I said I’d return to this in more depth yesterday, and so I shall now. By now, you know that James Jay Lee entered Discovery Channel HQ yesterday with a gun and suspected bombs. Lee had a history of protesting in front of the building as he disliked Discovery’s programming, which he thought encouraged population growth. Lee, who held several people hostage, was shot and killed by a police officer. The full story is at BBC.com.
Lee was an extreme environmentalist, but he doesn’t represent most environmentalists on the earth. If you read yesterday’s post, then you know that while he shared some traits with deep ecologists, he was not a deep ecologist because deep ecologists believe that all life – human and non-human – is important. Clearly, Lee felt that humanity was deeply flawed, and believed strongly that human population growth was a huge problem for the environment.
I hesitate to post his manifesto, because I don’t want to associate myself, as an environmentalist, with the hatred that bleeds through his work. But I think it’s important that environmentalists understand what others believe about the environment, and I think it’s important that people of faith understand what other people believe about the environment. So here is Lee’s manifesto; please take a few minutes to read it, then come back to this post.
Talking about population growth with Christians can be a delicate matter. Talking about anyone’s right to reproduce is delicate and personal, but many Christians take to heart that God said we should be fruitful and multiply. But here’s the rub: before God told humans to reproduce, He told other living beings to reproduce:
21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” (Genesis 1:21-22)
That was the fifth day. It wasn’t until the sixth day that God created humankind and told them to reproduce:
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
Humans are not as privileged as we’d like to believe when it comes to filling the earth. God gave the same command to the other living things He created. And when He’d just created the earth, overpopulation was a dream.
But now it’s not a dream. Overpopulation is a reality in some areas of the world, like China, which has a one-child policy for people who live in the cities, and China has apparently seen a slower rate of population growth. India also has an enormous, and growing, population.
In America, we don’t tend to worry to much about overpopulation, because we still have wide open spaces. We still have resources to use.
From the environmental point of view, Lee was right: more people means a bigger strain on the earth. It means more open spaces and forests being destroyed and used for farmland, which contributes to several environmental ills. It means more petrochemical and water use, more garbage in landfills, and more encroaching on other species’ habitats to provide homes for humans.
Lest you think I agree with Lee that humans are horrid, let me assure you that I don’t. I believe in an Almighty Creator God who loves this earth and each creature He spoke into being, and I believe that He sent His Son to die for our sins and rise on the third day to conquer death. The whole Bible is a story of God’s love for the people He created and thought worthy enough to save from ourselves. How can I, as a follower of Christ, believe that humans are horrid and a blight on this earth? I can’t.
But I do think that there are probably limits to how much more reproducing we need to do. There are children all over the world that grow up in foster care or in orphanges as wards of the state. These are children whose biological parents either don’t want them or can’t take care of them. And if we, as Christians, believe in the sanctity of life, we need to believe in the sanctity of life outside the womb as much as we do inside the womb. We need to step up and take care of the children who have no families; stewardship, after all, is about loving the “least of these.” Why is it necessary to bring more children into the world when there are so many who already exist and are in need of parents?
I realize that this post probably strikes a nerve with many of you. My intention is not to hurt or offend, but to get you thinking about population and how it relates to environmental stewardship. And I know that adoption isn’t easy to contemplate or do; heck, Jeff and I have our own biological child and haven’t even gotten around to adopting, and I feel really strongly that it’s something people, Christians epecially, should do.
I want to hear your thoughts on this issue, so let’s talk about it here. I ask that you keep your comments respectful and loving, but feel free to disagree with me or any other comment made.
It saddens me that Lee was killed yesterday. I disagree wholeheartedly with his actions, but I understand his concerns about the earth completely. I can only hope that he has found some peace now. Please pray for his family and friends as they mourn today.