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Environmentalism (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Environmental movement (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Radical environmentalism (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Eco-Imperialism’s Deadly Consequences (Foxnews, 031205)

What Scriptures Tell Us About Environmental Stewardship (National Center for Public Policy Research, 980600)

Stewardship and Economics: Two Sides of the Same Coin (Acton Institute, 060215)





Environmentalism (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


Environmentalism usually refers to the ideology of any environmental movement, and can refer also to advocacy, legislation and treaties. Note that conservation movements, ecology movements, peace movements, green parties, green- and eco-anarchists often subscribe to very different ideologies, while supporting the same goals as those who call themselves ‘environmentalists’. To outsiders, these groups or factions can appear to be indistinguishable.


One of the shared concerns of all types of environmentalism is opposing pollution. In this sense, most people in the world are “environmentalists” since hardly anyone wants to breathe air choked with fumes or swim in dirty water. For people in underdeveloped countries, the problem is often finding clean drinking water.


In another sense, the meaning of the term “pollution” has been extended to include industrial emission of carbon dioxide, which is beneficial to plant growth and harmless to human beings in ordinary concentrations. Proponents of the global warming hypothesis and supporters of the Kyoto Protocol classify carbon dioxide as a “pollutant” due to their belief that it contributes to harmful global warming (see climate change issues).


In psychology, environmentalism is the theory that environment (in the general and social sense) plays a greater role than heredity in determining an individual’s development.


The term in both senses was first used in the early 20th century. They are related by the observation that if one’s surroundings play a great role in individual development, and those surroundings are either green, beautiful, healthy and thriving, or gray, ugly, degraded, unhealthy and unable to sustain themselves, two different attitudes to life develop. This is reflected in the modern controversy over measuring well-being which often places importance on aesthetics and experience of a healthy natural environment, e.g. gardens.


As human population and industrial activity have increased, the growth of (political, nature-promoting) environmentalism reflects considerable controversy, with those who place high importance on environmentalism (environmentalists) coming into conflict with those who accord it lesser importance or who otherwise disagree with various elements of the environmentalist’s current agenda.


Environmentalists can conserve resources in many ways. Driving a fuel-efficient car, taking short showers, and eating vegan food are among these. Fuel-efficient cars have lower emissions and consume less oil, which is a limited resource. Short showers consume less fresh water. Vegan food (soybeans, rice, green vegetables) takes less land, water, and oil to grow and eat directly than to grow soybeans, feed the soybeans to a pig, and then eat the pig.


Environmentalists often clash with others over issues of the management of natural resources, e.g. the atmosphere as a “carbon dump”, the focus of climate change and global warming controversy. They usually seek to protect commonly owned, or unowned, resources for future generations.


Those who take issue with new untested technologies are more precisely known, especially in Europe, as political ecologists. They usually seek, in contrast, to preserve the integrity of existing ecologies and ecoregions, and in general are more pessimistic about human ‘management’.


Various extreme ideologies of radical environmentalism, and several ecology-based theories of anarchy (known as (small-g) green anarchism) are often cited to justify equipment sabotage, logging or fishing blockades, and even burning of houses impinging on a natural ecology. Environmentalists differ in their views of these ideologies and groups, but almost all condemn violent actions that can harm humans. They are somewhat more tolerant of the destruction of property not essential to sustaining or saving human life. The most extreme, sometimes called terrists, often claim to view themselves as part of nature, simply acting to protect itself from man.




Environmental movement (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


Environmental movement is a term often used as a synonym for other, more specific, social and political movements, which tend to share a common history and cite common heroes and moral examples in their myths.


* The North American Conservation movement dating at least to James Audubon which sought to protect biodiversity on aesthetic traditional and spiritual grounds.

* Environmental health movement dating at least to Rachel Carson, and more related to nutrition, preventive medicine, aging well and other human body specific concerns. In these the natural environment is of interest mostly as an early warning system for what may happen to humans.

* Ecology movement which focused on Gaia theory, value of Earth and other inter-relations between human sciences and human responsibilities. Its spinoff Deep Ecology was more spiritual but often claimed to be science.

* Peace movement including the anti-nuclear movement which opposes nuclear weapon and nuclear power research and deployment.


The generic term “environmental” sometimes invokes a moral code that all these groups tend to share, often with the perceptual psychology notion that one’s perception of one’s environment, and of oneself, are always of a kind. One way to state the difference is that conservationists and ecologists advocate whats “good for you” -- while many environmentalists advocate what’s good -- period.


North American history


In North America the early role models are Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman, Chief Seattle, and Thoreau. By word and deed, they argued that man belonged in harmony with nature, as its keystone species - in the terms of modern ecology. They saw no contradiction in altering or inhabiting the natural environment, and living in harmony with it forever. They did not resist development or colonization of lands - indeed [Seattle’s Reply], 1854, was an agreement not to resist it.


Early environmentalists encouraged emulation of indigenous peoples and enriching the natural ecology with slow patient effort - Chapman alone planted millions of apple trees throughout the United States. The movement had little or no explicit political character. It was mostly aesthetic. It had no central doctrine. Most of its proponents did not know each other, but created a powerful discourse that influenced people strongly at the time.


Environmental versus Conservation movement


By contrast with the conservation movement (an American invention of John Audubon and others who invoked Christian reverence for the Creation), early [environmentalists] did not lobby for parks or human exclusion from “the wild”. They did not see humans as apart from nature.


