The Religion of Environmentalism

The conjunction of Earth Day with Good Friday reminds me of Michael Crichton’s 2003 essay, Environmentalism as Religion:

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

I wonder how many of those ‘urban atheists’ started out as Christians? If they did, they’ll have a whole belief system – heaven, hell, fall, redemption – which has become detached from its Christian origins, and has floated away, and which is likely to latch onto something else. Gaia replaces God, and it all makes sense again, sort of.

Sinful man is now called upon to even confess his environmental sins on television.

Again, in The Surrogate Religion of Environmentalism:

Environmentalism likewise provides ethical guidance, but its followers generally recoil from the suggestion that it’s a religion. The traditional buildings and rituals are absent; moreover, many adherents come from a background of explicitly rejecting “institutional” religions. Nevertheless, a careful examination of the basic assumptions shows that environmentalism indeed meets the criteria of a secular religion.

A cornerstone belief of environmentalism is that mankind is just one species among many. This view opposes the Judeo-Christian belief that God considers mankind to be very special. “Mother earth” replaces God as the object of special devotion, causing some of environmentalism’s subsequent assertions to be in direct opposition to the teachings of Christianity and Judaism…

In his excellent book, “The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America,” Professor Robert H. Nelson likens the contemporary struggle between those two secular religions to John Calvin’s struggle against the establishment of Catholicism 500 years ago.Nelson’s book concludes: “It is time to take secular religion seriously. It is real religion. In the twentieth century, it showed greater energy, won more converts, and had more impact on the western world than the traditional institutional forms of Christianity.”

For the believing environmentalist, there is a certain “Garden of Eden” narrative: the beginning of evil came with the development of agriculture, when mankind rose above hunter-gatherer status and began to control and improve on nature to meet his needs. Thereafter came civilization and all its negative environmental associations. The whole story hangs together within a religious framework.

But is it a workable religion? In Christianity, God loves mankind. But Gaia does not. For Gaia, mankind is a kind of plague or cancer which has disturbed the delicate balance of nature, and needs to be suppressed or even exterminated. Environmentalists hate human life. They think the planet would be better off without humans. And the devotees of Gaia must hate not only all humanity, but themselves as well. And this makes environmentalism an extremely self-destructive religion, and one which is unlikely to last very long.

And does environmentalism provide any ‘ethical guidance’? Ethical guidance must include advice about how people should behave towards each other, and not simply towards Nature. Is there an an environmentalist decalogue? I don’t know of one. But without one, environmentalism is completely amoral.

Environmentalism is really just an incoherent collection of vague aspirations – for a green world, devoid of industry and cars and jets and smoke of any sort (including tobacco smoke, of course) – that has bubbled up over the past century or so largely in revulsion at industrial society and economic growth and its accompanying disturbances. It’s a yearning for a simpler world, for an idealised arcadian past. It has no formal doctrines. It has no internal rationality. All it has is a shared mood of disenchantment with modernity.

20 years ago, perhaps, environmentalism all seemed warm and fuzzy and well-meaning. Now it has become a monster. And it now rivals Communism as a threat to freedom and prosperity, as Vaclav Klaus often points out.  And he says quite clearly (towards the end of the video):

Environmentalism is a religion.

More and more people seem to be noticing this.

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31 Responses to The Religion of Environmentalism

  1. Magnetic says:

    But without one, environmentalism is completely amoral.

    This is a most critical point. Environmentalism or Gaia worship has no coherent moral framework. Not only is it completely open to all of the foibles of the human mind (e.g., megalomania, greed, avarice, delusions of grandeur), but it is the product of these foibles. In Christian terms, the environmentalist (and healthist) mentality is carnality – the carnal mind which is insanely offended by the thought of God. The idea of amorality is one of the pretensions of the inherently immoral.

    Environmentalism is a religion.

    This contemporary manifestation of carnality is a loose connection of incoherent, emotionally-loaded thoughts. It does not promote more profound beings that bear witness to Holiness. Rather, it produces shallow fanatics. The common theme is that anyone who does not agree/comply is the enemy and worthy of being trounced. Being simple-minded, carnality cannot comprehend the pollution it generates, psychologically, relationally, and morally. It doesn’t even comprehend that Nature can be the greatest polluter.

    Should this incoherent, well-worn mess be referred to as a “religion”. Certainly not. It should be referred to as a cult with shallow, brainwashed devotees. It should also be noted that this sort of activity is oft mentioned in the Bible as idolatry. The Bible also prophesizes a domination of this mentality at the end of the age.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Should this incoherent, well-worn mess be referred to as a “religion”. Certainly not. It should be referred to as a cult with shallow, brainwashed devotees.

      I think that when Crichton or Klaus refer to environmentalism as a “religion”, they mean that it is an irrational belief. This is how most secular thinkers think of religion (of any sort whatsoever). And I suspect that both Crichton and Klaus are/were thoroughly secular in their outlook.

