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A Call for Reformation: The Eco-Indulgence

As soon as a coin in the coffers rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” Johan Tetzel (from Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Thesis)

(SNN) - The act of offering indulgences by the Catholic Church was originally put into practice going back to the Council of Epaon in 517AD. It was a method of replacing severe canonical penances with something new and milder. In those days it replaced severe penances and it became customary to commute practices to less demanding works, such as prayers, alms, fasts and even tariff penances. It fell into abuses by what became known as professional “pardoners” in the Middle Ages, which came to a head in 1517AD when Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. It was then that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis protesting what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation, thus sparking the Protestant Reformation. He wrote in Thesis 28 the words of Johan Tetzel, Pope Leo X's aggressive indulgence marketer, “As soon as a coin in the coffers rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

Of course, money would never had been raised for the rebuilding of the Basilica if people did not want to be absolved or even lessened the punishment for their sins. Pope Leo X and Tetzel knew that they could prey on the guilty feelings of the weak. All it took was a charismatic personality, Tetzel, and the authority of the Papacy, to push ahead.

Today we have the same dynamics at play on the masses, where Eco-Indulgences are being paid by individuals in order to reduce their guilt from sins acted on 'Mother Earth'. In order to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, individuals instead of countries, can purchase carbon credits. The money raised is claimed to be used towards environmental programs such as reforestation, new technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, and social programs such as 'adopt-a-bicycle.' People who drive gas guzzling SUV's, Hummers, sports cars and motorcycles can off-set their gaseous ways by calculating their carbon footprint and pay their way out of eco-purgatory. The funds collected by private companies adhere to a voluntary set of standards and practices, which is not regulated, or vetted by any governmental (that's you and I) organization. The standards by which these companies run under are created by two people sitting in a private office in Washington, D.C. Their organization VCS (Verified Carbon Standards, former Voluntary Carbon Standards) provide a stamp of approval for many other private companies that are popping up on the internet selling 'eco-indulgences.'

One such company from Australia, WesternField Holdings Inc. stands accused of defrauding $3.2 million dollars in a carbon investment scam. The company would sell carbon credits for investing, and the buyer would monitor their carbon investments on a now-defunct website held by CTR Limited Carbon Trust who says on its website that it is a registry for credits issued by VCS. However, VCS has since advised that Carbon Trust is not an authorized VCS registry. Examples such as this wreaks of a need for regulating the private sector in an area where peoples gullibility is open to exploitation.

But is Canada protected from this wholesale of 'eco-indulgences?' 

Not to be outdone, several Canadians have started online companies in an effort to raise funds

At one such website, I was able to calculate my individual carbon footprint based not so much on any detailed personal habits but only on the size of my house, and the brand of my vehicle; it quickly advised me that I could off-set my existence by paying them $487.86/year. This Canadian website proudly advised that they were members of the VCS. Just as I was looking at an “Add to My Shopping Cart” I read the following. “You can buy with confidence knowing that you are protected by our no hassle returns policy.”

How in hell does anyone get a refund on a carbon footprint? Based on this little nudge, I should be able to call them up half way through the year and say. “You know I got rid of my Chevrolet and bought a Prius. Please calculate a credit of my credit and credit my credit card!”

What was even more frustrating is that nowhere on this website, or any other that I found selling carbon credits, did it provide any scientific reasoning being the carbon-credit calculation. Nor did these sites actually detail how the money was being spend. They did however, advise that we are killing the planet and causing global warming, and that the money will be used toward new technologies to reduce mankind's impact on the planet.

Just like the turning point on church indulgences imposed by Pope Leo X can be traced, 'eco-indulgences' can be linked back to Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth”. Released in 2006, the film has been used as the canon document of the global-warming movement and is the weapon of choice by the newly converted. Al Gore has become the new eco-prophet of our time.

So was there anything that Gore needed to build?

Co-Founded by Al Gore two years before the release of “An Inconvenient Truth”, was an eco-investment company called General Investment Company. Followed up by his company called the Alliance for Climate Protection, these companies seek investments into new eco-technologies.

As long as people are led to believe that every mile they travel is a sin against our planet, people will throw away their family trust buying carbon credits from private companies to relieve their guilt. It took 500 years for the Church to mend their ways. When will a new-age Martin Luther start another reformation?

Photo by: rubber bullets' flickr photostream, Some Rights Reserved, The Sage nor this article endorsed

DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.
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