Monday, May 3, 2010

Earth Day drives me crazy, but...


I confess that Earth Day drives me crazy. Hollywood activists leave me running for an air sick bag. I will not be taking my children to see "Furry Vengence." I also suspect that certain politician's supposed concern for the environment is nothing more than an opportunity to rob the citizens of their liberty and capture more power for the federal government. That said, I was properly rebuked by the following piece by Russell Moore.


As I type this, I am looking out at the Gulf of Mexico. You could have seen a similar sight out the window of the hospital where I was born, just a few miles down the road here on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Now, though, those waters I grew up with, gently lapping against the sand, are threatening to bring with them millions of gallons of oil, spewing up from an exploded rig out in the Gulf. Five years after Hurricane Katrina leveled this hometown of mine, it is bracing for the worst environmental disaster in the history of the United States.

Some conservatives, and some conservative evangelicals, act as though “environmentalism” is by definition “liberal” or even just downright silly. Witness a lot of the evangelical rhetoric across social media on Earth Day a while back: mostly Al Gore jokes and wisecracks about cutting down trees or eating endangered species as a means of celebration.

Do some environmentalists reject the dignity of humanity? Yes. Do some replace the reverence for creation with that due the Creator? Of course. This happens in the same way some do the same thing with reverence for economic profit or any other finite thing.

There’s nothing conservative though, and nothing “evangelical,” about dismissing the conservation of the natural environment. And the accelerating Gulf crisis reminds us something of what’s at stake.

The incoming tsunami of oil isn’t just about the beaches, although that will be environmentally and economically catastrophic. Just as problematic is the creeping of the oil into the inland estuaries and marshes and waterways. The crisis could potentially destroy the eco-systems of birds, shrimp, oysters, and other lifeforms.

Does God care about baby shrimp? I would argue, yes; God cares for the sparrow that falls to the ground (Matt. 10:29). But, even if you disagree with me on that, consider how God loves those who are “of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:30).

Shrimpers here in Biloxi are mourning the potential loss of more than just an industry but a way of life handed down, at least to some of them, from multiple generations before them. If shrimping collapses, so does tourism, apart from the in and out predation of the casinos dotting the shoreline.

Just as significant, though, are the ways the balance of ecology affects people in ways we never consider or notice, until it’s threatened. God gave his image-bearing humanity dominion over the natural creation (Gen. 1:28). But this isn’t a pharaoh-like dominion; it’s a Christ-like dominion. Humans aren’t made of ether; we’re made of Spirit-enlivened mud. We come from the earth, and we must receive from the earth what we need to survive, in the form of light from the sun, oxygen from plants, and food from the ground.

God knows that we need the natural creation (what we so reductionistically call an “environment”). He exults in it throughout the Psalms and in his speech to Job about his mysterious ways. Jesus continually retreats into the silent places of the mountains and the hills and the deserts, sometimes in the fellowship of only the wild beasts (Mark 1:13). We are built to recognize God in the creation (Rom. 1:18-21), and we need more than just what we can pave over and build in order to flourish.

This is why the Scriptures speak of eternal life in the metaphor of a river that causes the waters to teem with life, with many kind of fish, and vegetation thriving on the banks (Ezek. 47:9-12). This is why one aspect of Jesus’ kingship is to make the waters teem with fish, right in the presence of his commercial fishermen disciples (John 21:3-8), And this is why the Scriptures consider it an apocalypse when the waters are poisoned, and the sea-life is gone (Rev. 8:8-9).

We need the creation around us, including the waters and all they contain, because we are not gods. We are creatures who thrive when we live as we were made to live. We exercise dominion over the creation not only when we use it, but also when we conserve it for the generations who will come after.

So pray for the Gulf Coast, that the oil wouldn’t devastate a people and a land already devastated by so much. As you do, remember: real conservatives protect what God loves.

16 comments:

Bill Weber said...

I don't really see how one accident should change our energy policy. People cleaned up the Valdez mess and they will clean up this one. Too often stewardship of the environment on the left is simply not using the resources God has given us. Sure, there will be no messes if nothing is ever used, but America's no-use policy is far from God honoring.

We have a federal government that is stealing land so that the land can simply sit there (e.g., 90% of Nevada belongs to the federal government). We have politicians that are planning on using the hoax of global warming to implement the socialist agenda of taking from the rich to give to the poor, even while they themselves line their own pockets.
Bottom line is that in order to glorify God messes are created. Workers create a mess, but we clean those messes up. A good analogy is children in a home. Before my wife and I had children our home was always neat, but with kids it is sometimes a mess. But you know what? --- the mess of children is God-honoring and worth it. We have a wrong-headed approach to environmentalism in our country driven by neo-pagans, pantheists, and Socialists, and Christians would do well to wake up to that fact.

