Friday, August 29, 2008

Polluting Environment is Sinful

The Archbishop of Constantinople recently has been very direct while commenting on environmental issues,

"The collaboration of science and religion at these Symposia organized in different regions of the planet, seeks to contribute to the development of an environmental ethic, which must underline that the use of the world and the enjoyment of material goods must be Eucharistic, accompanied by doxology toward God; by the same token, the abuse of the world and participation therein without reference to God is sinful both before the Creator and before humanity as creation."

(Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Day of the Protection of the Environment. Emphasis mine)

Can local church leaders be as direct and truthful as him? We can start by using eco-friendly cups and plates instead of disposable Styrofoam and plastics ones. If not, the churches are ridiculously sinning on Sunday, especially during fellowship time where church goers eat and drink before and after services!

6 comments:

The Inquisitor said...

I think you will need to be a bit clearer as to then what constitutes, "abusing the world" rather than simply drawing wisdom from pop environmental ethics.

Simply because 'saving the environment' so called is all the rage nowadays among young intellectual christian does not mean that it is intelligible at all or make it clear as to what exactly does it involve.

Take for instance, if we do not use plastic cups and plates to eat off, what should we use then? Non-disposable plates? Then we would need to wash it don't we? And wouldn't that just increase water wastage? Or would you propose instead we use PAPER cups and plates instead? And cut down more trees?

When I was studying 'A' level geography, we learnt that there are two sides to the global warming debate. If truly the earth has been around for millions of years, (and I am sure you are a respectable intellectual Christian who does not believe in the fundamentalist crap that the earth is six thousand years old) then we do have geographical evidence that the earth goes through periodic temperature cycles, and that our earth heating up is simply the effect of such a cycle rather than caused by carbon dioxide emission.

I argued in an essay for my geography class that given the empirical evidence of the independence between carbon dioxide emissions and global temperature, to impede the development of industries based on a fiction will deprive many of the developing nations of the jobs that might be created and this will slow down the pace of the poverty alleviation in these nations.

Thus, clearly, you "environmental ethic" is in clear conflict with your poverty cause.

It is well and good for the rich and developed West to be able to take the moral high ground and for comfortable and affluent westerners to go all righteous about promoting social causes to argue about such things. But their "environmental ethics" do have consequences that may worsen the situation rather than help it when it is actually work out in reality rather than in the abstraction of forum discussions.

In the end, the question remains: Can we truly form a coherent interpretation of what it means to "pollute the environment"? Environmental ethics requires a considerable command of a lot of empirical facts and implications which is absent when the problem is discussed in abstraction, and which, many idealists are completely ignorant, thinking that discussing environmental ethics is just like discussing morality or philosophy, a subject which everyone can and are able to have an informed opinion on just by reflecting.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Dom,

Your reminder to be more nuanced is always encouraging.

>empirical facts and implications which is absent when the problem is discussed in abstraction, and which, many idealists are completely ignorant, thinking that discussing environmental ethics is just like discussing morality or philosophy, a subject which everyone can and are able to have an informed opinion on just by reflecting.

I agree with what you said here on discussion. My approach to environmental issues is not abstract in the sense of pointing out 'global warming' and all.

My starting point is the immediate effect that one has when one faced with the impact caused by artificial-substances. For eg. any person will suffocate and got their lungs (among many other organs) dangerously stained when the person is surrounded by carbon dioxide emitting machines.

Hence there seems to be a very close reciprocal relation between the environmental cleanliness and quality of health.

Steven Sim said...

My starting point is the immediate effect that one has when one faced with the impact caused by artificial-substances. For eg. any person will suffocate and got their lungs (among many other organs) dangerously stained when the person is surrounded by carbon dioxide emitting machines.

Hence there seems to be a very close reciprocal relation between the environmental cleanliness and quality of health.

>> so you can agree with me if I wish to modify the so called "stewardship theology" and say that we must care for the environment not for the environment's sake, that it being god's Creation (which incidently god has given command to exploit to our benefit) , but rather for humanity's sake. That is the cost is more of social and economical. I would cause harm to a fellow human beings if I exploit the environment irresponsibly.

Steven Sim

The Inquisitor said...

"My starting point is the immediate effect that one has when one faced with the impact caused by artificial-substances. For eg. any person will suffocate and got their lungs (among many other organs) dangerously stained when the person is surrounded by carbon dioxide emitting machines.

Hence there seems to be a very close reciprocal relation between the environmental cleanliness and quality of health."

It seems then that your "environmental ethic" will be fundamentally guided by health considerations.

However, this will lead to plenty of rather absurd imperatives. Would smoking cigarettes or cigars then constitute an "environmental sin"? As you know, I do not smoke, however, I believe that to call smoking a sin on such grounds would be bordering on tyrannical puritanism.

How about drinking alcohol then? We know that the destruction of liver cells by alcohol cannot be regenerated by natural process, but is simply replace by useless muscle cells. Here we can see clearly the effects of an "artificial substance" and reduction of quality of health.

No more clubbing for you Joshua.

*snigger*

Advocacy for environmental ethics has never, to my knowledge, been grounded upon health considerations. But always on more vaguer goals like, "resource management" or some equivalent ambiguities.

The rhetoric sounds fine when waged against "machines" or "factories" as it gives on the aura of the righteous on the ground anti-capitalist against the "rich bastards" ripping the environment and the people off.

When it comes to an actual on the ground analysis, suddenly more embarrassing demands rises from your environmental ethic pushed to its local conclusion.

I have to reject your attempt to ground environmental ethics on health considerations and instead press for more coherent readings of it.

P.S. In any case, how does your proposed principle of "environmental cleanness" link up with disposal plates and cups? I think its going to demand a considerable stretch of the imagination to draw the link!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Dom,

Yup, smoking cigarettes is just as sinful as eating french fries. Its degree, however, varies. Just as lustful thought is no less sinful, but in degree wise, it is not equivalent to actual rape.

Almost everything that we put into our mouth damages our liver, excessive alcohol causes greater damage just as excessive consumption of Old Chang Kee's fried squid.

And of course, alcohol consumption is not equivalent to clubbing. A non sequitur. *grin*

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Steven,

As we'd talked, yes, I agree with you that it is forhumanity's sake that we must care for the environment.

I think god's commandment of 'subdue the earth' is being rectified by Jesus' eschatology. So our understanding of the act of subduing the earth has to be understood christologically. St Paul exemplified this well in Romans 8.

On the other hand, I can't deny the sacredness of the creation (nature) as well, though it is not my starting point. Since I deem Natural Theology as part of God's revelation to us, then nature has to be more than just for our carnal usage. It could share the same status as the Bible, bearing witness to God's eternal Word.

More to be explored on this, dont u think so?