Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Stop Bias Against Green Party by Tom Axworthy - PLUS: Environmentalism & Christianity

September 24, 2006

Stop Bias Against Green Party by Tom Axworthy - PLUS: Environmentalism & Christianity

Enjoy this wonderful article, and please explore the links to a number of other articles exploring environmental stewardship & Christianity at the bottom of this post!

Environmentalists should be welcomed to political table, says Tom Axworthy

Stop Bias Against Green Party - by Tom Axworthy
Sep. 24, 2006

"Scientists, like the Greens, have been worried about climate change for decades. New to the movement are evangelical religious leaders: In February 2006, 86 of them declared "Love of God, love of neighbour, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action."

It is time the Canadian political and media establishments stop discriminating against the Green party and the ethic it represents. If we are serious about preserving the planet and if we care about fair play, Canadians must demand the Greens be welcomed to the political table.

The basic premise of the Green movement is that "all life in the planet is interconnected and that humans have a responsibility to protect and preserve the natural world." Founded in Canada in 1983, the tiny minority of Greens in the 1980s were right about the impact of the fossil-fuel economy on global warming. As the science on climate change has become more mainstream, so should the Greens.

Global warming means that extra-solar radiation is being trapped at the Earth's surface; the rise in average temperature is only the signal that something profound is going on. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's most authoritative scientific body on the problem, has documented the steady rise in global temperatures and attributes most of it to human activities.

James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Science, believes that in 10 years we will be at the tipping point — there will already be too much carbon dioxide in the system...

(article snipped)

...Last week, satellite images revealed dramatic openings in the Arctic ice big enough to allow a ship to sail to the North Pole. Scientists, like James Lovelock, creator of the GAIA Hypothesis, are deeply concerned.

He wrote this year "the climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology labs of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years."

Scientists, like the Greens, have been worried about climate change for decades. New to the movement are evangelical religious leaders: In February 2006, 86 of them declared "Love of God, love of neighbour, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action."

These traditional allies of President George Bush have broken with him on the issue of climate change. They argue that change is real, that the poor will be hardest hit (as happened with Hurricane Katrina) and that Christian moral convictions demand a response. An evangelical-scientific alliance to force business and government to exercise responsible stewardship could change politics in a hurry.

If the Greens have been right on one of the largest issues of our time, they have also been dogged in building support. In the 2006 election, they won 4.5 per cent support by running candidates in all 308 ridings. Yet the established parties and the networks have not allowed the Green leader to participate in televised debates.

The Bloc Québécois, which runs no candidates outside of Quebec, gets hours of television time; the Greens are shut out. This has to change. If Canadians are ever to make the leap from a consumer society to a conserver society, the job of public education will be tremendous. For reasons of substance (to create a large environmental coalition dedicated to change) and for reasons of ethics (to give a national party a fair chance), Elizabeth May, the Green leader, must be included in the next debates. The new leader of the Liberal party should refuse to participate in any debate that excludes the leader of the Greens. To prevent climate change, we must change the current climate of denial; a starting point would be giving the Green party the respect it deserves.

Thomas S. Axworthy is chairman of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University.

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Politics, ecology, economics, Green Party, Christianity, environmental stewardship... all of these subjects are related to the others. Maybe I'm tackling too big a topic in this post, but I enjoy exploring how my political endeavors relate to my spiritual & environmental efforts.

Environmentalism can compliment economics, and in fact care of our ecology is a necessary element in having a functioning economy that is sustainable. The Green Party has given this thorough consideration and has an excellent plan regarding our economy in relation to ecological considerations.

The following is a list of interesting articles
exploring environmental stewardship & Christianity. There seems to be two opposite schools of thought: a side that in part supports a free market and/or growth, and a side that supports more government involvement and/or sustainability. Both frame their definition of stewardship under each model. I think both extremes are just that - extremes, and the most reasonable concept of environmental stewardship for the Christian, or anyone else, is somewhere in the middle and draws aspects from both schools of thought.

(note: the titles below will link to the full articles.)

