Earth Day at 50: Christians, Creation, and COVID-19

Jonathan Moo shares with us some reflections this Earth Day. In light of this year’s pandemic, what does this 50th Earth Day commemoration look like for us as Christians?

This book showed up in my twitter feed today, it gives a new perspective on environmentalism:

What really ought to be driving our environmentalism is our humanity, not nature’s value. Hale argues that our unique burden as human beings is that we can act for reasons, good or bad. He claims that we should be environmentalists because environmentalism is right, because we humans have the capacity to be better than nature. As humans, we fail to live up to our moral potential if we act as brutally as nature.

And I agree, I think being too sentimental about the intrinsic value of ‘nature’ is a stupid idea. If we want nature to remain intact, that means we will have to cancel our vaccine tests, given how viruses are ‘natural’. Rather, ‘life’ should be what we value.

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I am glad to see there is an interfaith effort to take care of the planet!

That is an interesting point! Yes, I tend to agree also. Besides the beauty we can appreciate! I think caring about climate solutions and the like right now looks like caring about our neighbors, especially our impoverished neighbors, who will be hit harder by changes in the climate than others.

We earthlings must learn to put up with the evil of deadly viruses and concentrate on the beauty of the world God has placed us in.
Al Leo


Hi everyone. I hope that many of you watched the PBS Earth Day interview with Jane Goodall last night. I think she is an ideal spokesperson for the need for humans to realize that true stewardship of earthly life means that we respect our dependence on all the other participants in the complex Web of Life. However, I am aware that some philosopher/theologians try to extend her views to defend their view that it was the invention of agriculture that destroyed the innate morality of the society of hunter gatherers (nobel savages?), and allowed for the formation of huge metropolitan gatherings that discouraged empathy for their fellow human beings as well as for the welfare of their domesticated animals that provided food.

I am attaching two photos taken on my daughter’s mini-ranch which may spark some discussion about my position that it is NOT agriculture per se that can be blamed. It is, rather, the scale on which it is undertaken–industrialized egg production using hens confined to tiny cages; feed lots with cows jammed tightly together chomping on grains solely to fatten them for market, and mono-cultural grain fields scraped from the natural forests that were so habitat rich. The first photo deals with the ‘morality’ of domestication, and the second with care for the environment.

Their dog quickly understood his role as guardian of the free range chickens from predation by the coyotes and raccoons roaming this area of eastern Washingtons, but he was anxious to investigate these new arrivals his owners brought into his territory. His remote canine ancestors, packs of wild dogs and wolves, would surely consider them as tasty prey. On the other hand, one of the Back Angus heifers was curious and brave enough to overcome its instinctive bovine fear of canines to sniff out the dog’s intentions. Both seemed to realize that domestication had given them a sense of safety that they would not have enjoyed in the wild. (My anthropomorphic idea of greater happiness.)

In making this mini-ranch, Peg and Les had to clear a couple of acres of sagebrush (home to coyotes, rattlesnakes and other ‘varmints’) and replace it with pasture–grass which they could keep lush and green through irrigation from the Yakima river that always has an abundance of water. Besides thie practical use of this water, they dug a couple of ponds that serve as rest stops for the water fowl that use the Pacific flyway. (And for domestic ducks when they decide to add then to their ‘stock’.). As a dividend, Peggy finds this an ideal place to unwind after a 12 hr. shift as a respiratory therapist in the ICU ward in the local hospital.

Obviously I think this is an example of using agriculture as a truly moral stewardship, even tho it is only a way station to the eventuality that, in the not too distant future (end of this century?), humans must adapt to a (mostly) vegetarian diet. Any comment, @beaglelady ?
Al Leo

Hello. Raising cattle (and sheep) causes more environmental destruction than any other agricultural practice. Cattle and sheep are ruminants, and as such they release methane, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Methane is 21X more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And remember all the fires deliberately started in the Amazon region to clear the land for cattle raising?

A vegetarian diet includes milk and eggs, which usually includes animal suffering and eventual slaughter. Not to mention human health risks. I prefer a vegan (plant-based) diet, which excludes animal products. Note: some plant-based burgers can be pretty unhealthy because of the sodium content!

I don’t expect any evangelical agreement or action here.

I am quite aware of the points you make here, but did you grasp any of the points I was trying to make? Namely, the most destructive aspect of agriculture today is the scale at which it is conducted. Even the most effective dissemination of the ‘evils’ of present procedures will only reduce–not eliminate–them by the end of this century. If your position is: "It is all or nothing", then you should so state.
Al Leo

Well, everything looks very nice and peaceful on this hobby farm. What happens to the male calves?

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