The harshest critic of the environmental movement in the 20th century was probably Ayn Rand, who considered it to be the opponent of human morality, creativity and industry. While carefully differentiating and not attacking the old American conservation movement, in her book “The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution”, 1971, she scoffed that the environmental movement was attempting to re-create the Garden of Eden - in defiance even of Judeo-Christian ethics which said that man did not belong there and could not return.


Some took her critique as a compliment. Others considered the criticism valid. A very few in deep ecology considered it both valid, and a compliment.


Role of science


Largely due to this political critique and confusion, and a growing concern with the environmental health problems caused by pesticides, some serious biologists and ecologists created the scientific ecology movement which would not confuse empirical data with visions of a desirable future world.


Today it is the science of ecology, rather than any aesthetic goals, that provide the basis of unity to most environmentalists. All would accept some level of scientific input into decisions about biodiversity or forest use. Most would generally deny that there is such a thing as “environmentalism” and consider that phrase an invention of enemies.


One way to avoid the stigma of an “ism” was to evolve early anti-nuclear groups into the more scientific Green Parties, sprout new NGOs such as Greenpeace and Earth Action, and devoted groups to protecting global biodiversity and preventing climate change. But in the process, much of the emotional appeal, and many of the original aesthetic goals were lost - these groups have well-defined ethical and political views, backed by hard science.


renewed focus on local action


However, the environmental movement today persists in many smaller local groups, usually within ecoregions, furthering spiritual and aesthetic values Thoreau or those who rewrote Chief Seattle’s Reply would recognize. Some resemble the old U.S. conservation movement - whose modern expression is the Sierra Club, Audubon Society and National Geographic Society - American organizations with a worldwide influence.


These “politically neutral” groups tend to avoid global conflicts and view the settlement of inter-human conflict as separate from regard for nature - in direct contradiction to the ecology movement and peace movement which have increasingly close links: While Green Parties and Greenpeace, for example, regard ecology, biodiversity and an end to non-human extinction as absolutely basic to peace, the local groups may not, and may see a high degree of global competition and conflict as justifiable if it lets them preserve their own local uniqueness. This seems selfish to some. However, such groups tend not to “burn out” and to sustain for long periods, even generations, protecting the same local treasures. The Water Keepers Alliance is a good example of such a group that sticks to local questions.


The visions and confusions, however, persist. The new tribalist vision of society for example echoes the concerns of the original environmentalists to a degree. And the more local groups increasingly find that they benefit from collaboration, e.g. on consensus decison making methods, or making simultaneous policy, or relying on common legal resources, or even sometimes a common glossary. However, the differences between the various groups that make up the modern environmental movement tend to outweigh such similarities, and they rarely co-operate directly except on a few major global questions.




Gaia can refer to:


* Gaia, Greek and Roman goddess

* Dr. James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis

* The Gaia theory (science), a group of scientific theories about how life on Earth may regulate the planet’s biosphere to make it more hospitable to life. This article discusses all scientific views on the subject in general, including the views of Drs. James Lovelock, Lynn Margulis, Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, etc.

* Gaia philosophy -- Varied philosophical views related to the Gaia theory.

* Gaia is an imaginary planet set in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series. It is society in which all animals, planets, and even inanimate matter are telepathically connected.


Gaia philosophy


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Gaia philosophy is a broadly inclusive term for related concepts that living organisms on a planet will affect the nature of their environment -- to make it more suitable for life. This set of theories holds that all organisms on a planet regulate the biosphere to the benefit of the whole. The Gaia concept draws a connection between the survivability of a species, (hence its evolutionary course) and their usefulness to the survival of other species.


While there were a number of precursors to Gaia theory, the first scientific form of this idea was proposed as the Gaia Hypothesis by James Lovelock, a U.K. chemist, in 1970. The Gaia hypothesis deals with the concept of homeostasis, and claim the resident life forms of a host planet coupled with their environment have acted and act as a single, self-regulating system. The system includes the near-surface rocks, the soil, and the atmosphere. While controversial at first, various forms of this idea became accepted to some degree by many within the scientific community.


These theories are also very significant in green politics.


Predecessors to the Gaia theory


There are some mystical, scientific and religious predecessors to the theory, which had a Gaia-like conceptual basis.. Many religious mythologies had a view of Earth as being a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. (e.g. some Native American Indian religions).


Lewis Thomas held that Earth should be viewed as a single cell; he derived this view from Johannes Kepler’s view of Earth as a single round organism. Teilhard de Chardin, a paleontologist and geologist, believes that evolution unfolded from cell to organism to planet to solar system and ultimately the whole-universe as we humans see it from our limited perspective. De Chardin later influenced Thomas Berry and many Catholic humanist thinkers of the 20th century. Buckminster Fuller is generally credited with making the idea respectable in Western scientific circles in the 20th century. Building to some degree on his observations and artifacts, e.g. the Dymaxion Map of the Earth he created, others began to ask if there was a way to make Gaia theory scientifically sound.


None of these ideas are considered scientific hypotheses; by definition a scientific hypothesis must make testable predictions. As the above claims are not testable, they are outsides the bounds of science.


These are conjectures and perhaps can only be considered as social and maybe political philosophy; they may have implications for theology.


