Christianity and Environmentalism


In my current work, I am confronted with extreme environmentalist ideas almost daily. While I understand that extremists are not open to compromise, it has given me the opportunity to examine the Christian's duty in environmental conservation.

DEFINING THE TERMS

First, what is environmentalism? The dictionary gives a rather vague definition, calling it "a concern for the air, water, and land." This is a beginning, but if the definition is really that simple, then I think that most people, whether they consider themselves to be or not, are environmentalists. Everyone has a concern for the environment. No one wants to destroy the air, water, or land, because if we do, then we die.

I think that environmentalism, as it is commonly understood, is better defined as "the belief that humans are a part of nature and that humans have a responsibility to ensure that their existence in no way diminishes or damages nature, nature being defined as 'air, water, land, and all species living in or on thereof.'" In one speech that I translated, a member of an Olympic committee made the comment that humans must have "gratitude in their hearts towards nature." The translation was difficult, because I had never considered nature as a personality with which humans could relate. My first inclination was to translate the phrase as gratitude "for" nature, but this is not what the speaker intended.

ENVIRONMENTALIST PROPAGANDA

Most people realize that extremists are prone to lies, so no one really listens to Green Peace or PETA. However, the liberal media has the same agenda, so they readily accept environmental lies and report them as truth. Hearing such stories every day, we're bound to believe one or two of the lies.

It would be impossible to cover all of the lies in one essay, but I would like to take a look at the most common. It would certainly be hard to find someone who doesn't believe that global warming is occurring. If global warming is simply a rise in temperatures, then certainly, we are experiencing that. But global warming as it is commonly understood means that the Earth's temperatures are rising due to man-made pollution and that the only way to reverse the trend is to fight man-made pollution. The truth of the matter, however, is that Earth's temperatures are mostly due to the sun. According to Accu-Weather, the world's leading commercial forecaster, "Global air temperatures as measured by land-based weather stations show an increase of about 0.45 degrees Celsius over the past century. This may be no more than normal climatic variation...[and] several biases in the data may be responsible for some of this increase."1 Temperatures have risen and fallen in the past. Dr. Robert C. Balling of Arizona State University said that by most accounts, man-made emissions have had no more than a minuscule impact on the climate. Although the climate has warmed slightly in the last 100 years, 70% percent of that warming occurred prior to 1940, before the upsurge in greenhouse gas emissions from industrial processes.2

Dr. Andrew Bernstein reports that in 1978 the Environmental Protection Agency suppressed a scientific study showing that up to 80 percent of air pollution was caused by natural, not man-made phenomena, and that the EPA only released the report after they were faced with a lawsuit filed under the Freedom of Information Act!3 Such extremists are not interested in the truth. A former director of the United States Geological Survey estimated that just three volcanic eruptions in the last 120 years produced more particulate and gaseous pollution of the atmosphere than the combined activities of all the men who ever lived.4

Environmentalists also like to attack automobiles. They claim that before automobiles and factories the environment was pristine. This is simply not true. Ninety percent of the world's cars are in the northern hemisphere, and yet there is no hemispheric difference in carbon monoxide levels.5 The fact is that carbon monoxide is produced by living things and nature has an ingenius way of taking care of it--plants!

In the minds of environmentalist extremists, nature is of intrinsic value. It is to be valued more than human life. It is quite common to hear that humans are a virus destroying the earth. But they are not all talk. These extremists help to establish laws that cost human lives. They oppose using lab rats, even though such research has led to inummerable cures to deadly diseases. They oppose the use of DDT, even though the EPA's own tests revealed that it is harmless to humans and animals but deadly to disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Dr. Michael S. Berliner illustrates the environmentalist's utter contempt for mankind:
Heed the words of the consistent environmentalists. "The ending of the human epoch on Earth," writes philosopher Paul Taylor in Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics, "would most likely be greeted with a hearty 'Good riddance!'" In a glowing review of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, biologist David M. Graber writes (Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989): "Human happiness [is] not as important as a wild and healthy planet....Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along." Such is the naked essence of environmentalism: it mourns the death of one whale or tree but actually welcomes the death of billions of people. A more malevolent, man-hating philosophy is unimaginable. 6
THANKFUL TO NATURE OR FOR NATURE?

Environmentalists see nature as the provider and sustainer of our lives. Most (not all) environmentalists are also evolutionists. Which leads me to wonder, if humans are nothing more than a higher form of ape, why should we be concerned about anything other than eating and reproducing?

Many other animals eat other animals, so why shouldn't we? To what rules are we bound that other animals are not? Who made these rules? If evolution is true, then we have no duty to protect the environment, because it really makes no difference. In a million years, the sun will have burned out, and all life will have come to an end. What possible difference could a few thousand years make? Humans are not obliged to see that life lasts until the sun burns out or an asteroid hits the earth. If life ends a million years early, that's just one more random event that means nothing in a meaningless universe.

Needless to say, however, I do not believe that this is the case. I believe that God created us for a purpose, and we are therefore subject to any rules which He gives us. Which leads me to the title of this essay.

THE CHRISTIAN AND ENVIRONMENTALISM

What is the Christian's responsibility toward nature? The answer is found in Genesis. God gave man dominion over the earth and all its creatures. This is a heavy responsibility. I don't think anyone could possibly infer that God gave us dominion over the earth so that we could destroy it. There is no doubt in my mind that God wants us to take care of His creation. But when He said we should subdue it, it means that we are more important than nature. Nature's needs must be balanced with our needs and desires. Man's survival depends upon continuously reshaping his environment. Man has to clear land for agricultural development, build houses and cities, engage in medical research to cure diseases, and other alleged cases of environmental "destruction".7 If it is possible to build environmentally safe homes, then that should be done, but if it is not, then we are under no obligation to go without homes. When given the choice between an environmentally friendly car and one that is not, we should choose the environmentally friendly car--if it is within our financial capabilities. In other words, damage to nature should be minimized, and restoration should be done whenever possible.

The sky is not falling, however. As Nicholas Provenzo points out,
Looking at a figure as basic as life expectancy, it is obvious that people today live a lot longer than they did in the pre-industrialized world of 200 years ago. Today we enjoy such an abundance of foods, medicines and a whole host of labor-saving technologies that if a person from 200 years ago could see us now, he would be amazed that it is even possible that so many human beings can live together for so long and in such splendor.8
Man survives in nature by using his mind. Our technological developments are part of our human nature. When all is said and done, conservation is important to the Christian but not paramount. The Christian's responsibility is not to nature but to the Creator. The Creator has given us the authority to make decisions affecting the earth and its creatures, and we should use it wisely.


References


  1. Global Warming Information Page. Global Warming in Brief
  2. Ibid.
  3. Bernstein, Andrew, Ph.D. Environmentalism vs. Human Life
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Berliner, Michael S., Ph.D. On Earth Day Remember
  7. Ibid.
  8. Provenzo, Nicholas. The Earth is Mankind's Garden