I was reading an article for class the other day titled “The Historic Root of Our Ecological Crisis,” by Lynn White Jr., which discusses the reason Christianity is the root of many environmental issues.
White was a professor of medieval history at Princeton and Stanford before he died in 1987. White explains that “all life forms modify their contexts” and he believed that some of these modifications were done on behalf of a specific life form’s belief system.
What I got from this was in order to survive, each species and creature must adapt to fit their environment. Many species do this in the only way that they know how, survival of the fittest. Sometimes it can be beneficial if an adaptation benefits the environment and the organism living there. However, other times it can be harmful and almost parasitic, much like the way human beings tend to take resources form the earth.
White also explains, “When the first cannons were fired, in the early 14th century, they affected ecology by sending workers scrambling to the forests and mountains for more potash, sulphur, iron ore, and charcoal, with some resulting erosion and deforestation.” Again this is an instance of “forms of life modifying their context” in order to survive.
White believed these are descent concepts, but how truly do you reverse the process of this. It almost seems too idealistic. The question is can we even survive our own implications at this point, can we come back from what we have started. I don’t get this graph. Can you reword it?
White mentioned in his piece that “there are many calls to action, but specific proposals … seem too partial, palliative, negative: ban the bomb, tear down the billboards, give the Hindus contraceptives and tell them to eat their sacred cows. The simplest solution to any suspect change is, of course, to stop it, or better yet, to revert to a romanticized past.”
However, in order to stop the advancement of environmental degradation, one has to first understand where the idea and the belief system began.
Christianity, White believes, could even be part of the problem. Not only did Christianity establish a dualism of man and nature, but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper means.
White states that “man shares, in great measure, God’s transcendence of nature and is therefore the utmost anthropocentric religion in the world.”
However, God does not call man to conquer and destroy the earth. I believe God depicts to man the beauty of free will. With this freewill, man has the ability to choose to care for creation.
As I was taught, mankind should worship the creator by caring for creation. Being a good steward and caring for the earth is a way people can live a life worthy of God.
I believe that White was right about numerous things. We seem to almost be destroying ourselves through our own actions. Knowing where our advancements and ideals first began is important in order to understand where we might end up. However, I do not agree with White’s belief that we will continue to have a worsening ecologic crisis until we reject certain Christian ideals.
Stewardship is a large part of what Christianity is.
“For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain.” -Titus 1:7
Therefore, to rule out certain Christian beliefs because of one notion in Genesis that discusses God creating man to be the ruler of the sea, land and the beasts, doesn’t make sense. This verse does not mean we are to destroy creation. I believe White generalizes Christianity by one verse and fails greatly in his argument.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” – I Corinthians 4:1
We have been entrusted with something so precious that we are to govern and rule over how we use our resources. I believe God give us the opportunity to care for the environment if we so choose. There is no way to survive on this earth without using its resources. Even the air we breathe can be considered hurting or injuring the environment, which is why trees were created to replenish it. All things work together for good because of God. He is not an excuse to destroy anything.
Dane Chronister is a senior journalism major from League City. He is the city editor for the Lariat.