Range of views


Gaia theory is a spectrum of hypotheses, ranging from the undeniable to radical. At one end is the undeniable statement that the organisms on the Earth have radically altered its composition. A stronger position is that the Earth’s biosphere effectively acts as if it is a self-organizing system which works in such a way as to keep its systems in some kind of equilibrium that is conducive to life. Biologists usually view this activity as an undirected emergent property of the ecosystem; as each individual species pursues its own self-interest, their combined actions tend to have counterbalancing effects on environmental change. Proponents of this view sometimes point to examples of life’s actions in the past that have resulted in dramatic change rather than stable equilibrium, such as the conversion of the Earth’s atmosphere from a reducing environment to an oxygen-rich one.


An even stronger claim is that all lifeforms are part of a single planetary being, called Gaia. In this view, the atmosphere, the seas, the terrestrial crust would be the result of interventions carried out by Gaia, through the coevolving diversity of living organisms. Most scientists do not hold this view; however such a view is considered within scientific possibility.


The most extreme form of Gaia theory is that the entire Earth is a single unified organism; in this view the Earth’s biosphere is consciously manipulating the climate in order to make conditions more conducive to life. Scientists contend that there is no evidence at all to support this last point of view, and it has come about because many people do not understand the concept of homeostasis. Many non-scientists instinctively see homeostatis as an activity that requires conscious control, although this is not so.


Much more speculative versions of Gaia, including all versions in which it is held that the Earth is actually conscious or part of some universe-wide evolution, are currently held to be outside the bounds of science.


Gaia in biology and science


See the main article Gaia theory (science) for more.


Buckminster Fuller has been credited as the first to incorporate scientific ideas into a Gaia theory, which he did with his Dymaxion Map of the Earth.


The first scientifically rigorous theory was the Gaia Hypothesis by James Lovelock, a U.K. chemist. While controversial at first, various forms of this idea became accepted to some degree by many within the scientific community. A variant of this hypothesis was developed by Lynn Margulis, a microbiologist, in 1979. Her version is sometimes called the “Gaia Theory” (note uppercase-T). Her model is more limited in scope than the one that Lovelock proposed.


Whether this sort of system is present on Earth is still open to debate. Some relatively simple homeostatic mechanisms are generally accepted. For example, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rise, plants are able to grow better and thus remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but the extent to which these mechanisms stabilize and modify the Earth’s overall climate are not known.


The Gaia hypothesis is sometimes viewed from significantly different philosophical perspectives. Some environmentalists view it as an almost conscious process, in which the Earth’s ecosystem is literally viewed as a single unified organism. Some evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, view it as an undirected emergent property of the ecosystem; as each individual species pursues its own self-interest, their combined actions tend to have counterbalancing effects on environmental change. Proponents of this view sometimes point to examples of life’s actions in the past that have resulted in dramatic change rather than stable equilibrium, such as the conversion of the Earth’s atmosphere from a reducing environment to an oxygen-rich one.


Depending on how strongly the case is stated, the hypothesis conflicts with mainstream neo-Darwinism. Most biologists would accept Daisyworld-style homeostasis as possible, but would not accept the idea that this equates to the whole biosphere acting as one organism.


A very small number of scientists, and a much larger number of environmental activists, claim that Earth’s biosphere is consciously manipulating the climate in order to make conditions more conducive to life. Scientists contend that there is no evidence to support this belief, which has only come about because most people do not understand the concept of homeostasis. Many non-scientists instinctively see homeostasis as an activity that requires conscious control, although this is not so. This leads to some confusion on both sides, and the labels mysticism and scientism are applied to some adherents of the theory.


Gaia in the social sciences


A social science view of Gaia theory is the role of humans as a keystone species. If they act to prevent climate change, primate extinction, etc., then they might make a homeostasis with their own cognition.


Gaia in politics


Some radical political environmentalists who accept some form of the Gaia theory call themselves Gaians. They actively seek to restore the Earth’s homeostasis - whenever they see it out of balance, e.g. to prevent manmade climate change, primate extinction, or rainforest loss. In effect, they seek to cooperate to ‘become’ the “system consciously manipulating to make conditions more conducive to life”. Such activity ‘defines’ the homeostasis, but for leverage it relies on deep investigation of the homeorhetic balances, if only to find places to intervene in a system which is changing in undesirable ways.


Gaians are attempting to create a new ideology which fuses conclusions from science and politics; they see this as a a protoscience of human ecology. These ideas include the idea of humans as the keystone species, say act to prevent climate change, primate extinction, etc., and might deliberately maintain the balances of the entire biosphere with their own cognition.


One is not passively asking “what is going on”, but rather, “what to do next”, e.g. in terraforming or climate engineering or even on a small scale as gardening. Changes could thus be planned, consented to by many people, and very deliberate, as in urban ecology and especially industrial ecology. See arcology for more on this ‘active’ view.


Gaians argue that it is a human duty to act as such - committing themselves in particular to the Precautionary Principle. Such views began to influence the Green Parties, Greenpeace, and a few more radical wings of the environmental movement. These views dominate some such groups, e.g. the Bioneers. Some refer to this political activity as a separate and radical branch of the ecology movement, one that takes the axioms of the science of ecology in general, and Gaia theory in particular, and raises them to a kind of theory of personal conduct or moral code.


