My sister is an environmentalist. I mean that both in a political and a vocational sense. She works for a non-profit agency seeking to support and preserve sea life and coastal habitat. I am proud of her for that. Actually, I am proud of her for a lot about the woman she has turned out to be, including her calling take baby steps to help heal the damage humans have done to the earth.
When my sister was in high school, and I was in college, I worked to find her resources in our college library and through interlibrary loan to find articles about how the Christian faith relates to the environmental movement (this is when most of us did not have internet capability). There was a lot about St. Francis and his care for animals, which I thought was a credible yet lame example of Christian care for the environment--if that was all their was. In Science magazine in 1967 published an article by Lynn White Jr. called "The Roots of our Ecological Crisis", in which White lays the blame of environmental exploitation on the hands of the Judeo-Christian worldview. And he had some credible arguments.
Since White's seminal article on the relation of religion and environmentalism, Christians have tried to find a narrative of environmental care from Scripture. I believe the pro-environment narrative is there in God's word.
Throughout Scripture there is a sense in which God refers to the natural world as revealing truth about him, and of being witnesses to his glory. When God makes his case about evil done by humans, he asks the mountains and the natural world to be witnesses of what he says. When he gives his law in Leviticus, he makes sure he commands us to let fields lie fallow on a regular basis. And when people command Jesus to silence the crowds, he says that if they were to be quiet the rocks would cry out. Jesus asks us to consider lillies and sparrows (Matt. 5), uses monstrous sea animals as examples of his splendor and his creativity (Job), and gives us trees as role models (Psalm 1). Christ came to earth welcomed by barn animals because people would not give him a place to stay.And the first people that come to meet him are people who care for sheep.
Tony Campolo has shared in his lectures and writings that when a species of animal dies somehow we silence the voice of God. Not because each animal and human is part divine (which is more pantheism than Christianity), but because each creation was spoken into existence by God (Gen 1-3), and creation is meant to give God glory and ascribe worship to him (Revelation 4). I think to a certain point I agree with Dr. Campolo, and it informs my attitude of care for the environment.
The challenge of the issue is this for me right now. It seems fairly clear to me that much of big business and oil have formed an unholy alliance with the religious right in many ways (although that is changing). It also seems very clear to me that the political left, often the radical political left, is closely aligned with a some environmental projects that are at worst dishonest, and at best unjust toward the immediate needs of the working class, the poor and the destititute. And changes are often advocated by children of yuppies who live off trust funds so they can have the luxury of making not wearing deodorant or washing their hair in the name of their ideals. But when the Kjoto treaty tries to address this in giving China a little more time to catch up, then the right steps in (supported by the extreme religous right) to push America away from ratifying the treaty. In other worlds, I think when people are beholden to a political agenda as their moral voice when it comes to environmental concerns, they end up decieved and used by both conservatives (the industrial elite) and liberals (the over-"educated" elite).
Which leaves me to share where environmental concerns inform my lifestlyle and when they do not. Which is a forthcoming post.