What the Bible Teaches Us about Man's Relationship with the Environment
"Environmental issues require more serious thought than they often receive in the media or in the hands of activists. Being more thoughtful through the perspective of faith is an important action step in our age--maybe the most important action of all."
--Steven F. Hayward
FOR RELEASE: November 2010
"What Would Jesus Drive?" This bumper-sticker slogan has come to symbolize the rising interest in environmental issues among evangelical Christians. Driven by concerns over global warming and the potential degradation of God's creation, Christian leaders are starting to speak out on a subject previously considered wholly secular.
In Mere Environmentalism: A Biblical Perspective on Humans and the Natural World (AEI Press, 2011), AEI scholar Steven F. Hayward offers an insightful reflection on the relationship between humanity and the natural environment. He carefully explores important similarities and differences in how faithful Christians and conventional environmentalists think about key issues.
Christian environmentalism should resist both the utopianism and the hostility toward the human species that often characterize conventional environmental points of view, Hayward argues. He interprets the biblical account of creation and the pivotal story of Noah's Ark for the principles they teach about humankind's responsibility for the stewardship of nature. Noting that God explicitly places humans at the apex of creation, Hayward's account both affirms the central focus of environmentalism--that humans have a moral obligation to care for nature and that human indifference or carelessness about nature is an aspect of humanity's sinfulness--but also departs from the view that humanity is a harmful plague on the planet.
Mere Environmentalism also incorporates the insights of modern resource economics, showing that economic approaches to environmental problems are compatible with biblical teachings about property. Using a bold and provocative interpretation of the Genesis story of Joseph's regency in Pharaoh's Egypt, Hayward offers a critique of centralized control and management of natural resources, and offers key lessons about the resiliency of nature, the importance of local action, the necessity of understanding tradeoffs between competing goods, and the necessity of developing technical expertise to solve specific practical problems.
"As in other modern fields of endeavor that depend on specialized knowledge," Hayward concludes, "students with a scientific interest should take up earth sciences, engineering, and related disciplines. Many current environmental problems have found their remedies chiefly from technology that scientists and engineers have discovered. In the humanities, there is an equal need for lawyers, economists, historians, and other intellectual pursuits that bear on institutional structure and reform. What will unite many specialized pursuits in this century will be the entrepreneur (in fact, the term 'enviropreneur' is coming into fashion) who finds ways to bring new green technology to the mass marketplace."
Steven F. Hayward is F. K. Weyerhaeuser Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the coauthor of the annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators and host of An Inconvenient Truth…or Convenient Fiction?, a rebuttal to Al Gore's documentary.
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