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Stewardship and the Environment
"...Many Christians are suspicious of the affinity groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network have with mainstream statist (or outright pagan) environmentalism, but they have not been trained in an appropriate response. Thus, after being browbeaten with the stewardship lingo, they leave the field of battle to the theological liberals and political statists...
...One approach in dealing with the new “stewardship” advocates is to inquire about the criteria for good stewardship. How do we know when we have been good stewards? How do we know when the tradeoffs between garden-tending and “being fruitful and multiplying” have been made appropriately? Is it better to use a 40-acre plot of land for wildlife habitat, for a farm, for a pharmaceutical plant, or for housing? The evangelical environmentalist material I have read so far would not rule out any of these possibilities. How can that decision be made, without resorting to the crucial information provided by that hated system of free market prices? The answers should be revealing..."

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An Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation
"...The earthly result of human sin has been a perverted stewardship, a patchwork of garden and wasteland in which the waste is increasing. "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land...Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away" (Hosea 4:1,3). Thus, one consequence of our misuse of the earth is an unjust denial of God's created bounty to other human beings, both now and in the future..."

The above declaration seems to be written in the spirit of love, and I recognize the good will within it, but I don't completely agree with the logic and statements contained within it. Nonetheless, it is a very interesting document.

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Eco-Myths - Don't believe everything you hear about the church and the environmental crisis.
Myth 2: It's Not Biblical to be Green (Calvin B. DeWitt) "...I am amazed to hear Christians sometimes say that biblical faith has little in common with the environmental cause. Even worse, some evangelicals fear that teaching people to enjoy and respect creation will turn them into pantheists..."

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Stewardship Without Prices and Private Property? Modern Evangelical Environmentalism’s Struggle to Value Nature
"... Christians are right to seek ways to improve stewardship over nature. Yet those who are most vocal in their advocacy of stewardship seem intent upon neglecting critical sources of information about the allocation of natural resources. Numerous evangelical scholars and entire denominations give far greater weight to governmental intervention as a method of stewardship than to free-market pricing...
...schemes of central planning are no substitute for the market’s role in calculation. Statist environmentalism, however dressed in rhetoric of “justice” or “Christian stewardship,” is untenable because it lacks the necessary information to make resource allocations. Pursuing “eco-justice” or conservation of nature without protecting private property and the price system is “zeal without knowledge.” Being a Christian does not give one access to new revelation on the ideal allocation of resources."

This article is pro-libertarian & free-market, and anti-socialism & government regulation. It seems to represent the argument for government regulation in a way that is weaker than reality and mostly unappealing, and then argue against that representation. Despite this bias it is interesting reading. See the list of official denominational statements on the environment included in the original article .

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Stewardship and Economics: Two Sides of the Same Coin

"...examples display the shared biblical origin of the terms economics and stewardship. Economics can be understood as the theoretical side of stewardship, and stewardship can be understood as the practical side of economics. Here in the Midwest, over the course of the winter we’ve heard a number of news reports about the dilemma facing households over the rise in home heating costs. Often, the decision must be made to pay only one of two bills, to pay the heating bill or buy food. Dire situations like these are ones in which tough economic decisions are made by the heads of households. Far from being a discipline that explains all of human existence, in the biblical view, as we saw in the case of the shrewd manager, economics is the thoughtful ordering of the material resources of a household or social unit toward the self-identified good end. Thus, if we hold a biblical view of economics and stewardship, we will not be tempted to divorce the two concepts but instead will see them as united. On a larger scale, then, economics must play an important role in decisions about environmental stewardship. Economics helps us rightly order our stewardship. The fact that some advocates for political action on global warming are now attempting to propose economic arguments for their position is a positive step toward reconciling these two often estranged concepts..."

This article is basically about the concept of eco-economics. Click here and here for links to info on a great book exploring this concept.

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Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action
"...Over the last several years many of us have engaged in study, reflection, and prayer related to the issue of climate change (often called "global warming"). For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority. Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough to offer the following moral argument related to the matter of human-induced climate change. We commend the four simple but urgent claims offered in this document to all who will listen, beginning with our brothers and sisters in the Christian community, and urge all to take the appropriate actions that follow from them..."

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Preserved Garden or Productive City? Two Competing Views of Stewardship
"...The first position, understood as the preservationist view of stewardship, is manifest in the Evangelical Environmental Network’s Evangelical Declaration on the Care of Creation. This view emphasizes the pristine state of creation before the fall into sin, and understands this “garden” to be the ideal toward which we are to bend our efforts. The failure of humankind lies principally in its inability to both sustain creation’s fruitfulness and preserve creation’s powerful testimony to its Creator...