      But this idea of religion as irrationality may be rather unfair to religion. A religious world view, it seems to me, is a comprehensive understanding, with its own internal logic, that ties everything together and makes sense of it. The Latin root of religio means “bind together”. These various religions last a long time precisely because they are comprehensive and all-embracing and also internally consistent.

      The “religion” of environmentalism is none of these things. It’s not complete or comprehensive in any sense. It’s fixed upon “nature” (or perhaps “health”). It’s about as “religious” as beatlemania. And an equally shallow cult.

      It should also be noted that this sort of activity is oft mentioned in the Bible as idolatry.

      Well, Gaia sure seems to qualify as an “idol”. As did the Beatles.

  2. C777 says:

    That’s why they will fail.
    They may be into abstinance and self flaggelation on a bicycle but few others are.
    It’s a hard sell that makes no sense to most of us even if some do not truly understand the arguments, they certainly understand their bills going up
    This is why the leglislation is required to force compliance.
    This is why they are forcing greenwash into schools.
    The preachers preach ,the state controls.
    How very feudal.

  3. Chuckles says:

    Though they do a nice line in indulgences these days –

  4. Ian B says:

    Historically it, and all the modern “progressive” faith is not like Calvinism. It is Calvinism, or a descendent thereof, or a continuation thereof, take your terminological pick. I’m trying to get my shit together to write a book to explain it all.

    In the Anglosphere, Puritanism is the manifestation of Calvinism. It triumphs briefly under Cromwell, then is cast out. Then there is the liberal Restoration period. Then, the Calvinists (and allies, Anabaptists) come back as the Methodists, Quakers, and Evangelicals in a great wave of religious “revivalism”; a phrase best considered as “fundamentalism”. They instituted the great wave of social reform and prudish conrol freakery that culminates under Victoria and in the USA as the “Second Great Awakening”. They had colonised the CofE (Anglicans) by the 1880s.

    The key extra ingredient in the mix was “post millennialism” which foretold that Christ would return only after the World had been won for God; so, these fundamentalists set to purifying the world to hurry Jesus along. In the USA, it was thought that the Civil War was Christ’s trumpet blast, by the (post-millennialist) Unionist Yankees. Didn’t work out that way.

    As the century moves along, something interesting happens. The fundies get so fascinated with their campaigns against vice, demon drink, obscenity, setting up schools, they get more focussed on them and Jesus starts taking a back seat. They mutate into “Progressives”; when Darwin comes along as well, many of them lose theri faith in God, but keep their faith in their Social Reform movements. Socialism in the Anglosphere develops out of Christianity, not from Marx. It is no coincidence that the Labour Party is sometimes called “THe Methodist Party”.

    So, eventually, they’ve totally taken over (“Victorian Values”) but cleave into two groups, the secularists (“Progressives”) and tagging along reluctantly the godly ones (“Conservatives”).

    Then Marx makes it big during the 2oth century. The Social Reformers take a bit of a back seat while evryone concentrates on economics and the emancipation of the proleteriat. And a big liberal reaction happens too; people want fun again. Sex, drugs, rock’n’roll. But what nobody spotted was a new wave of post-calvinists rising up again on the Left, carrying the same hatred of human corruption and Calvinist tyrranical methodology. This is why all the same old campaigns are back- Temperance, speech codes, White Slavery/Saving Fallen Women, etc etc. They look the same because they are the same.

    It’s that group we are dealing with today. They came up via feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and are recreating the Victorian Period, but far more fiercely this time. It looks like a religion because it really is one. “PC” should denote “Post Calvinism”.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Historically it, and all the modern “progressive” faith is not like Calvinism. It is Calvinism…

      Didn’t the Calvinists believe in predestination? One either belonged to the elect, whom God had chosen for eternal bliss, or one did not. The Calvinist’s terror was that he might not be one of God’s chosen few. There was, of course, nothing he could actually do to ward off damnation, given that it was predestined. There could be no salvation through good works. There could only be faith.

      What happened to predestination? It doesn’t seem to have much currency these days. But it is perhaps an expression of a determinism which is still alive and well in physics. Or perhaps not.

      • Ian B says:

        Ah Frank, that would seem to be the case. But the trick Calvin came up with is this; if you are of the elect, your superior saved spirit will drive you to do good works anyway. Thus, doing good works (that is, being an interfering busybody) in a Calvinist society is like walking around with a big neon “I’m Going To Heaven!” sign stuck on your head.

        There could be no salvation through good works. There could only be faith.

        No salvation through faith either in Calvinism. You’re born either saved or damned, and nothing you do or feel can change that. It’s this “elected” certiantiy of the Calvinist or Post-Calvinist that makes them so insufferable.

        • Frank Davis says:

          if you are of the elect, your superior saved spirit will drive you to do good works anyway.

          Big ‘if’, though. How does a Calvinist know for sure that he is one of the elect? It must be a constant source of worry, that he might not be. I imagine such people must always be looking around for signs of God’s approval, divine hints at future blessedness. A fiver found in an old coat pocket. A rainbow overhead. That sort of thing.