Semantic debate


The question of “what is an organism” and at what scale is it rational to speak about organisms vs. biospheres, give rise to a semantic debate. We are all ecologies in the sense that our (human) bodies contain gut bacteria, parasite species, etc., and to them our body is not organism but rather more of a microclimate or biome. Applying that thinking to whole planets:


The argument is that these symbiotic organisms, being unable to survive apart from each other and their climate and local conditions, form an organism in their own right, under a wider conception of the term organism than is conventionally used. It is a matter for often heated debate whether this is a valid usage of the term, but ultimately it appears to be a semantic dispute. In this sense of the word organism, it is argued under the theory that the entire biomass of the Earth is a single organism (as Johannes Kepler thought).


Unfortunately, many supporters of the various Gaia theories do not state exactly where they sit on this spectrum; this makes discussion and criticism difficult.


Much effort on behalf of those analyzing the theory currently is an attempt to clarify what these different hypotheses are, and whether they are proposals to ‘test’ or ‘manipulate’ outcomes. Both Lovelock’s and Margulis’s understanding of Gaia are considered valid scientific theories, and are now a part of biology proper.


More speculative versions of Gaia, including all versions in which it is held that the Earth is actually conscious, are currently held to be outside the bounds of science. The views of self-proclaimed political Gaians are in this category.




Radical environmentalism (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)


Some environmentalists take the position that traditional methods of social change like political lobbying, public awareness campaigns, and the like are insufficient for achieving necessary changes in the relationship between humans and the environment. As such, radical environmentalists resort to non-traditional forms of activism that are often illegal.


Environmental crisis


Most radical environmentalists take the view that destruction of the environment is fast approaching crisis point, and that if serious changes are not made in the relationship between humans and the natural world, the health of the planet, or at least of many living species, are at grave risk. Many subscribe to a philosophy encompassing this ideal called deep ecology.


History of Radical Environmentalism


The first (as far as this author cares to verify) significant radical environmentalist group was Greenpeace, which made use of direct action to confront a variety of transgressors, including whaling ships and nuclear weapons testers.


In 1980 an organization called Earth First! was established by Dave Foreman and others to confront environmental destruction, primarily of the American West. Inspired by the Edward Abbey novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang”, Earth First! made use of such techniques as treesitting and treespiking to stop logging companies, as well as other (illegal) activities targeted towards mining, road construction, suburban development and energy companies.


In the mid-90s, Earth First! renounced the use of violence and committed to using other forms of activism to pursue the same goals. This led to a split within the movement, and the emergence of the increasingly militant Earth Liberation Front (ELF), concommitant with the emergence of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). The ELF gained national attention for a series of actions which earned them the label of ecoterrorists, including the burning of a ski resort in Vail, Colorado, and the burning of an SUV dealership in Oregon.


Following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack several laws were passed increasing the penalty for ecoterrorism, and hearings were held in Congress discussing the activity of groups such as the ELF. To date no one has been killed as a result of an ELF or ALF action, causing some to wonder whether the label of terrorist is appropriate.




Eco-Imperialism’s Deadly Consequences (Foxnews, 031205)


The United Nations’ global warming bureaucracy is meeting (vacationing?) in Milan this week pondering how to revive the beleaguered international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol. This week’s news that Russia might say “nyet” to the treaty all but seals its doom.


“A number of questions have been raised about the link between carbon dioxide and climate change which do not appear convincing and clearly it sets very serious brakes on economic growth which do not look justified,” said an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin.


The treaty’s scientific and economic shortcomings are both excellent reasons for rejecting it. Another reason not mentioned nearly often enough, however, is exposed in compelling fashion by Paul Driessen in his new book “Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death.”


Driessen, a senior fellow at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and a former member of the Sierra Club and Zero Population Growth, reveals how the ideological environmental movement -- essentially comprised of wealthy, left-leaning Americans and Europeans -- wants to impose its views on billions of poor, desperate Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.


Eco-imperialism violates these people’s most basic human rights, maintains Driessen, and denies them economic opportunities, the chance for better lives, and the right to rid their countries of diseases that were vanquished long ago in the U.S. and Europe.


Hollywood actor and eco-imperialist Ed Begley, Jr., for example, preaches that “the two most abundant forms of power on Earth are solar and wind…It’s much cheaper for everybody in Africa to have electricity where they need it, on their huts.”


Drissen points out, however, that while solar panels would be a major improvement over “current” conditions in many areas of the third world, they are but a band-aid approach to the developing world’s critical electrical deficiency.


“They cannot possibly provide sufficient power for anything more than basic necessities, and large-scale photovoltaic electricity is far more expensive than what is produced by coal, natural gas, nuclear or hydroelectric pants. Wind power has the same shortcomings. For impoverished countries where few have access to electricity, these are not idle considerations,” writes Driessen.


The environmental movement “has repeatedly used the alleged threat of global eco-catastrophe -- e.g., global warming -- to override the wishes of people who most desperately need energy and progress,” he adds.


In India’s Gujarat Province, a dam project was halted after eco-activists pressured international lending agencies to withdraw financial support. The dam had to be stopped because it would “change the path of the river, kill little creatures along its banks and uproot tribal people in the area,” one eco-activist smugly intoned.


