But I also think there's something much deeper going on. It cannot be disputed that not just the activists but millions of normal people honestly believe these self-fulfilling prophecies that explain virtually every kind of weather - except nice weather, of course - as the comeuppance of man. And the key word there is "prophecy."
It's become something of a cliche to say that environmentalism has become a religion, but that's because there's something so obviously true about it. The cant, the ritual, the creation myths all feel more religious than scientific. Within the environmentalist worldview 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," observed Michael Crichton in a famous speech on the subject.
Secular, "scientific" liberals understandably titter at televangelists who pray away hurricanes or claim that this or that calamity is God's retribution. But as unpersuasive or unhelpful as much of that theater may be, there's at least a serious theology somewhere underneath all the posing. Save for the cults of "deep ecology" and Wicca, environmental theology seems slapdash.
They could start by getting their own theodicy, one that would try to reconcile natural disasters with their faith that Mother Nature is such a nice lady. Rejecting Tennyson's description of nature as "red in tooth and claw," they opt for a nurturing but wounded mommy nature. Were it not for man's folly, she would be rocking us to sleep in her gentle arms every night. God, it seems, is a deadbeat dad in this whole scheme, and man ultimately has all the power. Indeed, George Bush (with the aid of Haley Barbour, of course) could eliminate catastrophes with the stroke of a pen.
Those who study theodicy spend a lot of time on the Book of Job, which tackles God's willingness to allow bad things to happen to people who don't have it coming. Despite his hardships, Job never abandons God because to do so would be to abandon hope.
Environmentalists, it seems, need their own Book of Job. Because, as it stands right now, Mother Nature's ways are not mysterious, but entirely contingent on the output of fossil fuels. And, ironically enough, all of their hopes lie in George W. Bush. Which sounds just a bit like their version of Satan worship.