          I can’t help but think that a Calvinist must oscillate between, on the one hand, a sunny certainty of his own election, and on the other hand a gnawing anxiety about his likely reprobation. He must alternate between elation and despair. One day he will be confidently optimistic, and the next slumped in the slough of despond.

      • Frank Davis says:

        In fact, from a quick online perusal, precisely the awful doubts I suggest do seem to have afflicted Calvinists, all the way up to Calvin himself.

    • smokervoter says:

      Thumbs up, Ian. I, for one, eagerly await your book. As to the Second Awakening, this is straight out of a Wikipedia citation, so I approach it with some caution, but nonetheless:

      “During this era a focus on exercise, non-use of tobacco, and the elimination of coffee, tea, sugar, meat and spice from a diet, called “Grahamism,” – named after reformer Sylvester Graham – was promoted. Eugenic or “hereditarian” concerns that masturbation would lead to insanity and that choosing sick or feeble spouses would lead to further degeneration was discussed.”

      I would ad Lyman Beecher, a Calvinist turned Presbyterian, to the mix.

      I think this at least partially explains what’s behind California’s grand U-Turn from a libertarian nirvana path to its present course of Liberal Fascism in the fast lane. And it all started right after the big Earth Day rallies and teach-ins in the early Seventies. Except that it was more a strange brew of ‘eastern religion of the month’ and atheism, rather than strict Calvin. The end result was the same.

      Further down the Wikipedia page comes this:

      The Millennial era (1970–2009) (which I would change to 1970-Present):

      “A secular health-reform movement, that to some became a “religion,” also surged out of the youthful generation. Fitness and exercise, diet, alternative religions and medicine, consumers rights, smoke-free environments, and other health reforms became prime concerns of the day.”

      Even in early Seventies California, when you could smoke just about anywhere, you didn’t dare light one up in a hipster organic health food store.

  5. Furor Teutonicus says:

    XX And does environmentalism provide any ‘ethical guidance’? Ethical guidance must include advice about how people should behave towards each other, and not simply towards Nature. Is there an an environmentalist decalogue? XX

    As they all appear to be also avid followers of the OTHER religion “P.C”, I would say they have stolen one, if not invented one of their own. But then ALL religions, when new, steal what they like from their forrunners, so……

  6. Gary K. says:

    As a religion, it is rather stupid. I vote for cult.

    There is no afterlife/reward/Heaven to go to if you have the belief.
    How can you worship something that very likely is not aware of your existence?

    Has the Earth even noticed mankind exists?

    If Earth were a 50 year old person, modern man would have been around for only 1 hour of it’s life and weigh about 1/135 millionth of it’s bodyweight.

    For every one pound of mankind there are 135 million pounds of Earth and that does not include the mass of all of the worms and termites!!!.

    Modern man has been around for about 1/450,000th of Earth’s life.

    Earth: Mass = 6 x 10 to the 24th kg

    13.2 x 10 to the 24th lbs

    6.5 million people x 150 lbs/person = 975 billion pounds.

    975,000,000,000 = 9.75 x 10 to the 11th pounds.

    13.2 is 1.35 times bigger than 9.75.
    1.35 x 10 the the 13th = 1/135,000,000,000( 1 per 135 million).

    Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and modern mankind is about 10,000 years old.

    Modern man has been around for about 1/450,000th of Earth’s life.

  7. Junican says:

    @ Gary K

    The figures you quote reveal to me only the immensity of the difficulty we have in understanding odds of 1/140 000 and such. Our minds are not capable. One of the difficulties is contained in this:

    Suppose I have a box containing 139 999 white ping pong balls and 1 red one. If I start pulling balls out of the box, AND PUTTING THEM ON ONE SIDE, I will eventually pull out the red ball, even if it takes 140 000 pulls. But supposing that, ever time I pull out a ball, whether it be red or white, I put it back into the box? We know that, on each occasion that I pull a ball out of the box, the odds are 140 000 to 1, but what is the effect of repeating the pulling out on the chance of pulling out the red ball? It must surely be true that the more often you try, the more often that you are likely to succeed.

    This is a bit of comedy on my part, because we only have to think of a roulette wheel to answer that problem. If a roulette wheel has, say, 36 numbers, on average, it will take 36 spins for any particular number to appear DEFINITELY (except that it is not definite) – so the chance is 36 times 36. So, in our example, the chance is 140 000 times 140 000.

    I wonder if this principle of squaring could be applied to the chances of getting lung cancer from smoking?

    I am thinking off the top of my head now, but it has been said that the chance of getting lung cancer if you smoke is 1 in 17. But the stats show that very few people die from lung cancer before age 65. And, if there is no such thing as a safe level of smoking, where are the dead bodies? But wait! I have a letter from the DoH which says that smoking prematurely kills (note: prematurely) 100 000 out of 500 000 deaths per an.!

    And so on. The question I raise, essentially, is – in the figure of 1 in 17, where is ‘the square’ which necessarily accompanies chance? It seems to me that the REAL figure should be 1 in 17 times 17, which equals 1 in 289.