“The local ‘tribal people,’ however, don’t appear to appreciate her intervention,” offers Driessan. “One resident angrily called the activists’ handiwork ‘a crime against humanity,’ because the project would have provided electricity for 5,000 villages; low-cost renewable power for industries and sewage treatment plants; irrigation water for crops; and clean water for 35 million people.”


Driessan’s book isn’t limited to global warming and third world energy problems. The chapter “Sustainable Mosquitoes -- Expendable People” describes the ongoing tragedy of the eco-activist crusade against DDT.


“Our family and community are suffering and dying from [malaria], and too many Europeans and environmentalists only talk about protecting the environment,” says 34-year old Ugandan businesswoman with malaria. “But what about the people? The mosquitoes are everywhere. You think you’re safe, and you’re not. Europeans and Americans can afford to deceive themselves about malaria and pesticides. But we can’t,” she added.


The Ugandan woman is only one of more than 300 million annual victims of malaria in the third world. Between 2-3 million die every year. “Over half the victims are children, who die at a rate of two per minute or 3,000 per day -- the equivalent of 80 fully loaded school buses plunging over a cliff every day of the year,” explains Driessen.


Despite this ongoing public health horror story, the United Nations Environment Programme, World Bank, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network, World Wildlife Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other eco-imperialist groups oppose the use of DDT -- the only practical solution to the malaria crisis. The eco-imperialists’ disturbing attitude toward the third world is perhaps most frighteningly described by Robert S. Desowitz in another must-read, “The Malaria Capers,” (W.W. Norton, 1991).


Desowitz reports a U.S. Agency for International Development official named Edwin Cohn as saying, “The third world didn’t require a healthy labor force because there was a surplus of workers; better some people should be sick with malaria and spread the job opportunities around.” Even more bluntly, Cohn reportedly said people in the third world were “better [off] dead than alive and riotously reproducing.”


There should be no question, then, about Eco-Imperialism’s subtitle: Green power does indeed mean black death.


Steven Milloy is the publisher of, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).




What Scriptures Tell Us About Environmental Stewardship (National Center for Public Policy Research, 980600)


by Samuel Casey Carter


Now that secular liberalism has all but driven orthodox religion out of public life, it should come as no surprise that heterodox spirituality has become the latest battering ram of the left. In a time when the Bible has been expunged from schoolrooms as an icon of Western bigotry, biblical arguments are now oddly on the comeback, recast as a fashionable means of pushing a leftist agenda. What is not to be expected is the degree to which well-meaning Christians have become the spokesmen of these distortions. Embracing the tenets of radical environmentalism without an eye to the manner in which these teachings are fundamentally hostile to Christian tradition, a new brand of Christian is out to save the earth, but in so doing he may well flip his faith upon its head.


Man and the Environment


A number of Evangelical organizations have recently risen to prominence by popularizing what they take to be biblical mandates for their activist brand of environmentalism. With names like the Evangelical Environmental Network, the Christian Environmental Association, and the Christian Society of the Green Cross, a whole swarm of seemingly mainstream Protestant organizations conjures support for their activist programs through specious readings of disconnected biblical texts. Although much of what they do is fairly benign local activism of the sort promoted everywhere these days, much of what they say only counsels further governmental intervention into areas where government has already complicated delicate environmental situations. But regardless of anyone’s support for the Endangered Species Act, Superfund, or any of the programs initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency, the specific manipulation of biblical passages in order to achieve certain political goals is an abuse that must be met head on. If the Bible says anything about man’s sound management of natural resources, it does so only in the setting of man’s relationship with God. Our moral concern for the environment, in other words, is primarily a concern for the dignity of the human person who alone was entrusted by God with the stewardship of creation. Although all of creation celebrates the glory of God, the human person alone is equipped to discern the will of his creator regarding the proper use of that creation. As the only rational animal, man is uniquely qualified to discern not only that there is order in the universe, but, given his freedom of choice, how he is to act within that order to the pleasure and satisfaction of his God.


The dignity of the human person, therefore, is the essential starting point in all matters of environmental responsibility, because it is both for the common good of humanity that our environmental policy must be supremely directed, and it is from the ingenuity of individual human persons that appropriate solutions to our environmental problems will emerge. Any reading of the Bible that says otherwise only puts man in service to that creation that was originally given to him for his use and enjoyment.


Because the good of a clean environment is self-evident, while the true meaning of Scripture is bound in tradition and prayerful study, the challenge here is to keep two very different fields of inquiry in balance. Scripture does not teach science, for example, but to know that demands a clear understanding of the tradition. Likewise, the creation account in Genesis requires a knowledge of the tradition so that its literal reading is not mistaken for scientific fact. Discerning what the Bible says is a science in itself not to be confused with environmental science taken simply.


Negotiating the sweeping statements of green theologians, therefore, requires some care, even if the challenge they present is painfully uncomplicated. It is the proper handling of the Bible that requires our patience. If, however, we take the time to read the Scriptures as they have been understood for centuries, so much of this greenery goes away. As we will see, its teachings are simply at odds with even the most basic Christian doctrines.


Christianity and Science


Christian environmentalists pride themselves on their interdisciplinary approach that blends scientific rigor with the fullest interpretation of the Gospel. Before turning to any specific passages they cite from Scripture, we should say a few words about the Christian origins of science. Knowing where science came from will help us to judge its proper use.


