Six Characteristics of Environmental Stewardship in an Organic Christian Society

Six Characteristics of Environmental Stewardship in an Organic Christian Society

“Americans are justifiably skeptical of the global environmental movement.”

By James Bascom*

The December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is the most hyped international environmental conference since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Its goal is nothing less than a legally binding treaty and international framework — under the auspices of the UN — that would force the nations of the world to drastically cut their carbon dioxide emissions, thereby avoiding a supposed man-made global warming catastrophe.

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No expense has been spared to promote this conference. Governments, churches, universities, large corporations, and especially the media (not to mention the UN itself) have expended an enormous amount of time, money, and political capital to whip up public support. Pope Francis’ April 28 “Green Summit” at the Vatican with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and his “green” encyclical Laudato Si were planned earlier this year largely to give valuable momentum to the Paris summit. President Obama made this clear in a statement in June: “[A]s we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders — and all God’s children — will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.”

The environmental movement is going to need all the help it can get. After more than twenty years of summits with very little to show for it, the event organizers are desperate for a breakthrough agreement. Fatih Birol, director of the International Energy Agency, has called Paris 2015 “our last hope.” French President François Hollande has affirmed that “we are duty-bound to succeed” passing a meaningful accord.[1]


“A Yale study found that while 63% of Americans believe that global warming is happening, less than half believe that it is caused primarily by man”

Most of this failure can be attributed to a public opinion that is increasingly skeptical of both man-made global warming itself and the assertion that the government could or should do anything about it. A Yale study found that while 63% of Americans believe that global warming is happening, less than half believe that it is caused primarily by man[2] and a mere 36% believe global warming will pose a serious threat to their way of life during their lifetimes.[3] When asked to rank the importance of global warming in comparison to other threats such as ISIS, Iran or Russia, Americans place it near the very bottom of the list.[4]

Americans are justifiably skeptical of the global environmental movement. It shows many of the characteristics, not of a serious scientific movement, but of a political ideology or even a quasi-religious sect. The overwhelming majority of its leaders and foot soldiers espouse a not-so-hidden socialist ideology that seeks to dismantle our economic system. Meteorologists fail to accurately predict the weather two weeks into the future, yet somehow we are asked to sacrifice our entire way of life thanks to the prediction of a tenuous climate computer model two decades into the future.

The science is “settled,” we are told. We must accept global warming as an article of faith. Debate is not only wrong, but dangerous. Opponents to the movement, no matter how scientifically rigorous their arguments may be, are labeled “deniers” (reminiscent of “Holocaust denier”). The New York Times published a cartoon depicting the stabbing of global warming skeptics[5], Robert Kennedy Jr. declared that skeptics should be sent to trial at the International Criminal Court of Justice in The Hague[6], and Sheldon Whitehouse, Democratic Senator from Rhode Island supported using RICO laws to prosecute skeptics.[7] Thousands of scientists have suffered persecution, loss of funding, or even the loss of their jobs for daring to expose holes in the man-made global warming theory.

Many of the same Christians who abhor the environmental movement also have a genuine concern for fulfilling mankind’s obligation, given to him by God in the Book of Genesis, to be proper stewards of the Earth. Is it possible to care for the planet Earth without being contaminated by the socialist principles of the environmental movement? What would such a stewardship look like in an organic Christian society?

1. It would declare God, not the Earth, as the Supreme Being


“Mikhail Gorbachev, founder of the Green Cross International and a leading environmental activist”

Most of the environmental movement’s members explicitly or implicitly embrace a pantheistic worldview. For them the Earth and all living things contain a “spark” of the divinity and therefore have no final purpose outside of themselves. This naturally leads to a radical egalitarianism between man, animals, plants, and inanimate matter. If all things are equally god, no one being has any greater dignity, or importance, or rights than any other. In his 1992 book Earth in the Balance, Al Gore praised these pre-Christian pantheistic concepts of the Earth.[8] Consider this statement by Mikhail Gorbachev, founder of the Green Cross International and a leading environmental activist:

“I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. Look at the sun. If there is no sun, then we cannot exist. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals.”[9]

True Christian stewardship of the Earth must recognize God as the Supreme Being, distinct from His creation. He reigns sovereign over the universe and His creatures attain their final end in Him, not in themselves. Every animal, plant, mineral, and human being reflects a unique and beautiful quality of an infinite God. It is through this beauty and order that mankind can better know, love and serve Him.

2. It would recognize mankind as the king, not the predator, of creation


Environmentalists see mankind as evil and therefore support abortion.

