I’ve always thought that the whole discussion about proving or disproving global warming was a distracting and irrelevant conversation.
It has always seemed to me that whether or not global warming is true, or whether or not it is man made or naturally occurring; the simple fact of the matter is that petroleum resources are limited, and it would all be in our best interests to break our addiction to this limited resource. It just makes good sense.
How we do this is debatable. Being considerate of the pain of such a transition is important; especially for industries and developing regions that lack the resources to do this.
However, in the end, even this is a distracting issue.
We are not called to be environmentalists because of global warming.
We are not called to be environmentalists because of diminishing resources.
No we are called to be environmentalists because we are human, sharers of the divine nature.
We are called to be environmentalists because we innately appreciate that a dead tree is not just as good as a living tree, that a elk running in the field is not just as good as meat in the factory. We are aware that beauty has a value that cannot be reduced to market values. We recognize that that the world cannot be reduced to consumables.
Environmentalism is a human quality. This is important to emphasize. Animals are not environmentalists. The rats that were part of the extinction of the Dodo birds didn’t ever look at the Dodo bird and think “Oh, what a beautiful bird, maybe we should practice personal restraint and not eat all their eggs.” They are not moral agents; they do not meditate or contemplate, praise and appreciate. There is no agent of respect proper to hyper organized matter. It is a divine, human quality. In order to be environmentalists we actually have to become more human and less like the impulsive creatures running in the fields.
This comes to an important point: you cannot achieve the ends of environmentalism by acting in an inhuman way. This is particularly evident in the population control debate. You can’t be working towards care of the environment through the devaluing of human life; i.e. acting in an in human way and practicing infanticide(abortion). You can’t be an environmentalist and advocate for artificial contraceptives because the argument of artificial contraceptives states that humans are just animals and will just do what animals do. You cannot, on the one hand, argue that people have no power to direct their ability to consume sex and then ask them to not consume nature; it just won’t work.
This directs us to reflect on the fact that technology, by itself, will not answer the problems surrounding the environment. The core of the issue is an attitude of consumerism; the taking without respect, reflection, accountability, and gratitude. It is ultimately a spiritual problem.
The love of nature is innate to us. Both the red necks in the country and progressive hippies of the cities love nature. People are constantly seeking to get their dream home in the country; and often times people comment on how it’s so easy to encounter the Divine in natural beauty. They’ll even go so far as to comment on the fact that they just don’t feel the same when they come to pray in the Church. This is part of the problem. It is easy to find God in the open expanses and often difficult to find it in our neighbor. We love nature but hate our brother, and this ironically is the paradox. We don’t fix the environment by cleaning up the forest, we fix the environment by fostering our relationship with our neighbors. We become environmentally friendly as we become more religious, as we respect marriage and chastity, simplicity of life and communal living, self reflection and acts of gratitude, generosity and accountability. Environmentalism is very much a Christian virtue.
But, perhaps we haven’t done a good job of examining our conscience in this matter. Like pride, consumerism is systematic and touches so many areas. It’s a sin that everyone is aware of but no one is guilty of. It has this way of resisting definition and strict parameters. It is basically an attitudinal bent, but one that we haven’t always emphasized in conservative, Christian theology. So, what would a good, examination of conscience concerning respect for the environment look like?