Nahdlatul Ulama Targets the Weaponization of Religion for Political Purposes

 

MATARAM, Lombok, Indonesia: From 23 – 25 November 2017, the world’s largest Muslim organization convened 1,200 religious scholars for a National Assembly of Ulama and Major Conference, whose primary agenda was to strengthen the values of nationalism, counter religious extremism and improve the economic welfare of all sectors of Indonesian society. Attendees included Indonesia’s President and Vice President; the chiefs of Indonesia’s military, national police and state intelligence agency; numerous cabinet ministers; and foreign emissaries, including ambassadors from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In his opening address, NU General Chairman Kyai Haji Said Aqil Siradj said that “Indonesia is different from the Middle East, where people who are religious are generally not nationalists, and those who are nationalists are generally not religious…. We are fortunate that our situation is so different from that in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and so many other nations, whose people are overwhelmingly Muslim and yet trapped in horrendous civil wars with no end in sight… To preserve the unity of the Republic of Indonesia and the tranquility of its people, radical groups and their ideology must be expelled [from the public space]!”

At its conclusion, the Conference adopted and conveyed a set of formal recommendations to President Joko Widodo and his administration. One section—entitled “Prevention and Combatting Radicalism”—specifically addressed the weaponization of religion for political purposes, which dramatically impacted the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election and threatens to undermine national unity in the run up to national elections in 2019. Key points include:

“The government needs to act decisively to overcome the threat of radicalism by fostering a humanitarian approach” (Prevention and Combatting Radicalism, point 1); “Political parties and politicians must stop exploiting religious sentiment as a weapon in their political competition. The manipulation of religious sentiment in a constantly recurring power struggle—to obtain 5-year terms in office—constitutes highly irresponsible behavior that threatens the very life of our nation” (point 5); “Law enforcement officers must guarantee citizens’ constitutional rights, refuse to buckle under to pressure from radical groups and firmly crack down on: a) any illegal acts conducted in the name of religion, especially hate speech and incitement to violence, so that [sectarian hatred and violence] do not spiral out of control; b) the use of religious sentiment as a weapon by political parties and politicians, so as to deter such behavior” (point 6).

On the international front, the NU welcomed recent statements by the government of Saudi Arabia that it wishes to return to moderate Islam; invited the government of Saudi Arabia to work with the government of Indonesia to bring this about; and called upon the government of Indonesia to encourage a successful transition to moderate Islam in Saudi Arabia, in harmony with the mainstream understanding and practice of Islam in Indonesia.

Click here to download the political communiqué: “Nahdlatul Ulama Targets the Weaponization of Religion for Political Purposes”.

…….

Who are Nahdlatul Ulama?

Flag_of_Nahdlatul_Ulama.jpg

Founded in 1926 by Hasyim Asy’ari, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) supports education, cultural engagement, and socioeconomic development rooted in Islamic principles of justice, diversity, and tolerance. It is the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia.

The NU is the largest independent Islamic organization in the world[7] with membership of 40 million in 2003.[1][2] NU also is a charitable body funding schools and hospitals as well as organizing communities to help alleviate poverty.

Nahdlatul Ulama is known as an ardent advocate of Islam Nusantara; a distinctive brand of Islam that has undergone interaction, contextualization, indigenization, interpretation and vernacularization according to socio-cultural condition of Indonesia.[8] Islam Nusantara promotes moderation, compassion, anti-radicalism, inclusiveness and tolerance.

Websites from which you can learn more:

http://www.nu.or.id

www.baytarrahmah.org

www.libforall.org 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The British and Pakistani Armies: Sharing Both a Personal and Institutional Future

The long relationship between the British and Pakistani armies is transforming, from one based mostly on pomp, ceremony and personal friendships, to one based on shared strategic interests.

The Pakistan Army can sometimes be more British than the British Army, at least when it comes to pomp and ceremony. Its cavalry officers have the best horses, and they play in the top polo competitions in Argentina and England; many of their sons go to Britain’s top boarding schools; and they even fashion their moustaches in the same manner as Field Marshal Herbert Kitchener.

