By Dr. Paul A. Cleveland –
The environmental movement was spawned in the 1960s by an assortment of radicals who viewed the problems of society as stemming from human action. Following the musings of Rousseau, they saw civilization itself as the ultimate source of human ills. They rejected the reality that the ills of this world stem from the sin residing in the human heart. In truth, from their vantage point it is the fact that we, unlike the rest of creation, bear the image of God that makes us un-fit to live with the other animals. That is, it is the fact that God has charged us with the task of ruling over creation that greatly disturbs the deep ecologists.
To understand this all one needs to do is to read the writing of the ecologists. For example, research biologist David Graber once wrote, “This [human remaking of the earth by degrees] makes what is happening no less tragic for those of us who value wilderness for its own sake, not for what value it confers upon mankind… We are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind. They have intrinsic value—to me—than another human body, or a billion of them.” In addition, in his book Creation, Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson wrote, “According to archaeological evidence, we strayed from Nature with the beginning of civilization roughly ten thousand years ago. The quantum leap beguiled us with an illusion of freedom from the world that had given us birth.”
These assertions are nothing more than an outright rejection of the truth that this is God’s creation and that we are created in His image and tasked with the job of sovereignly ruling over it. Both Graber and Wilson are wrong and are in need of our prayers for they will both have to give an account before our Lord and savior Jesus Christ for their rejection of His word.
But why has the environmentalist movement been so successful? There are, of course, many reasons for this. The most obvious is the fact that given a choice no one wishes to live in filth and degradation. We can all point to the many human failures to engage our world in ways that best promote human flourishing. But such failures are not the occasion for embracing environmentalism. Nevertheless, they often promise to give us a pristine environment to live in if we would follow their mandates. Regrettably, these would only increase human poverty and lead to greater pollution and not less. Moreover, many among us would die.
If we want to secure a better environment for ourselves and others, we should be careful to identify those principles that best secure human flourishing and advocate for them. It is no surprise that they would be the ones in line with God’s moral law. Namely, thou shalt not kill, steal, lie, covet, or commit adultery and live in submission to legitimate authority. Adherence to these things leads to prosperity and that leads to a better environment. For anyone who has traveled the world you should know full well that the richer a place is, the nicer its environment and the better the circumstances of life for the people who live there. Economists have known for ages that what gives rise to these conditions is the protection of private property and the freedom of trade.
But will adherence to these principles eliminate all ills and abuses in this world? No! The reason why is that we live in a fallen world. None of us lives out our lives in perfect submission to God’s moral law. We are all failures with the one exception of the Lord Jesus. So if you expect perfection on this earth, you have been duped and you will be forever disappointed. In addition, you may well fall prey to the siren song of environmentalism.