The natural consequence of this pantheistic, neo-pagan worldview is a violent disdain for mankind. Environmentalists see man as a suicidal predator of the Earth, a being whose civilization and technology does nothing but harm himself, the Earth, and all the creatures on it. This view is expressed well by the Club of Rome, a European pro-environmentalist think tank:

“In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.[10]  [Our bold emphasis.]

Christian stewardship recognizes that God created the physical universe in a hierarchical way. God gave mankind an order to “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.” (Gen 1:28). Man is not equal to the animals and plants. Rather, he has a truly privileged status in the physical creation. Animals and plants exist to serve man’s needs, not the other way around.

3. It would recognize man as a partner of God in the building of Christian civilization


“using the Earth’s resources to give glory to God in everything”

The environmentalist movement tries its best to stifle human use of natural resources as best it can, whether it be opposing the construction of a dam in California, closing a coal mine in West Virginia, fighting agricultural development in Brazil, or protesting the death of Cecil the Lion. Christian stewardship recognizes that resources were put in the Earth by God for man’s use. He has every right to use them for his physical necessities.

In an organic Christian society, the Earth’s resources do not provide merely for individual men’s bodily needs. Rather they are the raw materials that man, if he corresponds to God’s grace, can and should use to construct a marvelous Christian civilization. The great works produced by Christian Europe in the Middle Ages — its towering Gothic Cathedrals, mighty castles, stained glass, and sculptures, just to name a few — were built using the Earth’s resources to give glory to God in everything.

Dante Alighieri called the works of man “the grandchildren of God.” When man utilizes the raw stone, sand, wood, and metal of the Earth to construct these works, they give God far greater glory than merely sitting unused for the sake of environmental “sustainability.” Who could argue that the sand, stone, and metal used to make the breathtaking stained glass of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris would have been better left in the ground, or that the trees felled to build Christopher Columbus’ fleet be left untouched to die and rot in the forest?

A big difference between our industrialized society and an organic Christian society is the absence of what John Horvat, in his book Return to Order, calls the “sublime.” He defines the sublime as “those things that are of such excellence that they provoke great emotion, causing men to be overawed by their magnificence or grandeur. The sublime might be found in extraordinary panoramas, works of art, ideas, virtuous acts, or the heroic feats of great men.” When men cooperate with God’s grace and utilize the Earth’s resources to produce sublime works, they not only give glory to God but also give greater meaning to our lives and satisfy some of the deepest longings of the soul.

4. It would view an intelligent mankind as the key, not the obstacle, to environmental stewardship


A woman holding a sign in favor of Carbon Offsetting during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in 2011.

Environmentalists generally see resources as finite, resource scarcity an insurmountable problem, and pollution an inevitable consequence of development. The only way to escape these problems is not to solve them, but avoid them by clamping down on development, reducing the human population, and reducing individual consumption.

They ignore the role of man’s intelligence in solving these environmental problems. Thomas Malthus, the founding father of population control wrote in his 1798 work An Essay on the Principle of Population that population should be kept in check, since its growth would inevitably outstrip food production. Paul Ehrlich his 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted that the population explosion would lead to mass starvation by 1980. Both these philosophers were proven spectacularly wrong by the massive increases in agricultural production made possible by human ingenuity.

Many people are unaware that America’s air, rivers, and soil are the cleanest they have been in over a hundred years, and are getting cleaner every year. This has largely been the result of engineering solutions that replaced dirty industrial processes with clean ones and governmental regulations that, until recently, respected economic growth while cleaning up the environment.

5. It would respect private property rights


“Only in a society that protects property rights is the environment truly protected.”

Christian stewardship must respect the Natural Law, the law that God has written on the hearts of all men. First among these laws, at least as they deal with land use and environmentalism, is the right of private property.

The environmental movement, with its ideological roots in socialism, generally works to weaken or destroy the right of individuals to own private property or to dispose of it as they see fit. This can be seen in the draconian animal rights regulations that block California farmers from farming their own property upon discovery of some obscure field mouse, or in the water regulations that prevent Colorado ranchers from grazing their cattle near rivers on their ranches, or in the delay or cancellation of infrastructure projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline. Factory owners must spend great sums of money to satisfy environmental regulations, and homeowners in many areas are banned from clearing trees, building structures, or substantially modifying their own land for the sake of “environmental protection.”