...The second position is evident in The Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship. This view emphasizes “productivity” and “proliferation.” The “productivity” view of stewardship stresses the unity between the biblical mandate both to “be fruitful and increase in number” and to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28 NIV). The adherents to the Cornwall Declaration affirm human “potential, as bearers of God’s image, to add to the earth’s abundance,” and recognize the identity of human beings as both "producers and stewards."

Again I have to say that neither concept is entirely exclusive of the other. The preservationist view could be said to be supportive of "producers & stewards", but that the word producers doesn't allow for consumption of huge amounts of resources in an unsustainable manner. The proliferation view seems to fit with what the Bible states, and even in the parable told by Jesus (see full article) it appears that one is being told to 'develop and grow your assets'. While the economy is important in both views, and it's smart to make prudent personal investments, (my house has appreciated - hooray!) in the big picture of the world economy we can no longer grow; the human population is too large (it would take three earths for every person to consume resources at the rate that we do in North America), our resources and energy sources are being depleted rapidly, and environmental degredation is everywhere. The economy is a subset of ecology, and only through realizing this can we move forward together with a plan to improve the quality of life for everyone on our planet.


4 comments:

Cameron W said...

I just discovered an interesting book...

The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth
by Edward O. Wilson

Synopsis:
In his daring work, Wilson states that Nature is a universal value--one that serves without discrimination the interests of all humanity--and proposes an alliance between science and religion to save Earth's vanishing biodiversity.

For more info see:
http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=0393062171 (book review)
...and...
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5788810 (audio interview)

Cameron W said...

Here's a recent story in the news...

Cardinal tells car-mad Germans to think green

link to full story

Thu Feb 22, 9:41 AM

BERLIN (AFP) - The head of the Catholic church in Germany called on his compatriots on Thursday to give up their beloved cars for Lent to make a personal contribution to preventing climate change.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann said in Bild newspaper on Thursday that the period of 40 days before Easter in the Christian calendar "requires us to rethink our lifestyle."

"Far too often, we do things that are harmful to our fellow citizens and the environment.

"Let us use Lent to make a personal contribution to improving our climate by having car 'fast.'

"Preserving creation is a duty which falls to all of us," Lehmann, the chairman of the German bishops' conference, said.

(story snipped)

A UN report said this month that global warming was almost certainly caused by humans, and carbon pollution disgorged this century would disrupt the climate system for a thousand years to come.

Cameron W said...

15 Green Religious Leaders

An interesting and related read, with lots of informative links.

Anonymous said...

'A Christian version of Al Gore'
Robin White's slide show on faith and climate change isn't up for an Oscar, but it heralds a growing trend among Christians who see environmental stewardship as a sacred calling
Roger Collier, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some people think the responsibility for solving global warming falls to those in positions of power: Political leaders who can tax egregious polluters and industry tycoons who can invest in greener technology. Others believe science can remedy the world's ills.

Robin White has a different perspective.

"Christianity is the core solution to environmental problems," he says .

Mr. White, who works for Environment Canada's greenhouse gas division, doesn't dismiss the role science plays in fighting climate change. With a degree in biochemistry, he's no stranger to the world of lab coats and beakers. He knows politics plays an important part, too. His years pursuing a masters degree in international environmental policy and working for the federal NDP taught him that.

But in the end, he says, real progress in curbing the damage people inflict on the Earth can only be achieved by those who inflict it. And that means people must change. Mr. White believes this entails more than shunning plastic bags, more than discarding energy-hungry light bulbs, more than nudging down your thermostat -- it means changing how you view this world and how you view your place in it. Such profound change, he says, can only come through faith.

"Ultimately, the problem is not the science. It's not the economics. It's a problem of the heart."

In recent years, more and more practising Christians have taken active roles in addressing environmental problems. In 2006, many prominent American evangelical leaders -- including the head of the Salvation Army and Rick Warren, pastor of the fourth largest church in the U.S. and the author of The Purpose Driven Life -- signed a statement backing the "Evangelical Climate Initiative." The non-profit Christian organization A Rocha runs nature conservation projects in 18 countries, including Canada.

