We recently took a vacation in Wyoming. We camped for two nights in Medicine Bow National Forest, and then stayed at Andrea’s family cabin in Pinedale, near the Tetons. Anyone who has only seen Wyoming from the vantage of I-80 really ought to see some of the rest of the state. It’s fabulously beautiful.
We also drove by the power plant where my father-in-law works. We saw windmill farms, lots of highway, oil refineries and the like. And Andrea and I were talking about the irrational hatred that so many today have for such things, despite the many obvious benefits they receive from them. It has become a cliche anymore to recite the obvious hypocrisy of so many environmental crusaders. All Christians should promote the responsible use of God’s creation, of course, and it would be a great shame to me to see beautiful spots like Medicine Bow be destroyed by pollution or strip malls. But how can you rail against the petroleum industry, or the existence of freeways, or a coal power plant, at the same time as you indulge in the benefits of such things to the herculean extremes of a John Edwards, Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio? It is irrational.
Personally, I feel that the accomplishments of commerce and industry ought to be recognized as every bit as much a demonstration of the image of God within man as a beautiful painting or song. In many ways, they are even more so, because industry and commerce do a great deal to ameliorate the tangible effects of the fall on man. I am very thankful for the aesthetic beauty of the arts, but the arts are only possible when people are freed from the need to spend every waking hour scratching a living from the earth, and this is accomplished by economic development. Likewise with the natural beauty of the earth- it can be much more fully enjoyed when economic development proceeds to a place where people have leisure time to enjoy it, and particularly beautiful spots can be set aside for leisurely enjoyment instead of for productive purposes.
The fact is, the modern environmental movement views any economic development at all as a bad thing; any infringement of man on nature to be evil. Why is this, when it is so obviously contrary to their own self-interest? These people do not live in caves; do not eat nuts and berries off of trees; do not wear the skins of animals they killed themselves. And even all of those things would be infringements on nature. The logical conclusion of their beliefs would be for them to kill themselves.
When viewed in the light of our assertions earlier about the image of God seen in the works of man, we can start to understand the mindset. The unbeliever hates God, and he therefore hates the image of God. The way this manifests with the radical environmentalist is that he will wish to assert that man is essentially an animal, and that anything that distinguishes man from the animals is inauthentic and destructive. He will denigrate any works of man which display the image of God, which is essentially all of the works of man except for the basest of passions. Thus they glorify the “noble savage”, because he is much closer to the animal in his behavior and activity than civilized man.
This can explain the fundamentally religious roots of the modern environmentalist movement, a feature of it that many commentators have remarked on. It bears the appearance of religious fervor- the dedication to a cause in the absence of facts to support it; the interpretation of all data in the light of the already held belief; the moral condemnation of anyone who disagrees; the pursuit of the tenets of the cause even to the detriment of one’s own interests. Its appearance as a religious phenomenon is obvious to many, though the roots of that religious motivation will be clear only to those who understand what God says about His image in man, and man’s fallen state and his subsequent rebellion against God.
They hate industry because they hate God, and industry demonstrates God’s image within man. They hate success because they hate God, and successful economic activity demonstrates that image as well. We as Christians therefore ought not to be taken in by their assertions. We ought to recognize that the secular environmentalist is anti-human activity because he is anti-God. The movement is actively pursuing the crippling of our economy, for no other reason than this, that they believe economic activity is evil. They describe man as a cancer on the planet, an evil force that must be contained. So when we argue that proposed environmental regulations will cripple economic progress, we fail to recognize that this is the purpose of those regulations. They can always find some snail or mouse or wetland that will supposedly be threatened by proposed economic activity. But the protection of that snail or mouse is not their goal- halting the economic activity is. Groups like the Sierra Club bend all their efforts to stopping literally any economic activity that they can.
Too many of us on the conservative side have argued this point from a practical perspective, determining what will work best to accomplish the goals we have, such as clean air, clean water, responsible resource use, preservation of natural beauty and the like, at the same time as not imposing undue burdens on economic activity. Their goals are not our goals and we need to realize that. We believe that God put man on earth to take dominion of it, to glorify God by finishing the work which He started. The very idea of dominion is blasphemy to the radical environmentalist. When we realize the great gap between us and the radical environmentalists, the less effort we will waste trying to win them over with practical arguments, and the less accommodating we will be of their destructive, God-hating agenda.