    It is the same as horse race in which 10 horses take part. What is the chance of 1 horse winning (assuming no dead heats)? Clearly 1 to 9. But what is the chance of any PARTICULAR horse being given a chance to win? Clearly, the race would have to be run 10 times to give every horse an equal chance. If everyone is to be at risk of lung cancer, then everyone must be given a chance of getting lung cancer.

    There were about 30 000 deaths from lung cancer in 2009 out of 500 000 deaths. Thus, the chance of any particular death being lung cancer is 17 approx. OK? But, assuming that the figures were similar for 2008, then it is reasonable to say that the people at risk (the people who have been smoking earlier in their lives, whether they have given up or not), MUST have a ratio of something like 17 times 17. That is, about 17 times 17 chances of NOT dying from lung cancer.

    It is not an easy thing to understand, but it is easily visualised if you think of the roulette wheel . You have to think about exhausting your chances. If you bet upon No 1 on the wheel, the probability is that you will lose. But if you bet upon No 1 again and again (depending upon the odds offered) you will almost certainly win (in the sense that No1 will come out – but it may not).

    Essentially, I am saying that there is something wrong with the statement from the Health Sec that 100 000 deaths per an are caused (prematurely) by smoking. The question that arises is: how many deaths were postponed by smoking (relief of stress, etc)?

    All very curious.

    • Gary K. says:

      Well now; at least in the USA, the yearly odds of a current smoker dying from lung cancer are about 1,428 to 1. Yearly chances of NOT dying from lung cancer are 1,428 out of 1,429 and that is a 99.93% chance.

      There are 32,814 current smokers lung cancer deaths and 46 million current smokers. That is a rate of 7/10,000 and 10,000 divided by 7 = about 1,429.

      However, there are about zero lung cancer deaths below the age of 35 and 98% of those deaths occur over the age of 45.

      Soooo, it all depends upon your age and varies greatly as some are more at risk.

      If you go by number per 10,000 by age group,you will wind up with about 100/10,000 dying over the course of their lifetimes. Of course, you could never get all 10,000 to only die of lung cancer.

      Your roulette comparison gets us into ‘The Gambler’s Falacy’; since the wheel has no memory, the chance of a number is always 35-1 everytime(except in Monaco where there is only 1 zero and the odds are 34-1). As you say, a number might come up only once in 50 or 100 spins.

      Also, these smoking deaths are guesses based on studies. In the USA the study is the ACS-II of 1 million adults; but, there are about 230 million adults and that group is only 1 of 230 possible groups.

      I just studied a group of 40 coin tosses and found that 26(65%) came up heads.
      Antis might state that there is a 65% probability of the next toss coming up heads; but, a sane person would not put money on such odds.

      Curious; indeed, very much so.

    • Gary K. says:

      ” But what is the chance of any PARTICULAR horse being given a chance to win? Clearly, the race would have to be run 10 times to give every horse an equal chance.”

      Wellll, no.
      The slowest horse of the group will probably never win, no matter how many races are run.

      Antis blame an ex-smokers lung cancer on smoking; but, not all ex-smokers have the same risk for getting lung cancer,otherwise why quit.

      Antis state that an ex-smoker that quit more than 10-15 years ago has the risk of lung cancer as a neversmoker; yet, when those ex’s get lung cancer it is blamed on their having once smoked.

      Doll’s Hospital Study did much the same thing, it said:
      “A smoker was therefore defined in this inquiry
      as a person who had smoked as much as one cigarette a
      day for as long as one year, and any less consistent amount
      was ignored.”

      That year may have been 20-40 or more years ago;but, they are considered smokers and their lung cancers are said to be caused by smokinmg.

      It is no wonder that so few people in their study were non-smokers. The definition of a smoker was very inclusive.

  8. Rose says:

    Here’s an interesting one to add to your calculations.

    Dr Gregory Giles (Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology)

    Photoactivated Nitric Oxide Donor Drugs as Anti-Cancer Agents
    “Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring molecule that is utilised by the immune system as a means of “chemical warfare” to attack cancerous cells. This proposal aims to design molecules that will mimic the action of this natural defensive mechanism by releasing nitric oxide inside cancer cells in response to externally applied light.”

    Nitric oxide is apparently a very short lived molecule,so by far the easiest way apart from making it in the body, appears to be setting fire to organic material and swiftly inhaling.

    “According to Zapol, it all reduces to one simple thing. “Good things hide in pollutants and cigarettes,” he said”

    It will be easier for you both to work out because –

    Nitric Oxide Can Alter Brain Function

    “Research Council (MRC) Toxicology Unit at the University of Leicester shows that nitric oxide (NO) can change the computational ability of the brain.”

    “Nitric oxide is a chemical messenger which cannot be stored and can rapidly diffuse across cell membranes to act at remote sites (in contrast to conventional neurotransmitters which cannot pass across cell membranes).

