2006-12-31

Christ-centered Environmentalism and the Global Warming Boogeyman

This article developed in response to some questions a student posted on facebook about "global warming". It was too long to post there, so now it is here:

I have two sides on the issue of environmentalism. On one side, we have to care about the environment, because God does. He made it. He says its good. He has given us stewardship over it, and we will have to answer for how we have used what he has loaned us. If he cares about "the birds of the air... and the flowers of the field" (cf. Matthew 6), then we have to care about it too. Furthermore, this earth is what his children live on. If pollution is hurting his children, in the form of disease, bad water, acid rain, and other problems, then it is hurting God, and honestly, pissing him off. That is why I care about the environment, why I recycle, why I like bio-fuels and so forth. As follower of Christ we need to do everything we can to stop the destruction of God's world, and to redeem EVERYTHING for Christ's sake: people, places, and pollution included.

On the other side, I think this "global warming" thing may be a bunch of hoooey. When the volcano Krakatoa exploded in 1883 it put more pollutants in the air in a few days than all humans did during the entire 20th century. Krakatoa (ONE volcano!) put enough crap in the air to affect temperatures globally for several years, and this does not count the dozens or hundreds of other volcanoes that erupted. Far more methane, carbon dioxide, and pollution is put into the air by the waste products of the world's cattle, chickens, and farm animals than all of the automobiles and factories of the world combined. And, to top it off, we know that the temperature of the world has fluctuated wildly in ages past with long-term heat waves and ice-ages. And that happened without humans or human industry at all. We have only been paying attention to our temperatures for about two centuries, which is a blip on the radar screen of world history. Long story short, we know less than jack here, and what we do know points to a natural cause and not a man-made one. It is more probable that "global warming" is a conspiracy by politicians to grab more tax-money and power from you than it is a genuine crisis.

And, if global warming IS "man-made" then blaming the American SUV with all of its emissions controls is the wrong "man" to look at. Instead, look at industries in developing nations where they have little or no pollution controls. There are industrial areas in China, India, and Russia (to name a few!) where entire rivers and eco-systems are decimated, whole populations are sick, and tons of pollution goes into the air every day. And, if you think automobile smog is bad in the US, go to a busy developing-world city where they have a jillion motorcycles and no emissions controls. It is very hard to breathe (I know, I have been there). This is not to say that the US can't do better. We can, we should, and we need to. But it is to say that we lead the pack in controlling pollution, and other countries need to catch up.

The reason to care about the environment is because it hurts God's children, God's creatures, and God's property. If we don’t care about it, it’s a bit like a dog that takes a sh*t in its own dog-crate. I think "global warming" is a false issue that distracts us from the real reason to care about the environment, which is to share God's love and care for our Creator's creation. And, like I said above, I think "global warming" may just be a tool used by politicians to gain votes, power, and tax-money from us. God always calls us to care for persons more than things, and concrete realities rather than theory. In fact, good intentions and good theories often get quite twisted when we pursue them without care for the concrete effects they have on real people. For instance, think how many laws, rules, and regulation no longer apply, and may actually harm people, because they are pursued for their own sake (with "zero tolerance"!), rather than thinking how these rules affect real people in concrete situations.

Global warming is theoretical, undefined, and impersonal. It is almost impossible to tell how it started, nor if it is getting better or worse. And because it is so vague and ill-defined, it is the perfect tool to scare the hell out of people, and cause them to give money and power to the "experts" and the politicians to protect them from the bogeyman. In fact, it is just plain dumb to care about the environment only because of some illusive temperature effect that may or may not be due to us, which may or may not get worse. If global warming IS because of humans, then doing the kinds of things we need to do to care for God's property and God's children will solve it, without even having to pay attention to it. If global warming IS NOT because of humans, then nothing we do will matter anyway.

Conspiracy theories abound because it makes someone money, sells product to someone, and gives power through fear to those in control. I think global warming may be just another conspiracy theory that is distracting us from God's mission. Our lives should not be governed by fear that "the sky is falling". Our lives should be governed by love, as we try to love our neighbors as ourselves. All of our neighbors, starting with humans and extending out to the beasts of the field, and the birds of the sky, and the fish of the water, and the glorious creation that they inhabit. May we all become environmentalists because of love, not because of fear. Amen+
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This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.