According to Carey Schofield in her book Inside the Pakistan Army, after independence in 1947 the Pakistan Army inherited the majority of the British Indian Army regiments that were facing the threat on the Afghanistan ‘frontier’. As a result, it initially had British officers mentoring in the military academies and staff colleges.

Now the relationship has come full circle with a Pakistan Army major, Uqbah Malik, becoming the first instructor from a Muslim country to teach British cadets at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He has also trained the Jordanian crown prince, Emirati princes and Afghan cadets. Malik’s role reflects a British bid to learn from the Pakistan Army’s operational and doctrinal training of military forces in the Middle East. Under Malik, British cadets have trained with their Pakistani counterparts in Pakistan, a historical first observed first-hand by the author, and now British NCOs are on their way to becoming part of Pakistan’s military academy at Kakul. There is also talk of a British Major heading to become an instructor in Pakistan, and at present there is a Pakistani colonel at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, where he is a member of the Directing Staff and has his own syndicate group.

Since the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan it has been no secret that the West – and, in particular, the Americans – have seen the Pakistan Army, and especially its intelligence services, as the biggest external obstacle to the destruction of the Taliban.

Whenever the relationship with the US has soured, particularly after a US military helicopter strike killed at least 24 Pakistani troops in 2011, British
senior officers have been brought in to keep the Pakistani military on-side. It has even been argued by the Americans and Afghans that the British military has been too soft on the Pakistanis and cared more about Pakistani concerns than those of the Afghans.

The former British envoy to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard CowperColes, wrote in his book, Cables from Kabul: The Inside Story of the West’s Afghanistan Campaign, that two British defence chiefs, Field Marshal Charles Guthrie and General Lord Richards formed close friendships with the Pakistani top brass. Ahmed Rashid, in his book, Descent into Chaos: The World’s Most Unstable Region and the Threat to Global Security, also said that Richards was too close to the Pakistani military’s viewpoint. According to former US Vice President Dick Cheney, Guthrie’s friendship with General Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler of Pakistan, helped the Americans to forge a close relationship with the Pakistanis in their efforts to hunt down and capture the majority of AlQa’ida’s leadership.

More recently, Chief of the General Staff Sir Nicholas Carter has described Pakistan’s former Chief of Army General Raheel Sharif, as ‘a great adviser and mentor’. This month, Carter became the first British Army chief to be the main guest to attend a Pakistan Army cadets’ passing out parade, an honour reserved normally only for Saudi and other Arab royal families. In the past year alone, Carter has been to Pakistan three times, more times than he has been to any other non-NATO member.

It was these personal British friendships that have kept Pakistan from completely falling out with the US and NATO. Now the British army wants to capitalise on this relationship as it bids to evolve into a smaller, but smarter, force. History and pomp and ceremony aside, the UK–Pakistan relationship is becoming more strategic, to the extent that the two armies could even fight together against a common enemy. Carter, along with Commander Field Army Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders, have put Pakistan at the forefront of their defence engagement policy. They are keen to learn from the Pakistan Army’s reported success in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which Sanders praised, going so far as to say that what the Pakistan Army had achieved in Waziristan and the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas ‘has not been achieved for 150 years’. One of the cornerstones of this success was how the army leadership used the militants’ own narrative against them: enforcing regulations on hate speech; scrutinizing more closely the curriculums in religious schools; prohibiting media coverage of terrorist organisations; and, crucially, declaring that only the Pakistani state – as a Muslim state – could declare jihad – non-state actors such as the Taliban or Daesh did not have the authority to do so. The British army, which has been operating in Muslim countries such as