    “It is broadly localized in the central nervous system, where it influences synaptic transmission and contributes to learning and memory mechanisms. However, because it is normally released in such minute quantities and is so labile, it is very difficult to study.”

    “Surprisingly, the whole population of neurons were affected, even those neurons which had no active synaptic inputs, so indicating that nitric oxide is a ‘volume transmitter’ passing information between cells without the need for a synapse. Such a function is ideal for tuning neuronal populations to global activity.”

    Sadly the maths advantage doesn’t seem to work for me, so Gary very kindly puts it into words so that I can at least attempt to keep up.


  9. Junican says:


    Regarding your second URL , did you notice the commenet? There was only one comment. I have copied it below (trust Frank does not mind):

    “”By the existence of tobacco smoke, we have to assume all particulate is similarly electrically charged, otherwise it would exist only as cigarette goo, because all particles would join together rapidly and form a solid object.

    Like charges repel whereas opposites attract. polarization would align a set of dissimilar charges and the result would become a solid almost immediately.
    So the only thing they are not attaching to, is themselves.

    Picture a large game of pong with trillions of particulate balls traveling in random directions with a surface property most commonly understood to be sticky.
    You inject the pong balls into a room and let them do their thing. Low and behold the much smaller biological critters also floating in the room are very quickly collected and attached to our pong defenders.

    How difficult is the concept to understand?

    With the realization that the particulate found in cigarette smoke is much too large to pass freely into the bloodstream by inhalation, it then becomes attached to the phlegm which keeps your lungs protected and moist and is eventually expelled from the lungs, having no or entirely limited physical effect on those who inhale it.

    The years we have seen a reduction of smoking, we have also seen a huge increase of a number of so called “smoking related diseases” as well as many that are not related to smoking, in particular a marked increase of communicable diseases in our hospitals. Foreign biologicals are traveling to new regions in significant numbers, while consistently blamed on an increase in air travel. But never really mentioned as a possible unintended circumstance, of banning smoking on all international air flights.

    Are the so called “experts” really so dim witted they never considered what should be obvious?
    Or are they so well controlled they dare not mention that the emperor has no clothes?

    Common sense among the “experts” is like a foreign language, none of them; will, or will be allowed to learn.””

    So are agnostics beginning to appear in some numbers? I fear that only time will tell.

    • Rose says:


      I did read the comment.

      It may have been the result of a discussion on the anti-bacterial properties of smoke.

      Because smoking and those sticky particles were banned in areas where traditionally people gathered, the Swine Flu epidemic theoretically should have happened.
      The reason it didn’t , contrary to expectation, might be because a large proportion of the public simply stopped gathering.

      Medicinal Smoke Reduces Airborne Bacteria

      “We have observed that 1 h treatment of medicinal smoke emination by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri = material used in oblation to fire all over India) on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24 h in the closed room.”

      “Absence of pathogenic bacteria Corynebacterium urealyticum, Curtobacterium flaccumfaciens, Enterobacter aerogenes (Klebsiella mobilis), Kocuria rosea, Pseudomonassyringae pv. persicae, Staphylococcus lentus, and Xanthomonas campestris pv. tardicrescens inthe open room even after 30 days is indicative of the bactericidal potential of the medicinal smoke treatment.

      We have demonstrated that using medicinal smoke it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space.”

      Click to access Medicinal%20smoke.pdf

      Which is echoed in the 90% reduction recorded at Wythenshawe Hospital using a vapouriser and essential oils.

      Essential oils ‘combat superbug’

      “Tests of new machine at a hospital have found it could be effective in the battle against the superbug MRSA.

      Consultants at Wythenshawe Hospital found that using a vaporiser to spray essential oils into the atmosphere killed off micro-organisms.
      Airborne bacterial counts dropped by 90% and infections were reduced in a nine-month trial at the burns unit.”

      “The recipe of oils used in the machine was refined by microbiologists at Manchester Metropolitan University
      However, the researchers say they are unable to reveal which oils carry benefits because of commercial sensitivities”

      It seems to be old knowledge.

      “Tobacco as a Prophylactic in Contagious Disease.
      Allen (1835) stated that Diemerbroeck [De peste, 1646] has usually been quoted as authority for the anticontagious character of tobacco.
      During the Great Plague in London in 1665, children were told to smoke in their school- rooms (Lancet 1: 1266-1267, 1902); and A Brief Abstract of the Virtues of the American Tobacco Plant (1783) records that buffers of the dead, in charge of dead-carts, at first used tobacco as a deodorizer, “little thinking that what they used for momentary relief would prove a constant preventive.

      When the Plague was happily stayed, the virtues of tobacco began to be investigated, and it was found that those persons who plentifully used it, either in smoking or in snuffing, had most wonderfully escaped the dire contagion: for though they’ visited the chambers of the sick, attended the funerals of cartloads at a time, they unexpectedly avoided the infection.”

      Although Allen in 1835 declared that this idea that tobacco operated as an antidote to contagious and infectious diseases was gratuitous and fallacious, the belief continued to play a role in public health for some time.

