Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Three Sides to Environmentalism
One side says the world is going to hell in a handbasket and there aren't enough handbaskets to go around. Man is an accident, or at least a byproduct of chance, therefore his technology is unnatural and a threat to the environment. In the name of $$, man is emitting harmful amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and causing the world to burn a blaze.
The other side is one that says that the markets are always right. When left to free market forces, corporations will by nature produce technology that will keep getting cleaner and cleaner to meet a growing enviro-consciousness on the part of the consumer. Some on this side go so far as to say that man-made global warming is a scare tactic for the other side to generate $$.
I do believe it is always wise to follow the $$ on both sides of an issue, but the whole issue of whether or not global warming is occurring or whether or not it might be man-made, is irrelevant to the argument made by the third side.
This third side comes from a Christian worldview. If you and I are a byproduct of chance evolutionary processes that normally take millions of years to affect change, than man's exponential pace of technological advancement is easily outpacing evolutionary forces. We are paving the earth faster than animal and plant life can adapt to the pavement. Urban sprawl is growing faster than the deer's ability to adapt to the shrinkage of surrounding forest.
But if life has a purpose and therefore a purpose-maker, than nothing is a surprise. Everything has been planned for. This Divine purpose-maker isn't surprised by the emergence of technology. He isn't scratching His head in wonder as to how life here on earth is going to adapt to increases in Co2 emissions.
G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, noted the following about life:
“Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.” – Pg 46
The world that we know appears to have a similtude to perfection, an illusory mirage of it, whose shadow always sits one step further than we can go.
Why would this be?
This appears to be true in nature. I've heard Christians in particular focus on how the earth has been made to be so habitable with its regular rain cycles, liveable temperate ranges, oxygen to nitrogen composition in the atmosphere, perfect distance from the sun, etc......
However, have you ever noticed that the earth looks a little more habitable than it is? "Its exactitude is obvious but its inexactitude is hidden, its wildness lies in wait" to borrow again from Chesterton?
In other words, I have noticed that the earth is more or less habitable but not completely. It seems to provide us just enough struggle to cause us to work but not enough to cause us to die.
For instance, I was looking at an unmowed and unkept field near my workplace this summer. I was thinking about the fact that before man began to build roads, he had to walk in wildernesses of such fields, getting his ankles bit by various insects. Why wouldn't God have created the earth with fields paved by nature?
I have an answer and no I'm not on a tangent from the topic at hand....
Viktor Frankl in his book, "Man's Search for Meaning" writes:
"What man needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task."
It appears to me that God has made the earth in this way. It has been designed to be habitable, yet it gives us just enough resistance to justify a life that is defined and even fueled by struggle.
The field that I observed has been designed to be tamed. It has been designed to be tamed by man's blades (sickle, lawn mower, tractor, etc....)
The trees have been designed not only to give us shade, provide fruit, convert CO2 into oxygen but also to give us wood by being chopped down. Imagine a world where one purpose of trees is to be chopped down. Envision a world where grass blades are also meant to be stepped on, a world where the atmosphere might be meant to receive emissions.....
Its really not that hard. After all, our bodies are designed to receive death....
I was told by a wonderful hospice worker that I met when my wife's grandfather was dying that just before the body passes, it goes into a state where it releases a natural chemical that reduces pain.
This begs the question. Why would such a process evolve? Evolution's heart is "*Survival* of the fittest". No, this screams design, not humanistic evolution.
In a world designed by a wise, all-knowing, good creator, nature is meant both to be enjoyed, and consumed, to be preserved yet used.
I am not suggesting a consumeristic pillaging of the earth.
"The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof" Psalm 24:1
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..." - Romans 1:20
"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." - Romans 8:22
I don't believe our car emissions are causing man-made global warming because I believe God foresaw our technological advances in transportation to account for them. But at the same time we should be wise stewards of the environment, always striving to replace resources that we use, to keep the earth as clean as possible to ensure a healthy life for generations to come.
A McDonald's hamburger wrapper isn't simply designed to wrap the food. It is also designed to be thrown away and hopefully recycled...
A balanced approach to environmentalism doesn't worship the earth and thus stifle scientific discovery which has its hands tied as it is prohibited to put god (the earth) under a microscope. Without setting up an idol, it stills calls us to a conservationist mindset of responsibility, fueled not by devotion to the earth (creation) but rather to its Creator.
The devil is in the extremes.
There are three sides to every story. One extreme, its opposite extreme, and the truth.