Advice for the Eco-Conscious

As I have said on BreakPoint before, for many people environmentalism occupies the same place traditionally occupied by more conventional religious belief. Actually, if you consider the lengths to which people will go not to offend against Mother Earth, or “Gaia,” as she is known to her devotees, you have to smile when they call Christians “fanatics.”

By way of illustration, let me recount two pieces of advice given to people desiring to live in the most “eco-conscious” manner possible. See if you can guess which is a parody and which is in earnest.

In the first, people are urged to make sure that, just as they are “eco-conscious” when it comes to managing their household waste, they are also “eco-conscious” when they themselves “become waste.”

Traditional burial, they’re told, is “highly resource-intensive.” It uses lots of raw materials, and the transportation of raw and finished materials creates greenhouse gases. Add the toxic chemicals used in embalming, and burial is little more than terrorism against the biosphere.

Cremation isn’t much better. The average cremation produces as much greenhouses gases as the average home does in six days. And then there’s the mercury released by burning dental fillings.

What is the most “eco-conscious” way of disposing of your body? Burial in a shallow grave covered by a bio-degradable shroud. And don’t forget to purchase carbon offsets to counteract the gases your body will emit as it decomposes.

In the second bit of advice for the eco-conscious, they were asked to consider the ethical ramifications of helping poor Africans—specifically, giving them a goat.

If this sounds like a good thing to you, you obviously haven’t thought about effect that Western aid, however well-intentioned, has on the “authenticity” of African life. You haven’t considered the possibility that what we call “poverty” is the kind of harmony with the Earth that we in the West should aspire to and even envy.

What’s more, what Africa really needs are more and better family-planning services to keep it from becoming “even more wildly overpopulated by more mouths to feed.”

Then there’s the goat—what about its rights? Should we “entrust animals to a continent where . . . where PETA has tried but failed to bring about a cultural shift in attitudes to wildlife and pet-life?”

OK, the bit about the goats was a parody from Spiked online. But you wouldn’t know that unless you had read the whole piece with its lampooning of the lifestyles of the eco-conscious. As for the eco-friendly burial, that was an earnest appeal found in Slate magazine.

Nonetheless, the “advice” in both scenarios reflects actual positions taken by environmentalists. The misanthropy needed to call a human body “waste” is the same misanthropy behind the willingness to sacrifice human well-being for the sake of the planet.

Ultimately, what distinguishes modern environmentalism from the Christian idea of stewardship isn’t the degree of concern for the environment. It’s the deity in whose name we’re acting.

Whereas the Christian God cares for all His creation, “Gaia” doesn’t like us very much. Dead or alive, to her we’re a “resource intensive” nuisance. Or worse. And that’s not a parody.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage