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environment

November 21, 2007

I’m off to a late start today. We had a regularly scheduled parent-teacher kind of conference for my daughter (who is in Kindergarten/Preschool) and my wife had to first observe her in her class for an hour and then to speak with the teacher for a few minutes. Turns out our girl is near the top of her class in everything. So we’re pleased! But, because I had to keep an eye on the baby while Aileen was at the school, I’m running a couple of hours late. So I’m going to use this opportunity to mention a few things that have been on my mind recently. These are some of the articles, products or sites I’ve bookmarked over the past few days.

Rebellion of Thought

Here’s an interesting-looking product I just stumbled across yesterday. Rebellion of Thought is a DVD that seeks to answer these types of questions: “What is post-modernism? How has it affected our culture? How will it impact our future? What is the role of the church in a post-modern world? Does man truly need God or is God merely a fairytale idea left-over from a past cultural experiment? These questions are the launching point for Rebellion of Thought, as filmmakers, The Brothers Williamson, examine a new generation that refuse to accept authority, code and convention. How do believers in Christ express their faith in a compelling, relevant way?” The DVD features interviews with such notables as D.A. Carson, Jim Spiegel and Gene Edward Veith, Jr. You can view a trailer here at the film’s official website. The film can be purchased through Amazon: Rebellion of Thought.

Amazing Grace

Last night Aileen and I sat down to watch Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce (through the Playstation 2, as it turns out, since it refused to play in our DVD player). We both agreed that the movie was well done and definitely worth the two hour investment in time. It is rare to see a movie where the hero is a true Christian and one who was motivated primarily by his faith. Though it was not without its flaws and small historical inaccuracies (for example, Wilberforce would never have known the hymn “Amazing Grace” set to the tune we sing it to today) it was largely accurate. The filmmakers made a point of having Wilberforce declare that he did not find God, but that God found him (which is exactly how Wilberforce would have said it himself). I loved hearing Newton declare, “I am a great sinner, but Christ is a great Savior.” While I thought the film could have played up Wilberforce’s motivation a bit more, showing that his faith was a prime motivator in his quest to end slavery, I still thought they captured his trials and stubbornness. The acting was top-notch and the sets were very good. If you haven’t seen it yet, consider renting or buying it. You can get it, of course, at Amazon: Amazing Grace.

The Future of the World in 23 Pages

The Independent, quite provactively, really, calls “Policymakers’ Summary of the Synthesis Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment” the future of the world. “For all but the most perverse of sceptics, it ends the basic argument. And it also urgently warns that the risks are greater, and possibly closer in time, than was appreciated even six years ago, when the third assessment was published.” They compare it to Scripture. “It is chapter and verse, it is Holy Writ: you may not agree with it, but this (backed up by the full reports) is what the world scientific community thinks. Its opening words are magisterial – almost Biblical – in tone. ‘Warming of the climate system,’ it pronounces, ‘is unequivocal’ . It goes on to spell out that the atmosphere is rapidly warming, snow and ice are melting across the world, and the global sea level is rising at an increasing rate; yet the problem is solvable if governments act decisively.”

Regardless of your view on human agency in global warming, such a document can be alarming. But as Christians we know that not even the best and the brightest scientific minds can predict the future of the world with any accuracy. One thing we can predict, I think (and with some accuracy) is that if these people have their way, we’ll “solve” the “problem” with a whole lot more legislation, many new government controls, and a great deal of new spending.

Scarlet

Stephen Lawhead fans will be delighted to hear that Scarlet, the second part of his “The King Raven Trilogy” is available. It seems to have been released a couple of months ago and somehow slipped past my radar. It continues Lawhead’s alternate telling of the story of Robin Hood. I reviewed the first book Hood. The second is available now at Amazon: Scarlet.

Kindle

On Monday Amazon finally introduced the world to it’s new Kindle wireless reader device. Though it launched to lukewarm reviews, Amazon quickly sold through their initial stock and have begun a waiting list. The product uses what they call a revolutionary electronic paper technology that allows electronic reading to feel more like reading a book on paper than on a typical computer screen. The screen has no backlight, so does not tire the eyes (but also cannot be used in the dark).

My first thought was that the Kindle is almost unbelievably ugly and that it looks like a relic of the 1980’s. John Gruber at Daring Fireball thinks it will fail: “So the Kindle proposition is this: You pay for downloadable books that can’t be printed, can’t be shared, and can’t be displayed on any device other than Amazon’s own $400 reader — and whether they’re readable at all in the future is solely at Amazon’s discretion. That’s no way to build a library.” I am inclined to agree, but would still be interested in giving it a go. Business Week takes another position and declares that Kindle is the iPod of books. Time will tell. I am asked to read a lot of manuscripts these days and can’t help but think the experience would be more enjoyable on that screen rather than on a computer screen. Maybe if the Kindle were just a couple hundred dollars less expensive.

You can take a look at the Kindle right here.