002 ka

Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, is engaging the Pakistanis on ‘lessons learned’. So the question for the British is how they can use the religion card to fight militants who justify their war against the UK based on theology.
The UK is also keen to leverage Pakistan’s historically close ties to the Gulf. In his book, Churchill’s Empire, Richard Toye claims that Winston Churchill wanted the new state of
Pakistan to replace the old British Indian Army as the guardian of the Gulf, and in 1956 Pakistan were close to taking part in the Suez Crisis on behalf of the British. At the time, the Egyptians under President Gamal Abdel Nasser saw Pakistan as a Western and British lackey. This year, Pakistan’s continuing close ties to the Gulf were made clear
when General Raheel Sharif became the head of a newly formed military alliance of mostly Sunni Islamic states led by Saudi Arabia, known as the ‘Muslim NATO’. Indeed, Pakistan continues to be a key provider of security to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, both of which are vital for the UK’s own security: intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia is key to stopping terror plots in the UK, while Bahrain now serves as a permanent base for British forces in the Persian Gulf. Pakistan and the UK have already worked together
in the Gulf, particularly on counterpiracy operations in the Horn of Africa and Persian Gulf.

Britain, under its own new East of Suez policy, can in the long-term benefit from cooperation with the Pakistani Army. The trust between the two armies built during the Afghan war is set to pay dividends both in the Middle East and at the prestigious academies in the UK.
The author knows that the 32 Engineer Regiment of the British Army is partnering in counter-IED capability with the Pakistan Army Engineers, and the British Army’s 77th
Brigade are conducting intellectual level engagements on perception management of the enemy, the cultural side of the war and media strategy. The two armies hold an annual counterinsurgency conference, focusing not just on combat, but also diplomacy and refugee management. The author is aware that the British Army is also sending officers to the Centre for International Peace and Security – which prepares officers to deploy in conflict zones – at the National University of Sciences and Technology in Islamabad
to learn from Pakistan’s experiences in peacekeeping.
Britain is also using the Pakistan Army to help with the recruitment of more British Muslims – the majority of whom are of Pakistani origin – into the UK armed forces. British Muslims have reportedly been reluctant to join the armed forces partly because they believe that the UK is waging a war against Islam. By saying that the British and Pakistani armies are fighting against terrorists and not Islam, the army is attempting a new approach, and the author has seen first-hand that Pakistani military officers are regular guests at recruitment events to help to explain this. The British Army has invited Pakistan Army officers to address key community leaders in cities such as Manchester
and Birmingham to help not just with recruitment but also to explain what it is doing in regional conflicts.
The British and Pakistani armed forces appear now to be on the same page, from training each other’s officers and soldiers, to countering violent extremism in their communities and showing a united front, whether on the Afghan border or in the Gulf. The message being given is that the two militaries are fighting the same enemy, whether it be on the Pakistani–Afghan border or in the Middle East. With geopolitical alliances shifting rapidly, and with instability and conflict raging from North Africa to Southeast Asia, the UK–Pakistan military alliance that was born in 1947 on polo fields and golf courses is now playing a key role in both Pakistan’s and Britain’s defence engagement with the wider world. Both armies stand to benefit from this in the decades to come.

Kamal Alam
Kamal has been a Visiting Fellow at RUSI since July 2015 and specialises in the Pakistan Army’s relationship with the British Army. Previously he has advised the British Army on Syrian affairs.

With thanks to Kamal Alam and RUSI for allowing me to use this.

Excuses

Many times we make resolutions to change something like a career or education or training and or add something to our daily schedule, or to make healthier choices about what we eat. Or we aim to do more, or we promise that this time around that we will leave our work we do not love anymore. Or move overseas… etc etc.
So the next day as we are opening our eyes routine chains us to our habits and we become comfortable with that same old routine.
It seems easier to stick with our old ways, and we have a host of excuses to do that.

 

Hesitation
Changes we want to make in life seem a great idea. But when we go into a bit more, and learn what it takes to achieve those changes – we leave it to the next minute, hour, day or our best friend listens to what we want to do, then quips: “I tried to do that but didn’t do it because…. (Excuses galore) and what happens to feel comfortable with your friends level we also then start making excuses within to remain ‘comfortable’.
And that dangerous voice within starts to speak to back up your ‘comfort’: What you want to do is crazy. Impossible. You cannot. You have a family. You do not have what it takes – it will never work.
We start to doubt, and soon we thought maybe we thought the change was not a good idea after all. Statements such as “It’s too hard” or “I cannot do it” are our reasons, to help us out of our doubts for inaction and ‘comfort’.