      It was reported in The Lancet (1: 201, 1882) that smallpox having appeared in the Bolton Workhouse, the Guardians resolved to issue tobacco freely to the inmates in order that the wards may be disinfected by the fumes.

      And, in another note in The Lancet (1 : 406, 1913) of a later date: “A good many years ago it was reported by the senior medical officer of Greenwich Workhouse that the tobacco smoking inmates enjoyed comparative immunity from epidemics, and tobacco-smoking was believed to have had the disinfectant action in cases of cholera and other infectious diseases.

      Again during a cholera epidemic at Hamburg it was reported that not a single workman engaged in the cigar factory in that city was attacked by the disease.

      Later it was stated tbat amongst a body of 5000 cigar makers only 8 cases and 4 deaths from cholera occurred.
      Subsequently experiments proved that tobacco smoke destroyed the bacilli of Asiatic Cholera as well as pneumonia.”

      This note in the Lancet apparently referred to the work of Visalli (1855) who found that tobacco smoke was capable of inhibiting the growth of the bacillus of Asiatic cholera; and indeed, Visalli himself concluded that, since the portal of entry of this bacillus is the mouth, tobacco smoke should have prophylactic value. It is a fact that workmen in tobacco factories are often cited as being immune from cholera and other epdemics.”

  10. Junican says:

    Totally unconnected, perhaps. I remember visiting a pineapple farm on the Azores (don’t ask how come!). The pineapples were growing in big, enclosed greenhouses. At a certain point in their development, the greenhouse was flooded with smoke (presumably wood smoke). As a consequence, the pineapples ripened.

    Strange, innit? The power of smoke!

    • Rose says:

      Certainly is!

      I hadn’t heard of that one, but I’m sure that there will be a logical reason.
      I don’t grow pineapples, though it’s theoretically possible and was done in pits in the kitchen gardens of stately homes, however such a practice might be useful for ripening other things.

      “Placing the green tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripe apple. The apple gives off ethylene gas, which speeds up ripening.”

      Is ethylene gas in woodsmoke?

      Science: Hormones for Plants – TIME
      Monday, Oct. 15, 1945

      “Portuguese growers in the Azores knew a century ago that burning wood in their hothouses made the pineapples ripen quicker. (It was the ethylene gas in the wood smoke.)”,9171,792440,00.html

      Thanks Junican!
      Now that’s what I call useful information, much better than messing about with apples in paper bags!

      Now I know how to ripen the last tomatoes in the greenhouse in Autumn.


      • Frank Davis says:

        I’ve quite often heard that forest fires are needed to make some plants germinate. Australia comes to mind. The explanation, as I vaguely recollect it, was that it was heat rather than smoke that helped things along.

  11. Rose says:


    I thought of Protea when I read your post.
    But it seems to be more complex than we thought.

    Review of the Promotive Effects of Smoke on Seed Dormancy

    “The ground-breaking news that smoke or smoke-derived extracts could have an amazing effect on breaking dormancy and increasing seed germination of many species was first discovered by J.H. de Lange, a Ph.D student, and C. Boucher in South Africa. They demonstrated it using the rare and difficult Audouinia capitata (Bruniaceae), a threatened fynbos species from South Africa as well as 12 other fynbos species and species from other countries.

    The results of their experimentation were indisputably convincing and promoted further wide research that confirmed the results experimentally in the Australian context.”

    “Roche, Dixon et al (1997) reported success with four Western Australian species. Even in species without obvious need of fire such as the humble lettuce (Drewes et. al. 1995) and celery (Thomas and van Staden 1995), seed germination was improved using smoke.”

    “In 1995, two schools of thought emerged on the effects of heat. Auld & Tozer showed that germination largely occurs in the first year after fire and that heat was not the signal that induced germination.

    Edwards & Whelan on the other hand detected a slight germination increase in G.macleayana after subjecting the seed to short heat exposure and to scarification.
    They postulated that Grevillea seeds were dormant due to a hard seed coat and that this was only broken by scarification or cracking after heat exposure.”

    My quick bit of research in was only about humans, but some parts might be applicable.

    Validation of smoke inhalation therapy to treat microbial infections.

    “Antimicrobial data revealed that in most cases, the ‘smoke-extract’ obtained after burning had lower minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values than the corresponding solvent extracts and essential oils.
    The combustion, acetone and methanol extracts produced different chromatographic profiles as demonstrated for Pellaea calomelanos where several compounds noted in the smoke fraction were not present in the other extracts.”

    “Discovery of the primary seed germination stimulant in smoke, 3-methyl-2H-furo[2,3-c]pyran-2-one (KAR1), has resulted in identification of a family of structurally related plant growth regulators, karrikins. KAR1 acts as a key germination trigger for many species from fire-prone, Mediterranean climates, but a molecular mechanism for this response remains unknown.

    We demonstrate that Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), an ephemeral of the temperate northern hemisphere that has never, to our knowledge, been reported to be responsive to fire or smoke, rapidly and sensitively perceives karrikins.

