Religious Involvement in Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

The quality of the environment and its resources represents an important topic in today’s society owing to evidence from research concerning the effect that human socioeconomic activities have on the worth, abundance, and sustainability of environmental resources. Environmental resources are essential in supporting human life because of their value in the efforts of human societies to improve their lives and meet their needs. The quality of environmental resources describes their properties and characteristics in the context of the effect that they have on human beings, other organisms, and their lives. It is essentially the capacity of the environment and its resources to fulfill the needs of human beings and other species. The environment is fundamentally the setting for human habitation and the application of efforts to transform human existence into a comfortable experience. Nonetheless, human socioeconomic activities have grown into the most significant cause of climate change and degradation of environmental resources. Climate scientists concur that human activities and roles are the principal causes of prevailing trends in global warming. This role involves the expansion of the “greenhouse effect” – warming that is the product of the atmosphere’s action of trapping heat radiating from the Earth and preventing it from escaping back into space. The occurrence and concentration of particular gases in the atmosphere hinder the escape of the sun’s radiation back towards space, thereby promoting the gradual rise in temperature on the earth’s surface and in its atmosphere.[1] These gases include methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. Research by NASA has revealed that the accumulation of these gases in the atmosphere is principally the product of the socioeconomic activities of the human society. At the same time, industrial and business activities, deforestation to make way for settlement and urbanization, mining activities, and others are important sources of the degradation of environmental resources.

Religious involvement in the problem of climate change and environmental degradation relates to the responsibility of stewardship over the earth among human beings. God, as the Creator of all things, has the authority of rule over all things and human beings, such that human life and actions ought to feature worship and adoration of God. The Bible, in Psalms 19: 1-6 and Colossians 1: 16, shows that the Earth and Universe reveal the goodness and wisdom of the Creator and that His kindness, love, and power govern, sustain, and reflect in the universe. Genesis 1: 26-28 also illustrates that after creating human beings in His own likeness, God offered them a privileged role among creatures, commanding them to exercise stewardship over the Earth. The significance of this assessment is that the relationship between the Creator and creatures and the role of the human being as a steward are fundamental to the environmental ethic among Christians and human beings, generally. Human beings have a calling to “tend the garden” and serve as competent stewards of the creation and gifts that God offered the world.[2] The role of stewardship among human beings demands their obligation to protect the environment and its resources through responsible decision-making and activities. This obligation relates further to the responsibility of individuals for all creatures in the world, including other society members and upcoming generations.

One viewpoint that opposes this perspective is that of biological egalitarianism. This perspective advocates for the equal rights and value of all forms of life. This perspective would imply that all creatures – human or non-human – are equal.[3] Rather than being a more intelligent and powerful creature, the human is equal in fundamental worth and moral status to other creatures, including animals. In consequence, such equality would contradict the Biblical affirmation of human beings’ special roles of stewardship, and hence invalidate their caring or stewardship role over creation.

This opposing view is unsound because of the higher intellectual abilities of human beings relative to other creatures. Rather than promoting care for the environment, biological egalitarianism would undermine it through the elimination of the authority of the human person over the Earth, the environment, and creation. It would imply that no creature in the world has authority over others and others’ uses of the environment and its resources. This scenario would lead to the “tragedy of the commons”, in which individual users act independently according to their self-interests, such that their actions contravene the common good. The religious position of human stewardship over other creatures and the environment is strong and highly relevant because of the value that it would present in the protection of the environment and its resources. As noted earlier, the human role is the most significant cause of climate change and degradation of environmental resources. The stewardship of human beings over other creatures and the environment is valid because of their higher intellectual abilities and the role of their decision-making and activities in efforts to improve their lives and meet their needs in determining the quality and sustainability of environmental resources. Responsible stewardship over the earth among human beings would influence greater effectiveness in the effort to address global warming and environmental degradation effectively and sustainably.

 

Bibliography

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Causes of Climate Change. NASA, 2019.

Pepper, David. Eco-socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice. London: Routledge, 2002.

Zak, Dan. “One of America’s top climate scientists is an evangelical Christian. She’s on a mission to persuade skeptics”. The Washington Post, July 15, 2019.

[1] National Aeronautics and Space Administration, The Causes of Climate Change(NASA, 2019), para.1

[2] Dan Zak, “One of America’s top climate scientists is an evangelical Christian. She’s on a mission to persuade skeptics” (The Washington Post, July 15, 2019), para.8-9

[3] David Pepper, Eco-socialism: From Deep Ecology to Social Justice (London: Routledge, 2002), n.p.