Fear
There are many things we can be afraid of when those changes are needed but we can’t move as our comfort lies in what we know and believe and most of what we know and believe are just that – belief and knowledge can be wrong we are suppose to be thinking reasoning species who are evolving our understanding and honouring ourselves as human beings by courageously moving forward and tackling that what we are afraid of.
We let fear take charge – that fear comforts and excuses our inaction. It gives us comfort in case that we may fail, rejected, make mistakes. Some even we fear that we will succeed – and we have to deal with others jealousy or envy.

Why
Why do we want to do something? Are we ready for it? Preparation is a key step to make changes we say we want to factor in. It is both inside and out: we need to accept that we need to make changes. We need to feel that we have researched and reflected on why we want to change.
Sometimes, we may need a little to push us to the edge to get us to go ahead with our change.

Motivation
Life is full of carrots and sticks. Pleasure and pain.
The prospect of rewards when you have successfully completed your change – greater health and wellbeing, more joy at work, a better life?
Or fear the negative consequences if no change – gain weight and develop illnesses, stress at work and die with regret?

Idea
Many of us have ideas, plans – some good and some well – creative let’s say. But why not just face it and do it. Get that idea/plan out share it with a select group of positive friends (or maybe not) but do something to put into action what you know or feel. Yes you will have obstacles and resistance in your way but don’t we all? And don’t we have that anyway?

Success
You may succeed? You may not? Either is fine as long as you have tried. This is what life is about – moving forward and overcoming that which makes us fearful.

Hope you found this little write up interesting – let me know what you think and I will write more or not – actually I don’t really care – no offence 🙂

After West Midlands – Will Labour fail in the General Election 2017?

West Midlands Labour Gurus have quickly hung their failures around Jeremy Corbyns neck as they’re annoyed that Corbyn did not enhance the cause of their candidate Sion Simon, who stood as Labour candidate in the West Midlands mayoral elections, even though Sion Simon disowned his own party leader

The fault lies NOT with Corbyn but rather with the Labour Party candidate, and the selection system that’s so out of touch with the voter, it has failed to produce true representation especially here in the West Midlands.

Two years of Jeremy Corbyn does not explain Ed Miliband’s Labour Party, when he led the Labour Party to failure at the last General Election, and the one before in 2010 with Gordon Brown at the helm!

images.jpg

Here in the West Midlands Labour has been run as a chiefdom; Roy Hattersley MP (who even admitted he took the local voters for granted through the biraderi mafia) followed by John Speller and then Tom Watson, have a complete grip on the section process and that’s one of the reasons Labour haven’t produced a suitable mayoral candidate, nor quality candidates for Parliament. Ordinary Labour Party voters and members have little if any voice, and even less reason to campaign for the party.

Quality activists are the foundation of any successful political party, but in Labour they are disconnected and devalued. The machine that was the once great Labour Party has its gears failing; not because of the driver but because of those who should be helping maintain this machine.

Sion Simons political slogan ‘Taking Back Control‘ is borrowed from UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party).  UKIP used this slogan and it resonated with the public as it was perceived that the EU was a dominating power that needed to be dealt with. Why did Labour take this slogan on?

Projecting London as dominating over Birmingham and the Midlands when British voters needed to see unity after #Brexit, was a negative move on the part of the prospective Labour candidate for Mayor and those who advised him.

The voter basically wants to see how much those who wish to lead ‘care’. By not offering to care and show the voter how in touch they are with the issues that concern them, and through showing how they will improve their life, certainly did not excite the voter. If anything, when the Labour candidate put forward the proposal of discounted bus tickets as one of his policies, this was seen as a cheap bribe. Voters see through gimmicks.

Then there was the ‘divide and rule’ type move, trying to pit Muslim and Sikh Labour Party members against each other, when Simon is said to have commented, ‘we have less representation from Sikhs in the area’ even though he had a lot of Muslim and Sikh people in his campaign working for him.