Todd Pruitt said...

Bill,

I do not disagree with anything you have written.

Mike said...

be afraid...be very afraid.

Dave Rogel said...

"Too often stewardship of the environment on the left is simply not using the resources God has given us. Sure, there will be no messes if nothing is ever used, but America's no-use policy is far from God honoring."

When did America adopt a "no-use" policy? Most of the energy policies on the table these days have to do with using different resources (such as wind) rather than using none at all. One resource (refined oil) can be used for energy, and creates smoke. One resource (an offshore wind farm) can be used for energy and does not create smoke. How does the second option compromise God's plan for creation, or in any way whatsoever threaten Christianity or belief in the Bible? Conversely, what is "God-honoring" about toxic gases and harmful particulates that would end if wind and solar energy were used as primary power sources rather than coal and oil? Bonus question (for extra credit): What is politically advantageous (even from a conservative angle) about depending upon foreign nations for over half of our oil supply? (One might contend that it's tough to play hardball with Chavez when your country gets 10% of its crude oil from Venezuela.)

As for the wrong-headed approach to environmentalism, do you disagree with things like reducing pollution and conserving wild habitats, or do you simply dislike those who have traditionally supported such things (with whom you might substantially disagree on other unrelated matters)? If it is the first, then the article Todd posted must not have really clicked. If it is the second thing, then I would ask you a question: If you saw a person whole-heartedly loving and caring for his child, but you found out that he was only doing it because he thought (wrongly) that it would result in him receiving a check for one million dollars after five years, would you a.) correct him and try to convince him that one should love their child because it is a parent's priviledge and responsibility, or b.) go around ranting about how people should treat their children poorly (so as to avoid being associated with the "treating children well just for money" crowd)? Al Gore is making a small fortune on environmentalism, but what does that have to do with anything? There are countless sleazy televangelists who make a fortune from misinterpretations of the Bible--do you reject the Bible because of them? If not, then why can't the same discernment and differentiation be applied to the environment (or 'creation', if that feels better)?

Putting smoke in the air (incense excepted) does not honor God. In fact, putting less smoke in the air is a pretty good idea for a number of reasons, Biblical stewardship among them. If you dislike the people who are most vocal about putting less smoke in the air, why is it inconceivable to agree with what they are recommending while disagreeing with their reasons for recommending it?

Or to put it more concisely, have we (Christians) really lost our ability to distinguish between the baby and the bathwater and treat the two appropriately?

Jerry F said...

I think the problem with our energy policy is short sightedness. We need to develop alternatives because of our dependence on foreign oil. More drilling is necessary in the short term, there are risks involved, but other options must be found in the long term. We've already wasted 35 years since the first oil embargo and have not done anything about it.
I am convinced governmental interference is not the solution, but we do as a country need to address these issues and we need to allow the markets to provide an alternative.Maybe that is beginning to occur.

Bill Weber said...

To Dave, I would be willing to answer your concerns, but frankly, you've got so many that I think it would be pointless to try to cover all of them in this setting. If you want to narrow the argument a bit, and take the issues one at a time, I think it would be more profitable.

Dave Rogel said...

Bill,

Apart from my wordiness (for which I apologize), my question was quite simple: Do you believe that deriving power from coal and oil is inherently superior to deriving the same amount of power from wind turbines and solar arrays, or do you simply dislike the left-leaning primary proponents of a transition from fossil fuels to "green" energy sources?

Harley A. said...

Coming on the heels of unprecedented OSHA fines from the Texas City refinery explosions, this one could be the last straw for BP. This is ugly. I don’t see how they survive it.

One comment. People need to be careful when they want to jump on the oil companies when gasoline prices are high. This drives home the message that the #1 key driver for them is price. If that’s the case, then they will adjust their risk profile to lower cost where feasible. Likely we will find out that BP failed to install a costly emergency isolation device due to cost and the perceived low probability of such a situation. These companies are by and large living up to environmental and health and safety commitments imposed by OSHA, EPA, and state regulators – I know, I am in this business. And, the cost to do so is very high – probably accounts for a significant percentage of the cost of the refined products, which is okay. I think we all are willing to pay for a higher level of safety and environmental protection – but we have to understand it comes at a cost. These companies feel immense pressure from both ends – keeping product costs to the consumer down yet keeping up with ever demanding OSHA and EPA regulations.