    Thus, these signaling molecules may have greater significance among angiosperms than previously realized. Karrikins can trigger germination of primary dormant Arabidopsis seeds far more effectively than known phytohormones or the structurally related strigolactone GR-24.”

    “Wood ash can be useful in home gardens, in your compost pile or as a pest repellent, explained Dan Sullivan, soil scientist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
    Wood ash has long been recognized as a valuable substance, Sullivan said. Many centuries ago, ancient Roman scientists and scholars documented the value of returning ash to the land.

    In the 18th century, the benefits of ash-derived potash, or potassium carbonate, became widely recognized. North American trees were felled, burned and the ash was exported to Great Britain as “potash fever” hit.

    In 1790, the newly-independent United States of America’s first patented process was a method for making fertilizer from wood ash (U.S. patent number 1: “An improved method of making pot and pearl ash).”

    So is it the heat, the smoke extract or both?

  12. Junican says:

    I don’t know how you find these things, Rose! But well done.

    As I recall, it was definitely the smoke which did the trick with the pineapples. It is a long time ago since I was there, but I have a distinct recollection that the greenhouses were filled with smoke and shut for a while – no mention of fires as such. I do not recollect anyone mentioning the possibility of just raising the temperature. But there is another thing – as I recall, the ‘smoking’ was necessary! Perhaps this ties in with the beneficial effects of forest fires.

    I am growing my own tobacco plants at the moment. I hope for success, but this is a first try and an experiment this year. I am saving fag ash! Honestly! I read that tobacco plants like fag ash. When my plants are ready to go outside, I will liberally sprinkle ash around the base of the plants. I expect great things – or abject failure. The important thing, however, is to protect against the slimy Tobacco Control slugs. Apparently, they love to devour tobacco plants.

    I have to say, however, that my interest in growing tobacco plants IS FOR EXPERIMENTAL PURPOSES ONLY.

    I came across this only an hour or so ago:

    From Revenue and Customs Site:

    “”””2.9 Must private individuals pay duty on tobacco products made from tobacco which they grow themselves?
    Yes. A private individual must pay the duty on any tobacco products that they make from tobacco which they have grown. This applies whether the tobacco products are intended for sale or solely for the grower’s own consumption. Anyone intending to manufacture tobacco products must comply with the conditions set out in this notice. You must register the premises which you use to make tobacco and complete form TP7A to account for all tobacco products that you have manufactured for your own consumption and on which duty is due.””””””

    Note the clever trick: “….register the premises…….”. An earlier section requires that ‘the manufacture’ of cigarettes can only take place on approved premises, so what is the definition of ‘manufacture’?

    I think that we have gone beyond the ‘nanny’ state. We have gone beyond the ‘bully’ state. We are definitely into the ‘nazi’ state. (NB. If I was talking about Hitler, I would say ‘Nazi’ (capital N) – I say ‘nazi’, being a description of a system of persecution.

  13. Rose says:

    “As I recall, it was definitely the smoke which did the trick with the pineapples”

    It appears that ethylene gas is not only only given off by ripening fruit, but is also a product of the combustion of wood.
    The smoke particles in this case would appear to be just a visual marker for the progress of the ethylene gas through the crop.

    Yes I was aware of the tax, a sneaky trick imposed on home growers in 2002 if I remember correctly.

    I grow my tobacco as a back of the border ornamental and smoke American Spirit.
    But when people see tobacco growing quite happily out in the garden, it does give the lie to the widespread illusion that its a dangerous and exotic plant that has to be imported and highly taxed.

    It’s about as exotic as a lettuce and the slugs treat it accordingly.

    Here’s a tip, start the seed in a heated propagator at the end of January, after it’s germinated it will grow quite happily in an unheated windowsill propagator and take advantage of your central heating.
    January sowing gives the plants a head start as they only have a short season before the first frost in Autumn if sown in March.

    My tobacco leaves are now 6″ long on sturdy plants and have been in 3″pots under a frost proof cloche/polytunnel in the garden with slug pellets for around a month.
    No damage and they are ready to plant out in two weeks after the last frost.
    With more slug pellets, naturally.

  14. Junican says:

    Damn it, Rose! Why didn’t you tell us before?

    Having had a disaster (‘sour peat’ – I think), I have now got a new seed crop growing. I refuse to believe that I am too late! I will do everything that I can. Given that frost is no longer a problem, devotion should do the trick. In any case, this year is an experiment.
    You know that, theoretically, one should pay duty on any ‘smokable’ tobacco one produces, do you not? Even if you do all the work involved in producing smokable tobacco, and you do not intend to sell it, ASH et all have decided to force you to pay duty.
    I found this because I was looking on Rev and Customs site for rules re import of fags. I was amazed to find there rules about home-grown tobacco. Here is the statement:

    “”2.9 Must private individuals pay duty on tobacco products made from tobacco which they grow themselves?
    Yes. A private individual must pay the duty on any tobacco products that they make from tobacco which they have grown. This applies whether the tobacco products are intended for sale or solely for the grower’s own consumption. Anyone intending to manufacture tobacco products must comply with the conditions set out in this notice. You must register the premises which you use to make tobacco and complete form TP7A to account for all tobacco products that you have manufactured for your own consumption and on which duty is due.””

