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Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition foreword by Rev. Robert Sirico, introduction by Jay W. Richards

Source: Borrowed
Paperback, 119 pages
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Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, foreword by Rev. Robert Sirico and introduction by Jay W. Richards, from the Acton Institute explores the religious and textual principles that guide Judaism and Christian faith as they apply to responsible environmental stewardship.  Much of this slim volume focuses on the movement for population control, as well as preserving animal species.  The argument for preserving animals only works in so far as how those animals fit into the overall plan for humans and their needs — they can never take precedence over the needs and benefits of humans, in the simplest of terms.  While all life should be considered worth saving, their argument relies upon a sort of cost benefit analysis in light of religious principles.  For those who are less aware of the nuances of human dominion over nature, this book could provide some insight into the argument that radical environmentalists believe religion espouses humans should not merely consume or take over nature for their own purposes.  This text argues that dominion does not mean humans should merely consume and take what they want, that they should use, shape, and add to nature, not merely consume but to guide it.

“Judaism would never countenance loggers suffering the indignity of joblessness in order not to disturb the nesting habitat of the owl.  When homes for people become dramatically overpriced because of the regulatory costs of providing for the habitat of the kangaroo rat, Jewish tradition also must object.  People need not justify their needs of desires to nature.  They are warned only against destroying things for no good purpose.”  (page 25)

There are some great points about the need for societal change and the absence of a sense of community that seems to pervade many highly populated areas.  There is an argument that greater civility is needed to ensure that highly populated areas are not oppressive.  These elements of the book seem more about morality and religious principles, rather than environmental concerns, such as pollution, biodiversity, and climate change, for example.

“Overpopulation is not a question of numbers or objectively measurable figures such as people per square mile.  Instead, it is a question of whether people feel oppressed by the overwhelming presence of others.  This has more to do with the standards of civility and behavior than with actual population numbers.” (page 19-20)

In an economic perspective, which this book uses alongside its religious one, the benefits nature provides to humans is too often couched with the idea that humans are merely consumers by environmentalists.  Animals should only be saved if they can provide some benefit to humans or their preservation does not interfere with the comfort and growth of the human race.  The idea that there is a middle path is a noble one, but at more than one point in this textual argument, the writers suggest that one side or another must be taken in order for a solution to be found and that there is no middle ground.  Much of this analysis is based on old data regarding climate change and some other issues, and a lot of the arguments stem from the arguments of the most radical environmentalist paradigms.

“Hence, the good steward does not allow the resources entrusted to him to lie fallow or to fail to produce their proper fruit.  Not does he destroy them irrevocably.  Rather, he uses them, develops them, and, to the best of his ability, strives to realize their increase so that he may enjoy his livelihood and provide for the good of his family and his descendants.”  (page 39-40)

Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, foreword by Rev. Robert Sirico and introduction by Jay W. Richards, from the Acton Institute provides an interesting basis for discussion about environmental issues and how the religiously faithful can participate in discussions to find solutions to real problems while remaining true to their faith.  However, there is a lot of faith placed in the goodness of man to do the right thing.  As with any religious-based doctrines, there are some ideas that may bristle readers, particularly with regard to what is viewed as “government” programs aimed at population control (i.e. Planned Parenthood in this example).

  • Anna

    Interesting, though definitely not my cup of tea. It sounds a bit too academic for my brain to digest these days, LOL.

    • It was interesting, but there is a lot of stuff that really isn’t backed up with information, though there is an interesting set of books/articles used as reference in the back.