Ethics of the Environment

Ongoing debate surrounding ANWAR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), global warming, rain forest depletion, the boreal forest and any number of endangered species and their habitats tends to polarize the public into "green" environmental and conservative/ pro–development camps. Since the 1970s, radical environmental groups like Greenpeace have made headlines with terrorist–style exploits to "protect Mother earth." Meanwhile, a larger, more mature global movement has been evolving. Universities such as Harvard have inaugurated whole study programs on a relatively recent academic discipline known as environmental ethics. The National Council of Churches promotes a doctrine of eco–justice, calling for the 'wealthier members of the human family' to make a fundamental the very socioeconomic structures of our societies and personal lifestyles."

Modern–day evangelical Christians have largely abdicated the issue of environmental responsibility to those representing radically different positions on the nature of humans as we relate to the natural world and our responsibilities regarding the environment. On the other hand, much of liberal Christianity reflects the philosophies of deep ecology, ecocentric environmentalism, ecofeminism, etc. Thus, New Age–oriented adherents to environmentalism and some who claim to be Christians themselves have misrepresented the biblical mandate to take dominion over and serve as the stewards of Creation. Yet again, other Christians—mainly evangelicals—are guilty of ignoring proper care for the Creation, seeing it as a "liberal's issue." Both extremes invite criticism.

As with any other subject, when exploring a philosophy of environmental ethics, one needs to discern the underlying worldview in order to understand and critique it:

Our Special Focus examines these questions and more. We encourage your comments or questions.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor, Leadership University¬†

Featured Articles

Principles of a Christian Environmental Ethic: With Applications to Agriculture, Natural Resources, and the Environment
Professor John C. Bergstrom
Dr. Bergstrom discusses three general principles of a Christian environmental ethic and applications of this ethic to agricultural, forestry and environmental sciences.

Christian Environmentalism
Dr. Ray Bohlin
What duty do Christians have toward the environment? What concerns or common interests do they have with current environmental movements? The author gives a biblical basis for environmental stewardship.

The Virgin and the Dynamo: The Use and Abuse of Religion in Environmental Debates
Reviewed by Thomas Sieger Derr
Derr reviews Royal's book and its new approach to the relation between religion and ecological concerns.

Global Eco-Logic
Thomas Sieger Derr
Derr opines on the Earth Charter, a document drafted by environmental organizations intended for ratification by the United Nations.

Three Biblical Principles For Environmental Stewardship
Dr. Calvin B. DeWitt
Brief statement on a Christian view of the believer's mandate from Scripture regarding the Creation from University of Wisconsin-Madison professor DeWitt. Includes Earthkeeping, Sabbath and Fruitfulness Principles.

Global Warming
Dr. Ray Bohlin
Fossil fuel emissions are unfairly being blamed for global warming. The Kyoto Protocol is based on questionable science, and will cause unnecessary economic hardship.

Fears Rise as Ozone Levels Drop
Dr. Hugh Ross
A 1991 bulletin from the founder of Reasons to Believe, this essay takes a sober look at research of that period. The most valuable part for Christians is his advice on how to respond to the fears the subject raises, especially for the sake of nonbelievers.

The Gospel of the Trees: The strange rise of eco-faith
David Klinghoffer
Are the environmental policies of G.W. Bush foolish? Reckless? Or positively sinful? All three, with an emphasis on "sinful," according to religious environmentalists, devotees of something called "eco-faith."

Christ and Creation's Longing
Richard John Neuhaus
Fr. Neuhaus wrote a book about the ecology movement that was published in the early 1970's. At the time, critics of the book said that he simply made too much of a harmless movement that was rooted in common sense. What reflections does the author have about this issue more than a quarter of a century later?

The Great Fear
Kenneth R. Weinstein
Book review of The Green Crusade: Rethinking the Roots of Environmentalism, by Charles T. Rubin.

A Federalist's Approach to Protecting the Environment
Fife Symington
A governor reflects on the stewardship understanding of environmental protection that is, he says, most consistent with limited and constitutional government.

Related Articles

Tracking the Ozone Layer: What is the Ozone Layer and How Does It Affect You?
Forrest M. Mims III
"Evaluating claims about the ozone layer requires basic knowledge not only about ozone and its effects on ultraviolet, but about the research methods that have been used to understand the ozone layer's dynamics. Hopefully, this article has provided some of that knowledge and perhaps even sparked some interest in doing some independent investigating. If so, be sure to check out some of the resources mentioned on the Readings about Ozone and Ultraviolet page []."

UN Conferences
Kerby Anderson
Looks at UN Conferences held in the 1990s and focuses most attention on Habitat II. Concludes with a discussion of globalism. A doctrine of environmental ethics contrary to a biblical understanding of man's relationship to nature figures heavily into the assumptions and decrees of several UN conferences, portending the demise of national sovereignty, draconian taxes and regulations and other ill effects.

Animal Rights, Human Rights
Thomas Sieger Derr
Derr discusses in depth the various arguments used by the animal rights lobby, which has recently gained quite a bit of attention while the debate takes on new rigor (and sometimes heat). One example, as Derr interprets it: "Humanity is finally a dispensable species: ultimate value is assigned to the whole process of nature rather than any special part of it. We have been, it is said, wrongly anthropocentric."

The Exclusion Zone
Cham Dallas, Ph.D.
Dr. Dallas led a research team into the Exclusion Zone, containing the highest radioactive contamination following the world's worst nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. The physical destruction that would have lasting consequences pointed to deeper, spiritual needs worsened by a worldview of exploitation and statism.

Related Sites

Leadership U does not necessarily endorse the following sites, but provides them as resources.

AuSable Institute of Environmental Studies
Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies provides courses for college students, environmental education for school children and adults, retreats and conferences, and educational outreach services for churches and the wider world community. We do so from campuses in the Great Lakes Forest of northern Michigan, Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay, East Africa, and South India.

Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) and Creation Care magazine
EEN is a unique evangelical ministry initiated by World Vision and Evangelicals for Social Action as part of a growing movement among Christians to respond faithfully to our biblical mandate for caring stewardship of God's creation. EEN was formed because we recognize many environmental problems are fundamentally spiritual problems. EEN's flagship publication, Creation Care magazine, provides you with biblically informed and timely articles on topics ranging from how to protect your loved ones against environmental threats to how you can more fully praise the Creator for the wonder of His creation.

Other Sites, Other Views

In an effort to provide some balance to the views represented above, we offer several links.

Environmental Ethics Syllabus Project
Middle Tennessee State University
Information about courses in environmental philosophy and environmental ethics.

Harvard University Center for the Environment
"The Harvard University Center for the Environment provides a critical focus for interdisciplinary environmental education and research at Harvard."