November 08, 2007

Yesterday we received notice that the town of Oakville is changing the trash collection strategy. Currently we have our trash picked up every week and have “blue boxes” or recycling bins picked up every other week. Beginning in April, we’ve recently learned, we’ll have garbage pickup every other week and recycling pickup every week. We’ll all be given a “GreenCart” into which we can toss all manner of wet and compostable garbage. Though the layout of our home poses some challenges for us, we are largely in favor of this strategy; we’re glad to see the town taking seriously their responsibility for environmental stewardship. If we can keep garbage out of the local landfills, we would all agree this is a good thing.

There was one thing in the notice that caught my eye. It was a short story about a local woman who is a local environmental “champion.” She is pictured sitting with her young children and the article describes her efforts to reduce their environmental impact. “I only use reusable cloth bags when grocery shopping.” “When I’ve put away the groceries, I leave the bags on the front door knob so I’ll remember to bring them back out to the car.” “She never buys single serving containers.” “I engaged a diaper service to collect and recycle disposable diapers.” “They hang the annual Waste Management Calendar in their kitchen to that everyone can see it.” “Her twins help compost by putting their fruit peels in the Kitchen Catcher for backyard composting.” “We talk a lot about our earth and how we can help make it a healthier place.” “Our family of four only has a half bag of garbage or less, as most waste is either recyclable or compostable.” And so on.

What struck me about this article was just how much it sounded like a woman who serves the environment with religious fervor. It sounded like religion, not like taking out the trash. And it reinforced in my mind something I’ve thought about often—environmentalism is fast becoming the default religion of our age and of our society. It is a religion that is politically correct and which creates few enemies. It is a religion everyone respects and a religion that is bound to garner attention. It is a religion that is creating its own brand of Pharisees, people who stand on the street corners, so to speak, declaring their religious accomplishments.

I believe the first time I began to think of environmentalism as a religion was after reading a speech Michael Crichton delivered back in 2003. Though he was not the first person to make this connection, his speech was widely quoted and widely discussed. And well it should have been. Though it is in many ways anti-religious and though it proceeds from an unbiblical worldview, it is, nevertheless, very interesting. Crichton begins by saying “The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.” As a Christian I can agree, to some extent, with this statement. Certainly few things are as important to humans as distinguishing was is true (and Who is Truth). From that starting point, Crichton begins to show how environmentalism is spreading untruths and how it is built upon a shaky, unstable foundation.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday–these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of them, as I don’t want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don’t want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can’t talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

As Christians we understand that certain truths are imprinted into the human mind. Among these truths is the knowledge that something in this world is not right. We know that we are sinners but that this is an unnatural state for us. And somehow we seem to know that we need redemption. Every religion offers its own understanding of how we can be made right. Environmentalism offers sustainability and offsets, the path to a return to the idyllic state from whence we came.

Crichton denies the existence of an Eden—he denies that humanity once experienced perfection. But his point still stands. Environmentalists have created in their own minds a kind of idealistic world that has never existed since the fall into sin and one that can never exist until the Lord returns. They fall into the myth of the noble savage, somehow believing that technology and industrialization are inherently evil. But history bears out just how wrong and absurd and irrational this is. “What was that Eden of the wonderful mythic past? Is it the time when infant mortality was 80%, when four children in five died of disease before the age of five? When one woman in six died in childbirth? When the average lifespan was 40, as it was in America a century ago. When plagues swept across the planet, killing millions in a stroke. Was it when millions starved to death? Is that when it was Eden? “

Death and sin have reigned since Adam defied God. Death and sin will continue to mark this world until the day the Lord returns and eradicates them once and for all. Without the Lord we cannot return to the state of perfection, regardless of how well we treat this earth. But the environmentalists would have us believe otherwise. They are calling for us to place our faith in them and in their understanding of what’s happening in the world. They ask us to place our faith in their solution; in their salvation. Al Gore, undoubtedly the world’s foremost environmentalist spokesperson, has gone on record several times saying that we need to have a blind faith—that anyone who would doubt climate change is like a person who still believes in a flat earth. Environmentalism is a religion that is increasingly demanding adherence at the expense of reason. And this despite environmentalism’s long record of getting it all dead wrong (remember acid rain and global cooling and DDT and…?).

In find it interesting that the term “global warming” has now been largely supplanted by “climate change.” This offers at least two advantages to environmentalists: first, it allows scientists to claim either warming or cooling as evidence of their theories and second it makes their theories far easier to prove because the climate is always changing. The climate is never static, but always changing in one direction or another (which is why we speak of historical average temperatures drawn from a long sample). Today any unusual weather patterns—warm weather in January, unusually cold weather in January, a large number of hurricanes, the absence of hurricanes—are all used to prove that climate change is happening. And we are supposed to blindly accept all of this. This does look like a religion—not the religion of the Bible which offers evidence and calls for faith—but the religion of the world which demands faith despite evidence. It is a religion that mimics truth, offering its own concepts of deity, sin, salvation and redemption. It is a religion that masks truth, blinding people to problems of the heart that are far deeper than the environment. It is a religion that creates its own version of truth. It is yet another false religion—another kind of works righteousness in which humans can make themselves right before their god through their own efforts.

