The environment has become the buzzword of the last forty years. Programs and articles addressing environmental concerns occupy prime space in the mainstream media.
However, most of us fail to distinguish stewardship from radical environmentalism. The latter has taken the world by storm. The difference is vast.
Both are concerned with the deterioration of the environmental health, but they differ profoundly on how those concerns are resolved and how they value different life forms.
Failure to distinguish them has adversely influenced developmental policies, our use of natural resources, and various other social aspects, including justice. The result endangers human life on massive scales.
Most of the foundational principles for environmental care as traditionally practiced before radicalization are deeply rooted in the Biblical concept of environmental stewardship.
The Bible asserts that God gave man dominion over other created beings, entrusting to him the role of leadership in environmental care. Besides the primary call to be fruitful and multiply, man’s responsibility included the stewardship of plants and animals.
This requires man to use his ingenuity to use natural resources for the betterment of human society, while refraining from the abuse of the environment around him.
In contrast, the radical environmental movement is a fundamentalist ideology that views man as a cancer. Rooted in naturalism, it advocates extreme policies that discriminate against humanity by restricting economic growth and the rightful use of resources.
Radical environmentalism asserts that human life is no more valuable than the natural world, and perhaps less. It therefore defends the curtailment of resource use at the cost of not helping the impoverished.
This divergence in philosophy between stewardship and radicalism can be illustrated further by analyzing the prescriptions proposed for resolving global and local environmental problems in recent years.
Stewardship rightly calls for control of pollution in air, water, and land. Radical environmentalism, in many cases, usually recommends additional impositions that inhibit resource use and economic growth.
Population control is one such extremity. Drawing conclusions from the scientifically inadequate Malthusian theory, radical environmentalists consider human population growth the primary reason for the world’s environmental problems.
Arguing that population growth exhausts earth’s resources, they ushered in an ugly era of forced population control measures in developing countries beginning in the 1970s.
However, the Malthusian theory saw its demise at the hands of man’s ingenuity, giving us advanced agricultural techniques and facilitating rapid economic development, feeding and sustaining billions across the globe at standards of living previous generations couldn’t imagine.
In recent decades, the radical environmentalists began proposing more innovative (yet equally empty) theories like catastrophic global warming, claiming that it would severely affect all life forms adversely.
Their solution, however, remained the same. They called for the shutdown of fossil-fuel based coal plants—which had provided the vast majority of the electricity that had enabled today’s major economic powerhouses to develop—and they blamed almost every human endeavor for the supposed disruption of the global climate.
Scientists and climatologists have categorically proved this wrong, with every year giving us new and substantial evidence about the stability of the earth’s climatic system and the negligible impact of human action on global temperature.
Radical environmentalism’s influence goes beyond its presence at policy-making institutions. It now has a firm grip over the academic curriculum in schools and universities, brainwashing the society with an ideology that is not even remotely accurate.
It undermines humanity’s contribution to the collective good of the world and prevents progress by scare-tactic and pseudo-scientific claims. Unchecked, it will lead into a pit of social and environmental chaos.
What we need instead is genuine stewardship of creation. In the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, we think of genuine stewardship as people created in God’s image working lovingly together to enhance, simultaneously, the fruitfulness, the beauty, and the safety of the earth, to the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbors.
That vision summarizes the principles of the Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship, composed nearly twenty years ago and endorsed by over 1,500 religious leaders and, since then, by thousands of others. It provides the right compass for devising developmental policies that cares for our environment.
Guest Contributor: Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in New Delhi, India.