Dave Rogel said...

Anyone that complains about high gasoline prices in this country has obviously never travelled to Europe. We have it quite good, even when the prices spike. Given what goes into producing gasoline, we should be blown away when we think that it doesn't cost any more than milk (or even spring water, depending on how it's packaged).

Bill Weber said...

To Dave, I think the idea that wind and solar is going to solve our energy needs is unrealistic at this point. We haven't built a nuclear plant in this country since the 1970's and that gives us clean energy. I'm not an expert on why that is, but my guess is a neopagan view of the environment.

The fact is we are sitting on enough oil and natural gas reserves in this country in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and the Rockies to solve our energy dependence. We have the technology to safely get it, but we refuse because of environmentalists whose idea of stewardship is to prevent all use and development, instead of filling the earth for the glory of God by responsible stewardship.

I am not against wind energy as a supplement, but it fars fall short of meeting our needs, and is also a blight on the environment in terms of sight and sound.

I don't think it is a coincidence that the Lord gave the human race huge reserves of oil and natural gas and coal. I think we are poor stewards of his world if we do not use these energy resources in a responsible way.

One of the things I found offensive about your first comment is the assumption that anyone who disagrees with your view is somehow for unclean air and water, which is an absurd charge to make against anyone who breathes air and drinks water!

Harley A. said...

Exactly, Bill. Wind and solar will never be able to provide ratable power at the levels we need it - at least not in our lifetime. Oil and gas are simply here to stay for a while (assuming we want electricity, that is). And, you rightly allude to the fact that US policy has driven exploration into the deep-water Gulf. There are massive reserves underneath basically an Alaskan tundra wasteland (not the beautiful forest scenes that the Sierra Club shows in their ads) where no humans live and very few species of any kind make their home. A leak would be much more unlikely and easier to contain and repair if it did occur. It would be much safer to drill there and more beneficial to the consumer. Having said all of that, we will never get away from a dependence on foreign oil unless our consumption per capita goes down dramatically. To me, energy efficiency is the area we need to focus a lot effort on – I think there’s real low-hanging fruit to be gained there.

Todd Pruitt said...

Bill & Harley - Spot on!

If we were exploiting nuclear energy as we ought then we would not be having this conversation.

Also, I agree completely that the use of fossil fuels is entirely consistent with our creation mandate. It is a scandal that cowardly or ignorant politicians are keeping us from using the rich resources that we have on our own soil.

Wind energy is another scandal. The present technology simply does not allow for wind to provide our basic energy needs. One need only to observe the fields of wind mills in various parts of the country that are in disrepair or simply not being used.

Nicholas said...

Todd, I just saw your post. I don't want to be the one getting the last word. I'm surprised nobody has mentioned the peak oil angle yet. What does peak oil mean for us? Everything. It will mean a complete change in the way we live, work and get around.

There are experts out there that believe oil production peaked about 5 years ago. Google "Matt Simmons" to find out more. Oil production will steadily beginning to head down. The peak oil theory also means that all the "easy" oil has been recovered and we'll have to start going for it in much more remote places. Hence, the drilling offshore. Yeah, we've got the Marcellus shale here in PA and other domestic reserves but it's not the complete solution.

What many people might not know is that the Transocean rig that went down was one of the most advanced exploration rigs on the planet. It had recently drilled a well in the Gulf of Mexico to about 35,000 ft. Remote indeed!

I'll give you an example. Study Pemex, the state oil company of Mexico. They have been pumping the enormous Cantarell offshore oil field for decades and have been a net oil exporter for that entire time. However, it's quickly running dry and Mexico could be a net oil importer as soon as 2012. Given that they provide 40% of the revenue to the Mexican government, it means massive changes in a short time for them. Mexico is also our #4 oil provider so it means real changes for us since we'll have to go even further for the oil we need.

It means we have to make energy our #1 priority.

I don't want to be alarmist. God will provide for us, just maybe not in the ways we're accustomed to.

Nick

Todd Pruitt said...

Nick,

No doubt that we need to maximize our research to find alternatives to fossil fuels. They won't last forever.

threegirldad said...

David Rogel wrote:

do you disagree with things like reducing pollution and conserving wild habitats[?]