This is worthy of the old British Indian Raj divide and rule politics. Those of us whose parents are from South Asia, regardless our religion, don’t like being manipulated like this and see through these games. Tom Watson as the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party let this and other issues with their candidate go unquestioned.

If Labour was serious about ethnic minorities, they would have reached out far more effectively, inclusively, and widely. The candidate was not seen meeting the people, only pre-planned photoshoots were arranged and uploaded on Facebook and Twitter, to make the voters think as though the mayoral candidate is connecting.

Ethnic minorities which Labour has been fond of giving the impression they are the champion of, increasingly are seeing through being used as voting fodder.

Any effective and democratic political party should have candidates who are in touch with the people, rather than professional politicians who are seen as just wanting a job; receiving a fat paycheck and looked on as leaders in name only.

Didn’t Sion Simon mention only two years ago, that voters don’t want a mayor who is not intellectual first, but a politician? Recall his YouTube rant ‘Call Me Dave’ video, and you would get an idea of the image voters had of the prospective Labour mayor.

As I mentioned before the problem is not with Jeremy Corbyn, the problem lies with Labour bureaucracy which thrusts unqualified and out of touch candidates, in what the hierarchy consider ‘safe seats’. Voters don’t want imposed puppet candidates, but effective and in touch individuals who show the face of a caring and connecting party and leadership.

The bureaucracy of the Labour Party is not that fond of its party leader Jeremy Corbyn either… Maybe there is jealousy of Corbyn increasing Labour party membership from near 200,000 to near 600,000? Or perhaps Corbyn doesn’t like forcing candidates on the voters?.

When you undermine your own leader and place your own interests before that of your nation or party, you show your disloyalty not just to the party, but also to the voter.

It’s time for the stale out of touch hierarchy and their sycophantic bullyboys, such as the baradari mafias, to move aside and let more activists move forward through to leadership at local and national levels.

Let those advance who are not concerned about wanting power for power’s sake, but rather for empowering others to move forward.

The Question Should Be Asked: Will Labour Win General Election 2017? … Unlikely!

The Gears Are Out Of Sync.624.jpg

7 ways to make your assignment different from others

writing-1.gif

Nowadays, for obtaining high grades in your academics, you have to make assignment which is unique and non-identical from others. Solitary the largest change scholars have to make from high school to college is grasping how to draft college assignment that stands out.

The assignment is same for all scholars, so it becomes hard to gain above average. Here are certain points which will tell you the significance of writing the same content in a similar way that makes your assignment more scoring and helps you to make your assignment different from others

Here are some useful tips that can aid you high-quality assignment writing services and also assist you to stand out from others.

  • An impressive cover page: -A good cover page will always attract the attention of the readers and through this, they will read further, so try to make your cover page more attractive and impressive. You can employ your own concepts and creativity but not in excess, keep it simple and readable format .overuse of drawing skills is not a better option and if you want that reader will read further then keep your cover page simple and clear.
  • Organised index page: – A systematic index page makes it simple for the reader to flip through the topics. As a student, it also converses of the discipline in your academics.
  • Be clear and concise: while writing college assignment, make assure that you are using the correct word and also take care of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Always avoid obsolete and invented words. To write briefly, escape unnecessary repetition and redundancy.
  • keep paragraph short: -while writing any assignment always keep the paragraph short and precise because if you write long one then reader will easily get bored and never read further .so to attracts the readers always keep the paragraph short and clear.
  • Highlighting: -generally, highlighting word and phrases are the finest way to gain the attention of the reader. Whenever we read any kind of articlePsychology Articles, we get attracted to the highlighted words to write more perfect. So keep highlighting the important term and clauses.
  • Suitable conclusion: – Last but not the least is the closure of your assignment. A convincing conclusion makes an eternal apprehension on the reader. This includes:.
  1. Skim the selective point briefly
  2. Explain the final message to the reader by elaborating the overall discussion

The Founding Fathers v. The Climate Change Skeptics

When claims from Europe accused British America of being inferior on account of its colder weather, Thomas Jefferson and his fellow Founding Fathers responded with patriotic zeal that their settlement was actually causing the climate to warm. Raphael Calel explores how, in contrast to today’s common association of the U.S. with climate change skepticism, it was a very different story in the 18th century.