Only in a society that protects property rights is the environment truly protected. Countries with socialist or communist regimes where private property was banned or severely curtailed, such as the former Soviet Union, China, and Cuba, are today basket cases of environmental degradation. It is simple common sense that unless a man has a personal stake in a property through ownership, it will be abused and neglected. In an organic Christian society, the state would work in tandem with landowners to solve environmental problems without encroaching on property rights.

6. It would eschew socialist, supra-national, centrally planned, global “solutions”


“National or international ‘solutions’ tend to transfer control to faceless bureaucrats who never set foot on the soil they are regulating.”

Problems of air and water pollution, land use, and resource scarcity are almost always regional or local problems which can only be properly addressed by the local government and citizenry. An attempt to impose a one-size-fits-all “solution” on an entire nation, much less the whole world, cannot possibly address each and every local problem and unique need. National or international “solutions” tend to transfer control over resources from the local population to faceless bureaucrats in a far-off capital who have likely never set foot on the very soil they are regulating.

Moreover, the purported crisis that such international agreements are supposed to solve — man-made climate change — is itself a dubious scientific theory. And behind the green curtain lies a not-so-hidden political ideology. Canadian writer and environmental activist Naomi Klein explains in her 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate:

“[A]s we remake our economies to stay within our global carbon budget, we need to see less consumption…less trade…and less private investment….Implicit in all of this is a great deal more redistribution, so that more of us can live comfortably within the planet’s capacity…Which is precisely why, when climate change deniers claim that global warming is a plot to redistribute wealth, it’s not (only) because they are paranoid. It’s also because they are paying attention.”[11]

Conscientious Catholics must do everything to oppose the false solutions of the Paris summit. In addition, the false dichotomy implicit within the great environmental debate — green socialism vs. environmental unconcern — must be rejected. It is only in a truly organic Christian society as described in Return to Order where the material creation is protected, used, and directed toward its proper end.










[8] Henry James, The Ambassadors (Rockville: Serenity, 2009), 34-40.

[9] “Nature Is My God” – interview with Fred Matser in Resurgence No. 184 (September-October 1997)

[10] Alexander King & Bertrand Schneider, The First Global Revolution: A Report by the Council of the Club of Rome (Hyderabad, India: Orient Longman, 1993), p. 115.

[11] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014), p. 92-93.

  • Edward Koestner

    Very good article.

  • Pete


  • Of course, a huge part of the problem is the distribution of energy usage to begin with. There is no sane reason why a member of a first world country should use 40x the amount of fossil fuels as a member of a third world country, other than centralization of wealth and power in the first world countries.

    Perhaps a little localization and redistribution is necessary at this point to centralize the communist nature of crony capitalist markets.

    • Pete

      Who are you to criticize how much energy anyone uses, as long as they paid for it and are not wasting it? People in first, second, and third world economies contribute, are paid, and then buy what they wish with the money. including energy. Why worship the fantasy of everyone living the same material life, when we know our dignity comes from being created in the image of God, not what material we possess, or whether it is some ‘acceptable’ ratio to someone else’s material possessions?

      • Are you 40 people? I’m not. I’m criticizing myself for using 40 times the amount of energy as anybody else needs to survive. THAT is a waste- because luxury is always a waste.

        Also, it is a standard part of our world economy that people in the third world are NOT paid what they are worth, that’s the only reason we put factories there, so that we can take advantage of slave labor and destroy their dignity.

        If they are made in the image of God, why do you deserve more resources than they do?

        • Pete

          You’ve been duped into undeserved guilt; it is impossible to destroy human dignity because it is put there by God, it is perfect and impossible to improve upon. I give very generously to the poor out of respect for it, not the Marxist assumption that my gift in any way creates or in any way affects it. Preach that truth – and people will gradually not sell their contribution for less than what is fair. (Do you have a monopoly on defining subjective things like fair, luxury, etc?) Please abandon this illusion that lowering your lifestyle, worse yet asking government to confiscate and redistribute it by force ignoring free will, can actually teach or improve the lives of those who have less. It’s not authentically Catholic, and it’s simply not true.

          • “You’ve been duped into undeserved guilt; it is impossible to destroy human dignity because it is put there by God, it is perfect and impossible to improve upon. ”

            That’s what the pornographers claim, but it isn’t true- human dignity can indeed be destroyed through use and abuse. 56 million aborted children crying out to heaven for justice proves that American Crony Capitalism, like Marxism, is an offense against human dignity.

            No Catholic can call himself generous as long as he is keeping the basic needs of life away from any human being.

            Gradualism just kills more people. All it takes for evil to prevail, is for saints to be comfortable and do nothing.