Mr. White, who is 34 and has never owned a car, acknowledges that Christians are becoming more open to discussing environmental issues. But attitudes are changing far too slowly for his liking. And he has a question for those believers concerned only about the next world: How can you profess love for a creator but care so little about his creation?

Some eco-minded Christians say their faith and environmental concerns are intrinsically linked. Green party leader Elizabeth May has been active in the environmental movement since her teenage years. She's been a devoted Anglican just as long. For her, the concept of a person of faith who sits idly as others leave Goliath-sized ecological footprints is absurd.

"If you proclaim yourself as a Christian and you look at the world in which you live, it's hard not to see that you have a particular obligation to right the wrongs you see around you," she says.

Ms. May says it isn't difficult for church-goers to adopt greener practices. They could, for example, carpool to church. Better yet, they could worship near their homes and walk, as she does each Sunday to St. Bartholomew's in New Edinburgh.

Environmental awareness campaigns oriented towards Christians can also be effective in making them re-examine their lifestyle choices, says Ms. May. She cites, by way of example, the 2002 effort led by a Prius-driving member of the Evangelical Environmental Network who posed the question: "What Would Jesus Drive?"

Of course, if she were asked that question, Ms. May's answer wouldn't quite fit the query: "Jesus would take the bus."

An even more effective approach than raising awareness, some Christians say, is to actually get your hands dirty. The members of A Rocha Canada, which is based in South Surrey, B.C., focus on nature conservation projects, like rehabilitating animal habitats or restoring polluted streams.

"We're motivated to do good work on the ground," say Markku Costamo, the group's executive director. "Because of our faith, we want to be good stewards of what God created by doing good, solid, practical projects."

The 20-member organization, which receives much of its funding from churches and individual donors, often works with secular environmental groups to tackle projects. Sometimes the other groups are leery, suspicious that Mr. Costamo and his colleagues have a hidden agenda. But the only evangelism they do on project sites, he says, is with their hands.

Mr. Costamo, a vegetation ecologist, says he gets many speaking requests from churches. Over the past two years, he says, evangelical Christians in particular have become increasingly interested in exploring their responsibilities not only to their fellow man, but to the Earth. Still, his passion for the environment sometimes meets with resistance.

"Some say church should be about saving souls," says Mr. Costamo, "not about wasting time restoring a salmon stream."

Mr. White has, at times, received similar comments from Christians with whom he's shared his views. In fact, he's heard worse. Someone once told him that he's been deceived, that global warming isn't real, that he should concentrate on other issues, like abortion and gay marriage. Another said he was compromising his salvation.

..

Despite the occasional unpleasant exchange, Mr. White is doing his part to spread the gospel of green. He's prepared a slide show titled "A Christian Perspective on Climate Change." It's perhaps the only PowerPoint presentation ever to contain both a quotation from Deuteronomy and a graph showing the rise of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. He presents the slide show to university students and local congregations. At one point, he considered making this his vocation.

"Almost like a Christian version of Al Gore," he says.

But he decided he could make a greater contribution to the world in his position at Environment Canada, where he provides policy advice on matters relating to monitoring greenhouse gases. So he does presentations on the side. Next Sunday, he'll be speaking at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Old Ottawa South.

"I think he can help our congregation look at this issue through a Christian lens," says Kerry Kronberg, one of the church's pastors.

Mr. White believes he's been called by God to speak out about climate change. One aspect of taking personal responsibility on environmental issues, he says, is educating others. He says Christians can make particularly strong advocates for the environment because they are duty-bound to press on, no matter how dire the circumstance, no matter how grim the outlook.

"From a non-Christian perspective, you can throw up your hands and give up. As a Christian, I can say God has given me a responsibility and I can be a light in the world. And I will."

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The Good Book on green issues

Some Bible verses cited as supportive of environmentalism:

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." -- Genesis 2:15

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." -- Psalm 19: 1-4

"The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters."

-- Psalm 24: 1-2

"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants." -- Leviticus 24:1

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See the slide show

Robin White will be presenting

"A Christian Perspective on Climate Change" next Sunday,

Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. at Sunnyside Wesleyan Church, 58 Grosvenor Avenue.