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1805)
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale (1805). Note the furs – Source.

The United States has in recent years become a stronghold for climate change skepticism, especially since the country’s declaration in 2001 that it would not participate in the Kyoto Protocol. Nevertheless, though it is a well-documented fact, it might surprise you to learn that, a far cry from the United States’ recent ambivalence with respect to the modern scientific theory of man-made climate change, the country’s founders were keen observers of climatic trends and might even be counted among the first climate change advocates.

From the start, the project to colonize North America had proceeded on the understanding that climate followed latitude; so dependent was climate on the angle of the sun to the earth’s surface, it was believed, that the word ‘climate’ was defined in terms of parallels of latitude. New England was expected to be as mild as England, and Virginia as hot as Italy and Spain. Surprised by harsh conditions in the New World, however, a great number of the early settlers did not outlast their first winter in the colonies. Many of the survivors returned to Europe, and in fact, the majority of 17th-century colonies in North America were abandoned.

Jamestown in snow
Jamestown colonists endured a severe winter in 1607-1608, black and white copy of a painting by Sidney King for the Colonial National Historical Park – Source.

A view formed in Europe that the New World was inferior to the Old. In particular, medical lore still held that climate lay behind the characteristic balance of the Hippocratic humors – it explained why Spaniards were temperamental and Englishmen reserved – and it was believed that the climate of the colonies caused physical and mental degeneration. Swedish explorer Pehr Kalm, who had travelled to North America on a mission from Carl Linnaeus, observed in his travel diary that the climate of the New World caused life – plants and animals, including humans – to possess less stamina, stature, and longevity than in Europe. The respected French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, explained in his encyclopaedia of natural history that “all animals of the New World were much smaller than those of the Old. This great diminution in size, whatever maybe the cause, is a primary kind of degeneration.” He speculated that the difference in climate might be the cause:

It may not be impossible, then, without inverting the order of nature, that all the animals of the new world originated from the same stock as those of the old; that having been afterwards separated by immense seas or impassable lands, they, in course of time, underwent all the effects of a climate which was new to them, and which must also have had its qualities changed by the very causes which produced its separation; and that they, in consequence, became not only inferior in size, but different in nature.

Dutch philosopher Cornelius de Pauw believed that “The Europeans who pass into America degenerate, as do the animals; a proof that the climate is unfavorable to the improvement of either man or animal.” Scientific and artistic genius, according to a prominent theory put forth by the French intellectual Jean-Baptiste Dubos, only flourished in suitable climates – climate accounted for the marvels of Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the Italian Renaissance, and, thanks to rising temperatures on the European continent that Dubos thought he observed, the Enlightenment. French writer Guillaume Raynal agreed, and made a point of saying that “America has not yet produced one good poet, one able mathematician, one man of genius in a single art or a single science.”

Cornelius de Pauw’s Researches Philosophiques sur les Américains
In this edition of Cornelius de Pauw’s Researches Philosophiques sur les Américains, the usual ornamentation preceding the chapter on the American climate is sardonically replaced with this apparently frozen landscape – Source.

In the New World, refuting such theories became a matter of patriotism. In the rousing conclusion to one of the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

Men admired as profound philosophers have, in direct terms, attributed to her inhabitants a physical superiority, and have gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America–that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our atmosphere. Facts have too long supported these arrogant pretensions of the Europeans. It belongs to us to vindicate the honor of the human race, and to teach that assuming brother, moderation. Union will enable us to do it. Disunion will will add another victim to his triumphs. Let Americans disdain to be the instruments of European greatness!

Building on the theories of John Evelyn, John Woodward, Jean-Baptiste Dubos, and David Hume – who all believed that the clearing and cultivation of land in Europe accounted for the temperate climate that had enabled the Enlightenment – the colonists set about arguing that their settlement was causing a gradual increase in temperatures and improvement of the flora and fauna of North America.