Without Christianity, science is impossible. The rational investigation of the world can proceed only on the assumption that the universe is an ordered place. The laws of physics, for example, are regular and predictable. If instead, physical laws were the whim of some capricious rock nymph, no coherent account could ever be given for the way things work. Pantheism and paganism of any kind just don’t allow for scientific inquiry.


Against this, the Judeo-Christian worldview was the first to see that God, the creator of all, is himself a transcendent God apart from his creation. Once God is distinguished from nature in this way, nature can be freely explored without fear of transgression. As Robert Whelan has so memorably put it, people won’t be squeamish to put things under a microscope once they are certain that a god doesn’t live in them. (i)


Perhaps even more important to the rise of science is the Christian conception of time. When all other cultures, including those of Ancient Greece and Arabia, were trapped in eternally recurring temporal cycles, the Hebrew Scriptures tell of a God who created all the known universe out of nothing and in time. The story of the people Israel, begun in creation and fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is a story with a unified purpose from the beginning of time until its end in the second coming. Time, in this conception, has meaning. Every historical moment follows on another unique moment in time, shaping the whole of creation into a setting where progress and purpose are possible.


Seen in this way, western science is the heritage of western religion. It is only in a culture where progress can be identified and where regular physical laws are observed over time that the world becomes a place worthy of empirical investigation. Christian environmentalists are concerned that science has come to dominate nature. It is important to tell them that this is an appropriate expression of their religion.


Christianity makes the entire ascent of western science possible because it is through Christian tradition that man’s ability to reason is identified as unique in nature and of a divine purpose. Man alone is made in God’s image. Unlike the rest of nature that simply has a place in the world, the whole of nature has been delivered over to man for him to use as he sees fit. Man is not simply the head of the natural order, rather, that order was made for him.


What is more, Christianity teaches that after making man in his own image, God sent his only Son into the world to save man from sin and bring him the gift of everlasting life. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not only is the created order set aside for man’s use - now as the arena of his redemption - but the whole of eternity is singularly directed toward the achievement of man’s salvation. In true Christian teaching, the role of the world is not in doubt. Man alone was made for eternal life with God - the world is simply the place where he learns that. In turning their eyes back to the Earth, Christian environmentalists are losing sight of man’s salvation.


What the Bible Says


Biblical interpretation is a subtle and nuanced science. Given each of the claims just made above, literally hundreds of passages might be assembled to paint the picture now before us. But perhaps ten, twenty, thirty other passages could be marshaled against that evidence to present a rather different viewpoint than the one shown here. Is that how the Bible works? Whoever scurries amid its pages to find the most evidence for his argument eventually wins the day?


Take a few examples from what has just been said. Man alone is made in God’s image. Where does it say that? Well, in Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Okay, fine. What does it mean that God says “Let us” make man? Is God really a pantheon no different than what the Egyptians or Hindus conceived in their eternally recurring mythologies? Or is this plural form of the pronoun some foreshadowing of the Triune Christian God? More to the point, what does it mean for God to say anything anyway? I thought he was some transcendental God distinct from the created order. What’s God’s image anyhow? God can’t have an image. God has a Son? Is he God’s image then? Is that why God is plural to indicate him and his Son? Or is something else going on here? Maybe this is really about man and how man acts like God?


Needless to say, sound biblical interpretation takes time.


Throughout our entire Judeo-Christian tradition, the interpretation of Holy Scripture is an activity intimately linked with the exercise of authority. Whether you are a Jew in Palestine before the birth of Christ or a Lutheran in Reformation Germany, lurking behind every theological question, like those now before us, stands this matter of authority. Upon what authority is anything known? Is what you say taught definitively on the authority of the Bible or the Church? Answers to questions like these have brought whole religions into being.


Since the formulation of Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century, the orthodox conception of authority rests on a threefold foundation: the apostolic canon of Holy Scripture; the apostolic Creed, or rule of faith through which Scripture is to be interpreted; and the apostolic episcopate, or the bishops, entrusted with the teaching function through which Scripture and faith are properly recognized.


According to Irenaeus, Christ himself is the ultimate source of Christian doctrine. Being himself the truth and the eternal Word of God the Father, Christ entrusted all revelation to his apostles, and so it is through them that the knowledge of revelation is properly obtained. As Tertullian, another early Father of the Church insisted, Christians must not pick and choose various doctrines according to their whims; their sole authorities are the apostles, who had themselves first faithfully transmitted Christ’s teaching.


This transmission of Christ’s revelation through the apostles is known as the tradition. Because the apostles alone are the direct heirs of Christ’s teaching, they are responsible for all three aspects of its authoritative transmission - through Scripture, Creed, and Doctrine. It is in this way then, through the tradition of the Church passed down from the apostles, that the authority of Scripture and the manner in which it is to be interpreted is maintained in all its integrity. Without that authority some pretty weird things begin to happen - Christians start to pick and choose various doctrines according to their whims.


Creation Care


Green Cross is the official publication of the Christian Society of the Green Cross. According to its publishers, their magazine is intended to help “readers care for Creation in a way that is faithful to Jesus Christ, biblical revelation, and scientific analysis.” The product of their good works taken together they call “creation care.”


