Friday, March 16, 2007


As I read Chaplain Dave’s piece about his views regarding environmental stewardship, I thought this might be a good time to reexamine my own views and write a few of my own pieces on this topic.
He made it and us of the same "stuff", except we have that vital spark, the imago dei so that, among other things, we can have dominion, stewardship over and tend this, His creation. As such, we are inextricably connected to the Creation. We are to make our living from the earth. God set up a gloriously beautiful and intricate system - even in its fallen state - whereby we can draw life and sustenance from it. …

But with this gifting comes responsibility. I have to believe that His placing Adam in the Garden to cultivate and tend it - have dominion over it, didn't imply allowing his appetites to run amok, thus abusing it.

I think most people would agree with the sentiment of Chaplain Dave’s piece. Humans are unique among God’s creation in that we were given dominion over nature and we have the ability to affect nature more than any other creature. However, the application of Chaplain Dave’s sentiment is where morals need to be clarified and lines need to be drawn.

The goal of stewardship should be clear in our minds before we decide on the methods for practicing stewardship. Traditionally, conservation and environmentalism have been synonymous with preservation. I don’t have to think very long before I reject the traditional view. For a believer in God to accept the traditional view, the believer in God would have to believe that everything God created except humans was perfect in its original form. Certainly, God created the earth the way HE wanted it created, but this belief that humans are destroying God’s perfect creation doesn’t make sense; why would God give the imperfect dominion over the perfect? Mosquitoes, viruses, severe weather, diseases, predatory animals, and other aspects of nature that are harmful to humans need to be controlled or eradicated, not preserved.

I believe a better goal of stewardship should be optimization of the environment, not preservation of the environment. Sometimes preservation will be a method for achieving optimization, but preservation should never be the primary goal. Why would we want to preserve polio or HIV?

Refrigeration optimizes our environment by allowing foods to remain nutritious for longer periods of time. Pasteurization and irradiation have a similar optimization effect. Food processing may sound unhealthy, but the opposite is true. The processing of food has led to less expensive, more nutritious, and a greater variety of foods than ever before in human history which has led to healthier and longer lives for most people.

As much as I would love to play golf on a traditional seaside course in Scotland, I have no illusion that the golf would be better than a modern course in California where the fairways, bunkers, and greens are practically perfect. God created some very appealing golf venues, but humans have optimized the course for a better golf experience. As much as I would love to sit in Lambeau Field in late December and watch the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears, I have no illusion that the football game would be better than if it was played indoors in Detroit or Indianapolis. Humans have optimized the football environment in order to experience the best football games.

The modern environment humans have created to live our lives is infinitely better than the natural environment we started with. I sometimes get a good chuckle out of serious environmentalists because it seems to me that the ones who are most serious about the environment are the ones with the most expensive and technologically advanced outdoor equipment. The best mountain bikes, the best hiking boots, the best outdoor clothing, etc…, all of which were created by humans wishing to optimize the outdoor experience. Shouldn’t a preservationist at least try to endure without modern equipment?

In my next piece, I will consider the methods of environmental stewardship.

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