48
well. And you’re also alluding to this in terms of you know, you’ve got the now you’ve got these suppose that experts in climate and we got to be careful if they start to control the conversation and support So those other voices, right, just the way the Catholic Church, the institutional church suppressed a lot of other voices, right? Because it wasn’t that long ago that if you want to, if you were a woman and you want to serve the Catholic Church, you could be a great school teacher or a nurse. Right? The religious women, those are the two things that they could do. And when religious women start to say, you know, I think I want to be a lobbyist, and, you know, go to Washington and use and get my law degree so that I can help the poor. You know, that those, a lot of that was a lot lot of women. There, they were suppressed the way that some of this ideological stuff and climate change is suppressing the creativity that comes from the from the bottom up.

Robert Bryce 1:10:43
That’s an interesting parallel. I hadn’t thought about it in those terms. But yeah, I think that I do think and i agree with you completely, that this suppression of the debate and the suppression of ideas and the sub even the suppression of technologies. In the end, the purposeful closure of critical technologies for for resilience, reliability, and now I’m talking about nuclear plants. Yeah, it really is dangerous. And on a societal level, it’s dangerous because it risks the failure of the electric grid. And that to me, is I mean that we’d have catastrophic results if that happened.

Sally Vance-Trembath 1:11:14
And that’s what your thing is good about. don’t freeze that idea. don’t freeze the idea. You’ve always got to be developing the idea.

Robert Bryce 1:11:21
Well, that’s a great way to end it. Well, Sally, my guest has been Sally Vance. Trim Beth my friend Sally Vance trim bath the mother of the wonderful Alex trim bath at breakthrough Institute. Sally million thanks. You don’t have a call to action. You can look her up. She’s a theologian at Santa Clara University. You can look her up. She’s got some good recent videos I saw on theology and the university so you can find her there. Thanks, Marion, Sally for being on the power hungry podcast. And thanks to all of you out there in podcast land. Tune in next time for the next episode of the power hungry podcast. Thank you. Thanks, Robert. Appreciate it like Sally.


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