Creation care is also what the Evangelical Environmental Network hopes to elicit from those who sign on to its Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation. “Committed to the full authority of the Scriptures,” and acting to “extend Christ’s healing to suffering creation,” the Declaration urges “individual Christians and churches to be centers of creation’s care and renewal.” (ii) It’s hard to know at first what this might mean. Luckily, the document is more explicit elsewhere when it speaks to a growing crisis in the “health of the creation” resulting from various forms of environmental degradation. The Declaration sums up this state of affairs with the odd formulation, “because we have sinned, we have failed in our stewardship of creation.” As it turns out, the material world is suffering for man’s spiritual deficiencies.


Make no mistake about it, this way of talking subordinates religious belief to a materialist view of the world. Oddly, it is in fact scientific talk unhinged from its religious origins. It only takes a single paragraph of the Declaration to prove this point:


Many of these degradations are signs that we are pressing against the finite limits God has set for creation. With continued population growth, these degradations will become more severe. Our responsibility is not only to bear and nurture children, but to nurture their home on Earth. We respect the institution of marriage as the way God has given to insure thoughtful procreation of children and their nurture to the glory of God.


Throughout the Declaration all of the appeals to scriptural authority are a ruse. All of the pious inflections are a sham. The only concern here is for how the genius of human science will overcome the finite limits of God’s creation. Interestingly, one of the chief expressions of that genius are the contraceptive methods necessary to “insure thoughtful procreation.”


The reference to extending Christ’s healing is particularly telling. In the same way Christ redeemed man, now man has to redeem the Earth. Needless to say, in all of man’s saving activity, God is made redundant. Ashamed of his sinfulness, man wants to restore to wholeness the world that he has polluted - in the meantime, however, God is apparently powerless to help him out.


This last observation is key. In so many works of Christian environmentalism, God is celebrated as the creator of a pristine world now deteriorating under the pall of man’s industrial activity. God, however, is always surprisingly absent from the world as it is today. Regardless of all the allusions to God’s saving grace, it will take man’s activity to return the world to its primeval beauty.


Pollute the Bible and Save the Earth


It doesn’t take much to see that something here has gone awry. Earth is not the proper object of man’s religious longings. But when a man is taught to care for the Earth with a zeal reserved for the love of God, a few things are sure to be misplaced: God and man, for starters.


Calvin B. DeWitt, co-founder of the Evangelical Environmental Network, recalls the story of Noah, “Deluges - in Noah’s time of water, and in our time of floods of people - sprawl over the land, displacing God’s creatures, limiting their potential to obey God’s command, ‘be fruitful and increase in number.’” (iii)


According to Dr. DeWitt, people are a plague. It doesn’t matter that in the Bible all creation was made for man, man is now obviously in creation’s way. Like all the other creatures, man too was told to be fruitful and multiply. But in addition, man was told to fill the Earth and subdue it. DeWitt would rather that man die. It doesn’t matter that DeWitt would exempt himself from such population control measures, one only needs to know that he cites God’s command in order to undermine God’s purpose. (iv) Stan LeQuire, one of DeWitt’s colleagues, is also fond of the Noah story:


God wants us to save all creatures, every slug and salamander. And so we say, let God decide which creatures shall survive. It is ours to help; it is not ours to decide. If creatures become extinct on our account, because of our greed or neglect, we’re playing God, and that is blasphemy. That is sin.


LeQuire is playing God more than he knows. He wants to salvage salamanders, but for him people are pollution. If here is blasphemy to be found, it is in his own contempt for the human race made in God’s image.


But since they mention it, let’s remember the point of Noah’s story. Noah does not enter upon the stage uninvited or without precedent. Rather, he comes into a world ever increasingly more violent since the temptation and fall of man. Woman now gives birth in labor; man toils in the field for his sustenance. Cain slays his only brother and is banished to wander the Earth forever. For generations man’s wickedness grows until finally God is determined to destroy all that he had made.


Except for Noah, nothing and no one is spared God’s damnation before the flood. In addition to man, God set out to destroy all the beasts, and the creeping things, and the birds of the air, because he was sorry that he had made them. The story of the flood in other words is not a story about the beauty of the created order salvaged by God in the face of man’s moral wickedness. No, it is a story about the chosen people, about baptism, about rebirth, and about man’s salvation that only comes about through a covenant with God.


Reading the Bible outside of Christian tradition, DeWitt and LeQuire extract whatever doctrines they wish to find. Neither of them has any interest in discerning the four fold sense of Noah’s ark floating on the waters of destruction. Although the Church teaches that everything in Scripture carries a literal, an allegorical, a moral, and an anagogical sense, DeWitt and LeQuire are only looking for a rhetorical billyclub with which to beat their opponents into pious submission.




As it was said in the beginning, Christian environmentalists have turned the world on its head. In using language reserved for God to show their concern for the Earth, they have only bred contempt for man and made a mockery of real religion. What they have not done is to make the Earth a proper object of worship. It can’t be. But more to the point, theirs is not a genuine religious concern. They have simply invoked religious rhetoric to give new urgency to their worldly agenda. Sadly, for those who don’t discern this agenda, this manner of speaking will make an idol of the Earth.