Hugh Williamson, American politician and a signatory of the Constitutional Convention, believed that “within the last forty or fifty years there has been a very great observable change of climate, that our winters are not so intensely cold, nor our summers so disagreeably warm as they have been,” a fact he attributed to the clearing of forests. “The change of climate which has taken place in North America, has been a matter of constant observation and experience,” wrote Harvard professor Samuel Williams. Benjamin Franklin wrote of the “common Opinion, that the Winters in America are grown milder.” Measurements were as yet inadequate to the task of proving this, he said, but he found the proposed mechanism (i.e. clearing and cultivation) sufficiently persuasive that, even if the winters were not milder already, he could not “but think that in time they may be so.” Benjamin Rush, physician and signatory of the Declaration of Independence, speculated that, if cultivation kept pace with clearing of new lands, climate change might even reduce the incidence of fevers and disease.

Thomas Jefferson was especially eager to rebut Buffon and the proponents of the theory of climatic degeneracy. He expended substantial efforts to this effect in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), with page after page of animal measurements showing that the American animals were not inferior to their European counterparts. He also had help from James Madison, who shared his own measurements with Jefferson, urging him to use them in his arguments against Buffon.

jefferson notes on virginia
Thomas Jefferson compared the weight of European and American animals, in order to disprove Buffon’s claims that the animals of the New World were smaller degenerate forms of their Old World counterparts. Notice that he includes the Mammoth at the top of his list. – Source.

Their impassioned advocacy would occasionally lead them astray, though. Samuel Williams claimed that winter temperatures in Boston and eastern Massachusetts had risen by 10-12˚F in the previous century and a half, a climatic transformation too rapid to be believed perhaps. Jefferson, convinced that the American climate could sustain large animals too, insisted to a friend that “The Indians of America say [the Mammoth] still exists very far North in our continent.” Anxious to disprove claims of degeneracy, he wrote a letter to the American Philosophical Society in which he openly speculated that elephants, lions, giant ground sloths, and mammoths still lived in the interior of the continent. Later, believing he was on the verge of proving the skeptical Europeans wrong, he wrote a letter to the French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède boasting that “we are now actually sending off a small party to explore the Missouri to it’s source,” referring to Lewis’ and Clark’s expedition. “It is not improbable that this voyage of discovery will procure us further information of the Mammoth, & of the Megatherium,” Jefferson continued, concluding “that there are symptoms of [the Megalonyx’s] late and present existence.”

The Founders did not settle for mere advocacy, though. Keen to present as strong a case for climate change as possible, and moderated by their scientific temperament perhaps, they wanted more and better evidence. To decide the issue of lions and mammoths, Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to pay special attention to “the animals of the country generally, & especially those not known in the U.S. the remains and accounts of any which may [be] deemed rare or extinct.” Although they didn’t find mammoths, they discovered many animals and plants previously unknown to science.

On the question of whether the winters were getting milder, Franklin wrote to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale University, encouraging him to make “a regular and steady Course of Observations on a Number of Winters in the different Parts of the Country you mention, to obtain full Satisfaction on the Point.” Madison made regular observations at his estate, which he assiduously entered into his meteorological journals. Jefferson, too, kept meticulous records, and encouraged his friends and colleagues to submit their measurements to the American Philosophical Society, “and the work should be repeated once or twice in a century, to show the effect of clearing and culture towards the changes of climate.” Jefferson himself made significant contributions to the development of modern meteorology. In 1778, for instance, Jefferson and the Reverend James Madison, president of The College of William & Mary and cousin of the fourth President of the United States, made the first simultaneous meteorological measurements. Jefferson promoted methodological standardization and expansion of geographical coverage, and was an early proponent of establishing a national meteorological service.

jefferson weather record
Detail from a page of Thomas Jefferson’s “Weather Record (1776-1818)”, in which he meticulously and somewhat obsessively notes down the temperature on everyday of the year. In this detail, from the year 1777, we see evidence of a particularly cold spring in Virginia, with frost on the ground as late as early April – Source.

