In the contemporary society, many environmental educators are paying less attention to Christians and Jewish, despite the sects having a rich source of environmental information and education. This decision has resulted in several misconceptions regarding the impact of the religious groups on environmental values. According to Barnhill and Gottlieb (1), there seems to be a deep conflict between the religious traditions concerning the environmental exploitation of the world. Despite the fact that I concur with some of the arguments presented by the authors about Judeo-Christian traditionbeing a contributing factor to the contemporary environmental exploitation, it should not be assumed that it is the main reason for the present global environmental crisis. This essay analyzesBarnhil and Gottlieb among other authors` interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition that justifies the environmental exploitation of the natural world and ways in which these attitudes can be transformed through a new interpretation of the scripture.
According to Barnhill and Gottlieb (1), Christians in their practice have accentuated divine existence, which implies that there is a God above all human andis separated from human beings. This God is also the creator of all things, both the living and the unloving. Additionally, the scripture in Genesis 1: 28 denotes the fact it was in the plan of God that man would benefit and rule. This provision is considered an avenue thatenhances the manipulative attitude, which comes from the perception that it is the will of God for human beings to exploit and use nature in any manner hence justifying the environmental exploitation of the natural world. Apart from the normal exploitation of the environment by man, it is apparent that a clear model that could provide meaning to the Judeo-Christian tradition led to anthropocentrism. Consequently, this resulted in the rise of science and technology, eventuallyensuing in environmental degradation.
In their reference to the issue of Judeo-Christian groups and their influence on the environment,Barnhill and Gottlieb denotethe existence ofan indirect contributing factor to the environment. TheJudeo-Christian attitudes triggered Capitalism and the emergence of science and technology. Secondly, the Christian group also enhanced theprevalence of democratization. Altogether, these elements occasioneda social shift, leading to urbanization, improved wealth, enlargedpopulation, and personal resource ownership. These variables are the main cause of direct environmental degradation (Moncrief 511). Therefore, according to the author, Christian attitudes directly influence the enhancement of these elements.
Capitalism as a form of improving wealth involves an economic system where the means of production of goods and services is privately owned, with a directaim of being sold for profit. A large amount of the consumer goods and services incorporate natural resources. The consumer goods as well natural resources and capital goods are improved to come up with consumer goods and services that are soldwith an intent of making a profit (Schiffman and Robbins 91). During this entire processthat is aimed at producing the maximum profit through the exploitation of natural resources, it is evident thatit results in the exploitation or rather negative environmental effects, for instance, pollution, deforestation, species depletion,or even extinction thereby leading to the justification of the environmental exploitation of the natural world. These effects are in most cases not factored into the capitalist business formulabecause of the economic costs of conservation. One of the negative implications of capitalism logic of production and exchange is that there is no an integral mechanism to enhance or subject the industry to establishing methods thathave a minimal bearingon the environment. This is because the sole interest of capitalism is vested in the accumulation of profit. Therefore, because of the Judeo-Christian’s interpretation of the environmental aspect where man is given full authority to subdue and the emergence of the capitalistic attitude, the society has undermined the ecological ethics relating to sustainability hence affecting the environment negatively.
Moreover, evaluating the roots of the contemporary ecological crisis, it is evident that Christianity’s anthropocentric Western form, different from the Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well as other Eastern religious traditions, allowed and triggered a damaging marriage of science and technology that is considered as justification for ecological exploitation. This Western development was as a result of the recognition of the Christian doctrine of man’s superiority of and a just mastery over nature, whichis derived from the Scriptures. “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”This implies that Christianity is responsible for a huge burden of guilt for the environmentaldistresses. As long as the Christian adage will continue to be upheld, the world will continueto experiencea deteriorating ecologic crisis until a time when the global population will realize that nature has no exclusivemotive for solely existing reason to serve man (Hitzhusen 57).
However, these attitudes in the above inference can be transformed through new interpretations of the scripture and tradition. Numerous environmental scholars andadvocateshave supported the notion that Judeo-Christian ideologies are the main problem for undermining environmental ethics and justification of its exploitation. For instance, the famous environmental journalist Bill Moyers summarized this theme to the general acclaim by asserting that the anti-environmental tendencies of the Bush administration in the United Stateswereentrenched in a literal and exploitative understanding of the references in the scriptures of Genesis to Dominion ((Hitzhusen 57). The author goes ahead and acclaims that theprevalent complacency on the topic of environmental protection is enhanced by evangelical and fundamentalist Christian dogmas. However, these claims, as those presented by Barnhil and Gorttlieb,share a mutual overestimation and misapprehension of the impact of religious beliefs about the biblical canon. Certainly, as these authors were knowledgeably aware, the desacralization of nature that is presented in the Judaism and Christianity sees nature as God’s creation. Despite the fact that this process contributed to the increase of science and technology in the West and other parts of the world, it did not mean to undermine or destroy the ecologicalenvironmentas attributed in the thesis but rather it was to encourage the scientific expedition to appreciate the workings of God’s creation. In the same scripture, it is also evident that God permitted human beings to multiply and increase His creation works (Genesis 1:28). There are several countless benefits that we get from the advent of science and technology in the world today despite the fact that desacralization of nature has its hazards.
It is also evident that according to the biblical context of religion and morality, it is evident that humans continuously lived under the authority of God. This is a God who regardedHis creation as ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31). It is, therefore, wrong to assert that the same God would allow man to exploit thecreation work that was goodto the extent that it becomes depleted, which justifies interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition environmental exploitation of the natural world. Therefore, the Judeo-Christian interpretation of the scriptures does not imply that God allowed a man to exploit the environment without conserving it. There are several elements in the world, for instance, resource utilization, population growth, life anticipation, and standard of living that have increased and given birth to agradually complex global situation. This implies that unlike Barnhil and Gottlieb who concentrated on the role of religious canon in determiningapproaches toward nature, there are also other cultural elements whose impact on modern environmental attitudes are more than the perception or role of Judeo-Christian dogma. These include factors such as democratization, materialism, secularization, individualism as well as the explosion of individual wealth. These factors have highly contributed to the environmental degradation despite being not supported by Judeo-Christian ideologies. This means that thedevelopment of the environmentally hazardous modern situation was triggered bynumerous causes, and therefore religion is not the only dominant fact.
Gottlieb, Roger S. “Spiritual Deep Ecology and World Religions: A Shared Fate, a Shared Task.” Deep Ecology and World Religions: New Essays on Sacred Ground (2001): 17-33.
Hitzhusen, Gregory E. “Judeo‐Christian theology and the environment: moving beyond scepticism to new sources for environmental education in the United States.” Environmental Education Research 13.1 (2007): 55-74.
Moncrief, Lewis W. “The cultural basis for our environmental crisis.” Science 170.3957 (1970): 508-512.