Marvin Olasky: Caring for the planet

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, November 12th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The Bible says Adam and Eve were the first gardeners. Their job was to care for the land.

And modern-day wealth has provided sophisticated methods of environmental protection.

But today, a politicized green movement sets the wealthy as culprits of environmental collapse.

But WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky sees another way. This, from his 2017 book Worldview.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Some environmental activists worry that Americans are too rich. They say our affluence allows us to pollute more, endanger more wildlife, and use much more than our share of the world’s resources. It’s an argument straight out of the books of Paul Ehrlich and other ecological fatalists.

But I can summarize another perspective this way: It takes money to be green.  For example, people in poor countries use primitive biomass fuels like wood and dung for cooking and heating. But burning them pollutes the air.  Cutting down trees, apart from careful planning and replanting, depletes resources. Poor cultures move past a reliance on wood by becoming richer and building power grids—but that takes time and money.

This new paradigm argues that affluence allows us to produce more of the goods and services that improve the human condition. It also helps us alleviate negative effects of past pollution. Technological innovation and the growth of human capital lead to improvements in both the environment and the economy.

I don’t know enough to judge whether the “affluence is environmentally good” theory makes more sense than the “affluence is environmentally bad” conventional wisdom. But, if it does, the conventional green tendency to oppose economic progress in the name of environmental stewardship is sadly self-defeating.

Given man’s sinfulness, I know that better things alone do not make for better living. We need spiritual and economic incentives. The Soviet economic and environmental disaster shows what can happen when those biblical and free market incentives are missing.

And, I know absolutely what the Bible teaches: that human beings are created in God’s image and are thus the most valuable resource on earth. Blessed is a country whose quiver is full. Full of people. Full of flora and fauna. Full of life. People made in God’s image have creative power. As gardeners we can add to the earth’s abundance, not merely live off the land.

The Bible teaches that we all have an obligation to be stewards and gardeners in a way that benefits other men and women, and also other creatures. The Bible teaches that the affluent, while not necessarily their brothers’ keepers, should certainly be their brothers’ helpers. Those who own fields should allow the hungry to glean in them. Those with political power should not use it to impede the poor by denying them the opportunity to move out of poverty.

Do we deny opportunity when we impose the environmental standards of the affluent on people in other nations who are desperately trying to break out of poverty?

If we embrace environmental romanticism and believe that “nature knows best,” do we lose the opportunity to develop and use innovations that could help millions of the earth’s inhabitants, human and animal?

Those are questions to ponder as we enjoy God’s provision during this harvest time.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.

(Photo/Kevin Gill, Flickr)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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