The world is God’s creation and as such it cannot be “cared for” or praised in a manner that is reserved for God alone. That God is in all things, does not make all things into God. This simple error, however, makes paganism possible. That man is called to protect the planet, does not make the protection of the planet the singular calling of man. Yet, it is precisely this move that tempts environmentalists to invoke certain forms of religious language. When these words miss their mark, it is the world they hope to save that will pay the greatest price. Bad environmental science fueled by fake religion can only hope to hurt everyone and everything involved.


When the Lord God revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, he commanded all of Israel to have no false gods before him. In their fidelity to the Lord God, the people Israel kept the Lord’s words in their hearts, on their wrists, before their eyes, and upon their door posts. When later they crossed the Jordan to take possession of the land that the Lord God had given them, they were careful to observe all the statutes and decrees that he had set before them.


Should they ever follow false gods, they would lose the land that the Lord God had given to them for their benefit.




Samuel Casey Carter is the executive editor of Crisis, a magazine of religion, culture, and public policy published in Washington, D.C. A former student of biblical languages at St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, he is now completing his doctoral dissertation in the philosophy of mathematics for the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America.




(i) Robert Whelan, “Greens and God,” The Cross and the Rainbow, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 18


(ii) Evangelical Environmental Network, An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation


(iii) Calvin B. DeWitt, Christian Environmental Stewardship: Preparing the Way for Action


(iv) Jeffrey Smith, “Evangelical Christians Preach a Green Gospel,” High Country News, April 28, 1997 (Vol. 29, No. 8)




Stewardship and Economics: Two Sides of the Same Coin (Acton Institute, 060215)


by Jordan Ballor, Associate Editor


A group of evangelical leaders made headlines last week when they announced the formation of the Evangelical Climate Initative (ECI), a movement is intended to bring to bear the moral authority of these leaders on the question of global warming and climate change. Indeed, these Christians see their position tied up with a great responsibility: “Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better.”


For many who talk about the biblical concept of stewardship of the earth—or “creation care”— the practice of environmental responsibility is antithetical to the concerns of economics. Eugene Dykema, for example, writing for the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), one of the groups behind the formation of the ECI, talks of a view of creation in which “everything is related to everything else.” He continues, “Everything in relationship, everything in context is familiar to the field of ecology, but quite alien to the field of economics.”


Whether or not his characterization of economics is accurate, his contrasting of environmental and economic concerns is clear. But this picture is misleading in a number of ways. Perhaps the most important point to recognize is the common foundation for our respective understandings of stewardship and economics. The two are related linguistically by their common Greek origins, and related theologically by their biblical usage.


The English word economics is derived from the Greek word οικονομία, which is a compound term literally meaning “house” (οικο) “order” (νομία), and it refers to the administration of a household. The person who ruled the household was called an οικονόμος, and this is usually rendered in English as “steward” or “manager.”


The Bible uses these terms frequently, sometimes to refer to the providential work of God in redemptive history. But even in these cases, the more mundane analogue is another biblical use of the terms, regarding the everyday maintenance of a household in the Ancient Near East.


Joseph, for example, acted as the steward of Potiphar’s household when he first arrived in Egypt (Genesis 39:2–6). Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd οικονόμος (manager) in Luke 16:1–15, who used his position over worldly wealth not as an end in itself but rather with eternal consequences in mind. Jesus concludes by saying, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (v. 13).


These few examples display the shared biblical origin of the terms economics and stewardship. Economics can be understood as the theoretical side of stewardship, and stewardship can be understood as the practical side of economics. Here in the Midwest, over the course of the winter we’ve heard a number of news reports about the dilemma facing households over the rise in home heating costs. Often, the decision must be made to pay only one of two bills, to pay the heating bill or buy food. Dire situations like these are ones in which tough economic decisions are made by the heads of households.


Far from being a discipline that explains all of human existence, in the biblical view, as we saw in the case of the shrewd manager, economics is the thoughtful ordering of the material resources of a household or social unit toward the self-identified good end. Thus, if we hold a biblical view of economics and stewardship, we will not be tempted to divorce the two concepts but instead will see them as united.


On a larger scale, then, economics must play an important role in decisions about environmental stewardship. Economics helps us rightly order our stewardship. The fact that some advocates for political action on global warming are now attempting to propose economic arguments for their position is a positive step toward reconciling these two often estranged concepts.


Andy Crouch, for example, says that we have “much technological progress, energy security, and economic efficiency to gain if we act on climate change now.” Sir John Houghton, Britain’s leading climatologist, in testimony last year before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, claimed that with respect to the Kyoto protocol, “future targets adopted are achievable and compatible with healthy economic growth.” He also cites “economic and other benefits of increased efficiency” to US industries from the reduction of carbon emissions.


The underlying unity of these concepts means that the conclusions, and to a greater extent the methodology, of the Copenhagen Consensus should have an important role to play in the formation of specific policy claims by environmentally-concerned Christians. The idea of the consensus in 2004 was to take economic experts from around the world, evaluate various global threats (including global warming), and construct a “prioritized list of opportunities meeting the biggest challenges.”


When economics tells us that there are much more imminent threats and opportunities than global warming, the proper approach to Christian stewardship is to heed these priorities and work to effect changes in the most pressing areas. This means that true Christian stewardship will first support efforts to control HIV/AIDS and malaria, provide micronutrients to those suffering from malnutrition, and reduce barriers to trade—and all with a view toward meeting the Great Commission.


Jordan J. Ballor is associate editor with the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty in Grand Rapids, Mich.