            So I ask you once again the question you avoided- why do you believe THEIR dignity is worth 1/40th what yours is, that they should live on $1.25/day but you deserve wealth and luxury?

            Because I can no longer believe what you are selling, that my comfortable lifestyle is worth the life on one unborn child or one orphan in Africa.

          • Pete

            The astute reader will find answers to your questions in previous posts. You appear locked into the falsehood that one person’s increase always causes someone else a corresponding decrease, and you believe in causality and linkages which do not exist. Capitalism tempered by Christians has raised millions of our contemporaries out of poverty. We my try to surrender dignity through the sins mentioned, but never succeed at diminishing what a perfect God creates perfectly. Good day sir I must move on, Merry Christmas.


            The problem is, Crony Capitalism isn’t tempered by Christianity at all. It has become a religion unto itself, which competes with Christianity.

        • Meticulous MalCom MurgaTroyd

          If we did not engage the third world with jobs, they would even be worse off!!…They are 3rd world because of their leaders & governments , who are the real devils…..Read about Liberia’s history: Same constitution as the USA used by slaves who were freed to go back to their Motherland…No white men involved & it did not work for them!!

          • yearnd

            We used to send them seed, and hoes, remember CARE? Somehow that was changed to Factories and jobs.

    • Energy usage is not a zero-sum game. An American burning coal mined in West Virginia to produce electricity to light his house does not prevent an African from doing the same with coal mined in his country. Poverty is alleviated through economic development, including energy extraction. The ecological movement wants to effectively kill economic development and reduce global living standards for the sake of “sustainability.”

      • A coal fire in China can cause acid rain in Oregon. We are far more connected than you imagine.

  • Robert Ritchie

    John Horvat II discusses this in his post on Piketty. He says: “Capital does not exist in the abstract but is intimately linked with civil society. Take away the ability to accumulate wealth in its many forms and you destroy society’s stability and property’s foundation. Punish those who produce the nation’s wealth with huge progressive taxes and you suppress initiative. Level society with the strong arm of big government and you create not an egalitarian paradise but a wasteland.”

  • John_Eidsmoe

    An excellent article, Mr. Horvat!

    When you think about it, Darwinism provides no basis at all for a sound conservation ethic. The world is about natural selection and survival of the fittest. If humans and whales are locked in a struggle for survival and humans kill all the whales, according to Darwinism that’s exactly what was supposed to happen — the more fit species survived and the less fit species became extinct.

    In contrast, a Biblical view that God has created man in His image and has given him dominion over the earth, which dominion mandate authorizes man to use the resources of nature but also includes a stewardship mandate that requires man to use God’s resources wisely, provides a solid basis for a sound conservation ethic and for the building of Christian civilization.

  • Cole

    I agree with some of what is written is here. But as usual, I have some disagreement. The one thing that this article misses is that ones use of private property cannot affect another’s use of private property. The opposition to a damn or Keystone XL is exactly about that. It interferes with the use of another’s private property use in that if a damn is built, it floods the lands of someone else and effects the river both up stream and down stream. Fish can’t move up the river to spawn and therefore that effects someone else’s ability to fish on their land. Water is then restricted down stream, affecting a farmer’s ability to farm. Oil pipelines break all the time, and their effects spread much wider than just where the pipeline broke.

    I do agree though that global warming is a falsehood created by unscrupulous men who needed to cause a crisis to further benefit them. I was surprised the cap and trade BS didn’t come up.

    • I will try to address your points.

      First, certain works like dams and oil pipelines (unlike strip malls, race tracks, or commercial parks) are essentially public infrastructure, even though private companies are building them. Dams provide electricity and flood control for everyone. Oil pipelines provide North American oil for all Americans. The state can take the private property necessary to build them through the power of with eminent domain (provided they pay just compensation). The state has a right to do this. In the case of a pipeline, it is underground and would barely affect most landowners, who would receive royalty payments anyway. Oil pipelines are far more safe than oil trains, which is how much of the oil from Canada is getting to our refineries.

      Second, the environmentalist movement, like all socialist movements, rejects private property entirely. That was the point of this article. They are not out there protesting the Keystone XL pipeline because they want to protect the “poor” property owner. Environmentalists like Greenpeace want the state to regulate property so much that it ceases to be privately owned in everything but name only. They hate economic development. They hate resource extraction.

      The right to private property is not absolute, but neither is it non-existent. The Catholic Church established a great balance on private property. St. Thomas Aquinas and other theologians expounded on this.