One need hardly belabor the point that the early climate change advocates were wrong. Modern climate reconstructions show there was a brief warming period in New England during the late 1700s, but Jefferson’s and Williams’ measurements predate any actual man-made climate change. Their theories were pre-scientific in the specific sense that they predate a scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect. It is true that the French scientist Edme Mariotte had, as early as 1681, noticed the greenhouse effect, but it was not until the 1760s and 1770s that the first systematic measurements were made, and it would still be another century before anyone imagined that human activities might influence atmospheric composition to such an extent that the climate might be modified by this mechanism. Their pre-scientific theories also led them to believe that a changing climate would necessarily be beneficial, whereas today we are much more aware of the dangers of climate change.

Yet one should not belittle the efforts of these early climate change advocates. Fighting back against the European ‘degeneracy theory’ was necessitated by pride as much as a concern that these ideas might negatively affect immigration and trade from Europe. Their search for evidence, moreover, resulted in substantial contributions to zoology, and was instrumental to the foundation of modern meteorology and climatology. One might speculate, even, that a belief in degeneracy contributed to England’s refusal to afford its North American colonial subjects representation in parliament, and so helped spark the American revolution. In this case, one might construe the Founders’ climate change advocacy partly as an attempt to facilitate a peaceful resolution of their grievances with the Crown. Indeed, so politically important was their advocacy efforts thought at the time that Senator Sam Mitchell of New York, in his eulogy at Thomas Jefferson’s funeral, raised them to the same level as the American revolution itself.

jefferson
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by his close friend, soldier and part-time painter, Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817). Jefferson’s turn to the hot-coloured break in the clouds perhaps not entirely devoid of symbolism – Source.

It is an interesting historical footnote that, during a visit to London, Benjamin Franklin met and became friends with Horace Benedict de Saussure, the Swiss scientist credited with the first systematic measurements of the greenhouse effect. Franklin exchanged letters with Saussure, and encouraged his experiments on electricity. So impressed by Saussure’s work was Jefferson that he would later write to George Washington to suggest recruiting Saussure to a professorship at the University of Virginia, which was then under construction.

Far from a stronghold of climate change skepticism, as the United States is sometimes seen today, the country’s founders were vocal proponents of early theories of man-made climate change. They wrote extensively in favor of the theory that settlement was improving the continent’s climate, and their efforts helped to lay the foundation of modern meteorology. Much of the climate change skepticism of the day, on the other hand, was based on the second- and third-hand accounts of travelers, and the skeptics rarely made efforts to further develop the science. In addition, one cannot ignore its political convenience for many in Europe; for instance, Cornelius de Pauw was even hired by the King of Prussia to discourage Prussian citizens from emigrating or investing their capital in the New World.

Even if the parallels between the past and present are too obvious to spell out, they can be of some use to us today. While modern climate change advocates and skeptics have become experts at pointing to each other’s errors, we are usually the last to notice our own faults. An episode in our history that bears such strong resemblance to our present provides a rare opportunity to examine ourselves as if through the eyes of another. Today’s climate change advocates may recognize in themselves some of the overzealousness of the Founding Fathers, and therefore better guard against potential fallacies. Skeptics may recognize in themselves the often anti-scientific spirit of the degeneracy-theorists, and hopefully make greater efforts to engage constructively in the scientific enterprise today. One can hope, at least.


Dr. Raphael Calel is a Ciriacy-Wantrup Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, and a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics. His research has looked at the history of climate change politics, the effects of current policies, and how climate forecasts can be used to inform future action. More information and links to his other writings are available from his personal website.

Links To Works

  • Buffon’s Natural history, containing a theory of the earth, a general history of man, of the brute creation, and of vegetables, minerals, &c. &c(1797), by Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon.
  • A general history of the Americans, of their customs, manners, and colours: an history of the Patagonians, of the Blafards, and white negroes : history of Peru : an history of the manners, customs, &c. of the Chinese and Egyptions (1806), by Cornelius de Pauw.
  • Notes on the state of Virginia (1801), by Thomas Jefferson.
  • See also hyperlinks embedded in the article itself.

Recommended Reading

https://publicdomainreview.org/2014/02/19/the-founding-fathers-v-the-climate-change-skeptics/