    This is an out and out ASH con trick. Note the ‘you must register the premises’. Erm….NO! NO! NO! Our gardens are our gardens – tobacco plants are legal – our homes are our homes – our homes are not ‘premises to be registered’ – we can do what we want in our homes as regards a legal product. A LEGAL PRODUCT!

    If you want he Url for Revenue and Customs in this area, here it is:

    C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents\HM Revenue & Customs.mht

    Scroll down to ‘can I avoid duty by growing my own?’ – Words to that effect.

    This idea (duty on ‘grow you own’ ) is absolutely contrary to the case as respects brewing your own beer and making your own wine, in which cases, no restrictions apply, provided that they are for your own consumption. The tobacco case is pure PERSECUTION. Serious questions need to be asked about how and when these ‘rules’ (about grow your own) were changed. Who decided and when and with what authority?
    The ‘Powers that Be’ used to refer to yer acteral politicians. No longer true. ‘The powers that be’ are disseminated throughout the UN, the WHO, the EU, the Dept of Health….

    It amazes me that MPs are unable to see that everyone with any intelligence regards them as nothing other than ‘peacocks’ – and that is the truth.

    • Rose says:

      It wasn’t ASH.

      Home Grown Tobacco Law – Europe

      “In 1992, the EU passed a law to impose excise duties on home grown tobacco for personal use. All member states are required to amend their own laws accordingly.

      This was incorporated into UK Law in June 2001.”

      Interesting letter

      Tobacco Leaf Growing

      “It was during the 16th and early 17th centuries that the area around Winchcombe was extremely poor , it was during this period that a family named Tracy established themselves at Toddington, the eldest son Sir John Tracy became involved with a John Stratford who was related to him by marriage, they set up a business together to grow tobacco in the area, with plantations at Toddington and Bishops Cleeve.

      Tobacco was widely grown on the Cotswolds, the Vale of Tewkesbury and in an area which extended as far south as Wiltshire.

      Winchcombe was crossed and re-crossed by Salters routes, John Stratford was a member of the Salter’s Company, he was a dealer in woollen stockings and a member of the Eastland Company who dealt in broadcloth, his vas business interests also included the manufacture of tallow, oil, potash and soap.

      At the very time of the first crop in the area coming to maturity in 1619 tobacco growing in the British Isles was banned, this was done in order that it could be grown on a commercial scale in the Colonies where it was considered that the need for employment was greater.”

      Tobacco growing in England was legalized in 1910 by the Finance Act.

      Sadly, the actual site with the 1910 Finance Act seems to be down due to an internal error

      Hampshire Tobacco Farming

      “Phyl Ralton a member of the Fleet and Crookham Local History Group, contacted the programme with information about research they have been involved in about a surprising crop that was grown in Hampshire between the two world wars – tobacco.

      Phyl told Making History that tobacco growing was illegal until 1910 and soon after that, several people started experiments. The leader in this field was Arthur J Brandon who grew up to 35 acres of tobacco plants in Church Crookham, near Fleet in Hampshire from 1911 until his death in 1937. He harvested up to 800 lbs per acre and demonstrated that it was possible to grow, cure and sell good tobacco products but he could not make a commercial success of the business against cheaper foreign competition and the amount of duty levied on his crop.”

      Though they did try to amend that in 1922 as the excise duty was crippling the industry.

      Nicotiana tabacum is said to be a cross between N.Rustica and N.Sylvestris

      Which is still freely available here, but banned now in Australia.

      “Yesterday the tax office spokeswoman confirmed the definition of banned tobacco had been expanded to include Nicotiana sylvestris, also known as night scented tobacco.

      “This means no one is allowed to grow Nicotiana sylvestris unless they have a licence from the tax office,” she said.

      “This includes for any commercial purposes.

      “Nicotiana sylvestris has now been added to the list of prohibited tobacco plants, which includes Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana rusticum.”

      Still, all is not lost.

      Herbal Smoking Mixtures

  15. Rose says:


    So why is that vast post on home grown tobacco law not showing up?

    Please could you see if there is a trace of it?

    • Frank Davis says:

      They got held for approval because they have lots of links in them. I’ve approved both (not sure if there are any differences).

      • Rose says:

        Thanks Frank,
        No, they are both the same, could you lose one for me?

        The reason I posted twice was because normally I get a little notice saying it’s awaiting moderation, but I can still see the text on the page.
        This time there was nothing there at all, neither message nor text.

        How very mysterious.

        • Frank Davis says:

          Comments with several links usually get put in my ‘pending’ folder. But this time they got put in my ‘spam’ folder. I don’t know why. But that may explain why there was no ‘awaiting moderation’ notice.

  16. Rose says:

    That explains it then.
    No message = I’m trapped in the spam folder.

    Thanks for rescuing me.


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