One of the core commitments of this ministry has always been to demonstrate the truth and relevance of Christianity to all of life and culture. Toward that end I feel compelled to wade into the debate currently raging over the environment and environmentalism. On the one side we have those who would subordinate mankind to nature and on the other - well, let me be honest - Christians haven't had a lot to say in the environmental debate. What we tend to do is withdraw from the issue altogether because we don't like those who seem to be dominating the topic, or we act indifferent to the issue as if we don't care about the environment. And a few evangelical organizations have opted for a third alternative: capitulation to green politics.
For those of us who believe the extension of the kingdom is God's purpose in the world, and that this kingdom is the reign of Christ, or his supremacy over all things, this lack of engagement in particular sends a powerful but negative message. To paraphrase Dorothy Sayers, "Why would anyone remain interested in a religion that seems to have little or no interest in real life or the world in which we live?" My principal concern with developing a consciously Christ-centered approach to the environment is directly related to being missional. In other words: being able to offer a biblically intelligent response to the environmental debate offers a relevant point of connection to the Truth.
Therefore, what is needed is a thorough examination of the issues from a theologically grounded and well-reasoned approach that seeks to transcend politics. A biblical approach to the environment should balance humanity's primacy in the created order with our responsibility to steward God's good creation (cf. Genesis 1:26). Furthermore, this is a profoundly moral issue in which Christians, given the fact that this creation belongs to our Lord, should have an interest.
In order to understand the present debate, we have to begin with an examination of the underlying premise, which is that of humanity's place in the created order. Either man is created by God and thus holds a superior position in the created order with particular responsibilities, or he is merely another chance biological organism with no special distinction. These two opposing views of reality will necessarily produce two very different responses to environmental stewardship. The former will regard man as the "keeper" of the environment while the latter tends to think of humanity as the enemy of nature and the environment.
One such figure who views humans as the enemy is Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace and one of Time magazine's 20th century "environmental heroes." Watson views human beings as the "AIDS of the earth." Jeff Jacoby writing for the Boston Globe points out that Watson regards human beings as "invaders who are spoiling the planet for animals, insects, and plants that are its rightful inhabitants."
Watson "has called for the global population to be slashed from 6.5 billion to 1 billion, as well as for the elimination of cars, planes, and all ships not powered by sail." Of course, I find it interesting that those who call for such radical measures never seem to volunteer to leave the planet or stop driving cars and flying in planes, use electricity, eat food and wear clothing that utilizes energy to process and transport, etc. This is typical of those who hold to a false worldview. One either has to adjust his worldview to live in accordance with reality (as in the case of most radical environmentalists) or one has to adjust her reality to live consistent with their worldview. In the case of radical environmentalism, the latter is slightly more difficult, requiring the individual to live in a cave, grow her own food, and avoid procreation!
Jacoby adds, "While these views may seem extreme they are in fact common among the 'green elite.'" If you listen closely to the highly controversial debate over climate change, you can discern that "over-population" of environmentally hostile humans is the primary culprit in the ecological theories being put forth and popularized by the media and Hollywood celebrities.
Al Gore, speaking to an audience of environmentalists recently, said, "The world's population explosion, which by 2050 will reach 9.1 billion, has increased the demand for energy, water and food and has contributed to the problem of global warming." This is a centuries-old argument with dubious origins that culminated in the largely accepted myth of "population explosion" made popular in the 1960s.
The publication of a little pamphlet entitled The Population Bomb by Hugh Moore, founder of the Dixie Cup Company, galvanized this idea, and what began as mere speculation became the generally accepted consensus. Moore was no scientist or researcher - he had no facts or data - he simply read a book that moved him to action. That book was The Road to Survival by William Vogt, the national director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Naturally, Planned Parenthood has a stake in promoting the "population problem," which is the marketing of abortion, but that's another story. In Road to Survival Moore read how population growth was "the basic cause of future wars" and "the spread of tyranny and communism." This then became Moore's lifetime work and passion.
Moore believed that people needed to be scared, really scared, in order to become aware of the "disaster" that loomed before them. And what better way to scare them than with an image of a bomb, and talk of an explosion. These are the same alarmist tactics being employed by those harkening an imminent "planetary emergency," to use Al Gore's words.
What Al Gore neglects to say is that the 2050 global population estimate represents the peak at which point world population will begin to decline sharply. United Nations figures now show that the 79 countries that comprise 40% of the world's population now have fertility rates too low to prevent population decline.
Michael Fumento, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C writes, "The populations of several Soviet-bloc nations already are falling because of declining birth rates and emigration. Japan's population peaked in 2006 and is expected to drop by 14% (almost 20 million people) by 2050. Germany expects a similar decline, while Italy and Hungary may lose 25% of their populations and Russia a third. These nations already are becoming giant 'leisure worlds,' with Depends outselling Pampers."
In the next installment, I will show that while world population has certainly increased this has not impacted natural resources in the way suggested by Al Gore and others. The fact is technological developments have resulted in tremendous improvements related to food production and resource conservation.
In conclusion, a recent Google search revealed more than 79 million results in response to the term "global warming" while "Christianity" produced only 39 million. Clearly this is an important issue dealing with real life and the real concerns of people. The biblical life and worldview offers an intelligent and balanced approach to the subject and should be understood by professing Christians. This installment is the beginning in a series that I hope offers a helpful response to this complex and important issue, again, all for the sake of demonstrating the truth and relevance of Christ and His kingdom to all of His creation.
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S. Michael Craven is the Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to recapture and demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org.
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.
© 2007 S. Michael Craven