cartoon082015Few issues in public discourse are as prominent as concern for the climate. Celebrities, politicians, and activists preach an apocalyptic gospel of environmental repentance because there is a crisis, we are told, just slightly out of the reach of our senses. Carbon emissions and average temperature are used to substantiate fears about a looming disaster which can be felt everywhere but seen nowhere. And advocates insist that, if we do not change our ways, our doom will come soon because the danger we face is unprecedented.

But crises in the climate are not new. In Oedipus Rex, for instance, Thebes is plagued by a pollution, an unidentified psychic miasma; when Hamlet begins, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” a thing which has no name; The Communist Manifesto opens by declaring that a “spectre is haunting Europe.” These situations – real and fictional, ancient and modern – could not be more different. But their solutions are as suspiciously similar to each other as they are to one proposed to our own: exile to cure a plague, murder to heal a state, revolution to dispel an obsession, and depopulation to cure us of carbon. In each case, external disorder can be corrected in the social world. Why?

The fault, as Shakespeare says, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. No matter what green policies our politicians implement, our “climate crisis” will only grow, because their remedies do not address our real disease, the invisible thing that scandalizes and unsettles us, the unnamed plague we cannot diagnose. A spectre is, indeed, haunting us, but it is the spectre of abortion. Society cannot tolerate the wholesale slaughter of young life and remain undefiled; the practice of prenatal infanticide is precisely the contagion and the pollution, the ethical ebola and the moral smog, which haunts us. Abortion corrupts everything it touches – and it touches everyone.

It was recently discovered that Planned Parenthood has been selling the body parts of babies. In the media, advocates of abortion have names for the growing unborn child like the “byproduct of conception,” a “blob of tissue,” a “clump of cells,” an obfuscating set of codewords which, given a moment’s thought, are as accurate for the baby in utero as they would be for a full-grown adult. The “Procurement Technician Compensation Policy” circulated to Planned Parenthood staff tells a different tale: their employees are compensated for skin, kidneys, and ears, bones, eyes, and liver – the byproducts of conception indeed.

Abortions happen behind closed doors, and the word – like the ugly reality it names – is avoided in polite society; abortion is often as invisible as the pollutants we have been taught to fear. But a fleet of factories with billowing smokestacks are nowhere near as dangerous as a single so-called clinic, or the floor of a hospital where abortions are committed. The moral pollution of prenatal infanticide cannot be contained, and its corroding effects are not stemmed simply because the practice is concealed and obscured at all costs.

Planned Parenthood sells the shattered bodies of murdered babies for parts; a grisly and illegal garage sale is run out of the back of their butcher shops. This brutal practice was only revealed through the work of pro-life whistleblowers (who, for their efforts, are themselves being investigated by the American Department of Justice). Yet this revelation itself, while shocking and stomach-churning, is not surprising in the least; it occasions revulsion and recognition alike, because the mangled body which is sold for scraps is our own.

One by one, the practice of abortion sends broken bodies into the world: of the baby disposed or sold, of the mother told to live her life normally thereafter, of the so-called “doctor” who performs the heinous deed. Nurses and politicians, activists and lawyers – they, too, participate at some proximity or distance. And so the small dismembered bodies pile up – in dumpsters or in labs –  and damaged souls among us scream despite their seeming outward silence. The ripples of this moral obscenity effect, upset, and trouble us all.

For this reason every treatment we devise for our climate and our society – which are really the same thing – will only make our situation worse. Envious laws targeting income inequality will fail to eliminate that disparity, and aggressive policies about micro-aggressions will only make us more sensitive and scandalized. We will continue to feel choked by an environment we cannot clean. Indeed, until we come to our senses, until we cry and mourn together for the largest legal loss of life the world has every known, until we hear our stricken, silenced consciences rebuke us for killing human beings, we will continue to live in a world which is sick. Yet the ailment cannot be cured if the illness is not named. The fault is not in our climate, but in ourselves.