Depends entirely on what you mean by those phrases; what, exactly, makes those phrases more than moralistic platitudes? You surely don't mean the same thing by them as a "Dark Green" would (at least, I hope not). Where do you live? Unless it's on an artificial island, some failed to conserve a wild habitat by developing the land. Was it a sin -- and abandonement of some Biblical mandate? If so, why are you still living there?

or do you simply dislike those who have traditionally supported such things (with whom you might substantially disagree on other unrelated matters)?

But the notion that other matters are unrelated isn't settled by any means. In fact, I think it's a mistake to look at things this way. There's a reason why we speak of worldviews.

If you saw a person whole-heartedly loving and caring for his child, but you found out that he was only doing it because he thought (wrongly) that it would result in him receiving a check for one million dollars after five years

I don't buy it. A parent with that as the sole motivation by definition would not be "whole-heartedly loving and caring for his child."

Al Gore is making a small fortune on environmentalism, but what does that have to do with anything?

Truth -- in his case, the lack of it.

If you want to swim upstream semantically (so to speak), be my guest. But don't complain when people react against such a loaded term. Refusing to acknowledge the socio-political baggage that it carries is just silly.

Putting smoke in the air (incense excepted) does not honor God.

That's an assertion, not an argument. Campfires put smoke into the air. Burning fireplaces put smoke into the air. Grills put smoke into the air.

Are we obligated to reduce those activities in the name of Biblical stewardship? On what grounds? By how much? Who decides by how much? Do you travel everywhere on horseback?

Just to be clear, I'm not intending these as rhetorical questions.

Dave Rogel said...

I apologize for the delayed response; I was on vacation (and away from the internet) this weekend. Here goes...

1. "...do you disagree with things like reducing pollution and conserving wild habitats[?]..."

Depends entirely on what you mean by those phrases; what, exactly, makes those phrases more than moralistic platitudes? You surely don't mean the same thing by them as a "Dark Green" would (at least, I hope not). Where do you live? Unless it's on an artificial island, some failed to conserve a wild habitat by developing the land. Was it a sin -- and abandonment of some Biblical mandate? If so, why are you still living there?

If pollution is good (or even neutral), then let's do it abundantly. If, however, pollution can have adverse effects on people (and it undisputedly can), then isn't it "good" to do less of such a thing? If it is not feasible to avoid all forms of pollution (and we agree that it is not), why is it somehow "moralistic" and meaningless to simply do less of it? "Covering the earth for the glory of God" is biblical, but would every person in this scenario have a car? That has already been tried on a very small scale. It's called LA, and the air is not so great.

2. "...or do you simply dislike those who have traditionally supported such things (with whom you might substantially disagree on other unrelated matters)?"

But the notion that other matters are unrelated isn't settled by any means. In fact, I think it's a mistake to look at things this way. There's a reason why we speak of worldviews.

If somebody has a worldview different than your own, that might certainly warrant scrutinizing everything that person says, to a far greater degree than you might scrutinize someone else's words. However, their differing worldview does not make every idea that issues forth from their pagan mind completely wrong and sinful. Proof of principle: every sensible person on earth agrees that 1+1=2. If a person is an atheist and has a worldview that could not possibly be more different than your own, that person is still correct when he/she states that the sum of 1 and 1 is 2.

If a crazy person was on a campaign proclaiming "2-1=1", with a secret motive of subconsciously encouraging divorce through the symbolism of the math equation...THE MATH EQUATION IS STILL CORRECT.

Pollution at certain concentrations has obvious, tangible, negative effects. Let's number them 1 to 10, where 10 is Mexico City. Is it better to be at 4 than 5? Is that a "moralistic" question to ask? If we are going to "cover the earth", couldn't a harmless 5 become a 6, then a 7, and so on as the population grows?


3. "Al Gore is making a small fortune on environmentalism, but what does that have to do with anything?"

Truth -- in his case, the lack of it.

If you want to swim upstream semantically (so to speak), be my guest. But don't complain when people react against such a loaded term. Refusing to acknowledge the socio-political baggage that it carries is just silly.


I find the refusal to draw distinctions between substance and baggage to be equally silly. I acknowledge that the baggage is there--I just don't equate that baggage with the thing to which the baggage is attached. And I certainly don't reject something that makes sense just because its baggage does not.

I think that we should pollute less because it will make the future earth a better place than it would have otherwise been. Perhaps Al Gore thinks we should pollute less because that will help him sell books and DVDs. I don't see the problem with stating that we agree on what to do while disagreeing on why to do it.

Two minus one equals one whether or not a quack tarnishes the equation with malicious motivations. Your great-great-great-grandchildren having better air to breathe a century from now is good whether or not people you dislike also think so.