Environmental Values and Ethics
Reading today’s political commentary in the news one finds that there is a divide where “Christians” are supposed to be anti-environmental, deniers of science and facts. This is even though there are many environmental organizations that identify themselves as Christian. For example the Evangelical Environmental Network and Restoring Eden are broad based organizations that are very active in the political process of environmental protection.
So let us ask the following questions:
In what ways has Christianity been considered problematic environmentally? What are for Christians possible responses to that charge?
Using a brief description for ethics as the branch of philosophy that deals with good and bad, and these defined within the framework of our cultural values. Western Culture is based on the philosophical framework stablished by the Greeks such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. So looking at The Republic by Plato one finds the beginning of the idea of balance in our society. This idea of balance has been described since as “justice” and we need to see the implications of this justice when dealing with the environment.
Then when we look at the way that Christianity supported progress during the modern era, we find passages in the Bible that speak to the superiority of humans over the rest of creation, some would say that the creation was to support human life and therefore humans have all the right to subdue the earth as stated in Genesis. [Genesis 1:28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominium over the fish of the sea and over the birds if the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” NRSV Bible]. One may argue, based on this reading that we have absolute power over nature. On top of this there are economic pressures to use natural resources in order to support the rapid pace of our progress. When progress is good just because makes life for humans better, more convenient, and secure. Being the center of creation has some advantages, right?
So how can we respond to the second question? Looking at the creation not from the anthropocentric point of view but from an ecocentric point of view as stated by Withgott and Laposata in their book Environment: The Science Behind The Stories we find also in the Bible references to our responsibility as stewards of God’s creation. In Ecclesiastes 1:1-4 we can clearly see that humans are vane and not the center of creation. “The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.”
There you have it!
For sure it is imperative that we learn more about justice and balance so we can see how to deal with the environment.