Let me conclude with sentiment I’ve expressed here before. I am all for tending to the earth and hence I’m all for Oakville’s new waste disposal strategy. I know that God entrusted it to us and did not give us a world that is merely habitable, but a world that is stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful and one that was absolutely perfect for us. Sadly, we ruined the perfection and continue to do so. As Christians we should have the highest view of the earth, seeing it as a gracious and generous gift of God. We should be first in line to protect it, to tend to it, and to attempt to reverse whatever damage we have done to it. Yet we must not fool ourselves into believing that we can save it in and of ourselves. The earth is not neutral or inherently good. Not anymore. We ruined it and have to be prepared for it to continue to decay, just as you and I will do. As our bodies rot and decay, so too does the earth. So while we tend to it, we do so from a perspective that realizes that this earth is only our temporary home. When the Lord returns He will redeem it, He will rebuild it, and restore it to its original perfection.

July 13, 2007

There have been several occasions on this site when I’ve taken the opportunity to express a bit of disgust or alarm with environmentalism. When I do that, I typically get an email or comment asking why I am opposed to protecting the environment. Because I usually only mention these things in the A La Carte section I have never taken the opportunity to explain myself. I want to do that today, even if only briefly.

Let it be known I am not opposed to protecting the environment. In fact, I think it would be wonderful if we saw Christians taking a leading role in protecting the environment and in promoting faithful stewardship of this earth. God created this earth for us to enjoy and expects that we will rule and subdue it. But He does not desire that we destroy it through mismanagement or a lack of care and concern. He has entrusted it to us and we would do well to take note of this.

Sadly, though, the environmental movement is dominated by unbelievers. In fact, environmentalism is fast becoming a religion in its own right. It has many of the elements of a religion, many of which even bear a passing resemblance to aspects of Christianity. Here are a few of the ways environmentalism has religious overtones: there is a deity (most often the earth itself), a heavenly state (the earth in its natural state before humans came along), a fall into sin (when man began to destroy the earth, particularly through industrialization), sinners (human beings), penance (carbon offsets and credits), redemption (a return to the earth’s heavenly or natural state when man finally gets it right or when man is eradicated). It has its leaders and sages, men like Al Gore (or in Canada, David Suzuki). It demands full adherence and scorns those who disagree, even suggesting that such people do not deserve a voice in public discourse. It is becoming a worldview unto itself and a worldview built upon a Darwinian understanding of the world’s origins. It may acknowledge some kind of deity beyond the earth itself, but certainly not the God of the Bible. In short, it is a religion and, like all false religions, an idolatrous one. It is the religion of choice for many and perhaps even most people in our culture today.

It is for this reason that while I respect those who want to protect the environment, I often cannot support those who do so from within this environmentalist worldview. These people understand that we are the greatest problem on the earth (which, actually, is something I have to agree with) but also believe that we can fix our own problems. Some propose that, because we are the problem, we should deliberately eradicate ourselves for the good of the earth, though none of these people have the courage to lead the way as trailblazers for their ideology. But most environmentalists propose legislation and other measures that can, they feel, save the world. As they do this, though, they ignore the far greater peril of the pollution within their own souls. They do not learn that the cause of the world’s problems is the human problem of sin. Even in their proposed measures to save the earth they further corrupt their souls and further show their sinful hearts.

I am all for tending to the earth. I know that God entrusted it to us and did not give us a world that is merely habitable, but a world that is stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful and one that was absolutely perfect for us. Sadly, we ruined the perfection and continue to do so. As Christians we should have the highest view of the earth, seeing it as a gracious and generous gift of God. We should be first in line to protect it, to tend to it, and to attempt to reverse whatever damage we have done to it. Yet we must not fool ourselves into believing that we can save it in and of ourselves. The earth is not neutral or inherently good. Not anymore. We ruined it and have to be prepared for it to continue to decay, just as you and I will do. As our bodies rot and decay, so too does the earth. So while we tend to it, we do so from a perspective that realizes that this earth is only our temporary home. When the Lord returns He will redeem it, He will rebuild it, and restore it to its original perfection.

In all our actions to preserve the beauty of creation, we must ensure that we point to the real problem, which is the sin that humans brought into the world. We would be remiss if we attempt to save the earth but all the while neglect souls. Tending the earth can be a powerful metaphor for tending the human soul. The decay of the earth is caused by the decay of the heart. So as we tend to the earth, let’s use it as an opportunity to point others to their own hearts. And all the while, let’s heed Russell Moore’s admonition: “Let’s take care of the earth, protect the natural order. But let’s remember that the world is not ultimately rescued by politicians or musicians or filmmakers or scientists. The world is saved by blood, not Gore.” If we point people to Gore but not to the blood, we have made, at best, only temporary rather than eternal gain.