Thursday, March 29, 2007


“The Earth has a skin and that skin has diseases, one of its diseases is called man.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

My mother ran a spotless house and I suppose I have inherited a legacy of enmity towards dirt and mess: I like things clean. I grew up in an industrial part of town and I can still remember as a child, my disgust at dirty walls, industrial rubbish, polluted creeks and smelly air. I always thought that the men who allowed this to happen were somehow deficient in manners. I always imagined their homes as being grubby, with piles of dishes and washing lying around. Little did I realize that the men who owned these factories, left them, to go to nice tree lined streets, in areas zoned to prevent industrial activities when the evening came.

I think it was Chesterton who once remarked that every movement starts with some disputed truth and invariably ends in error. The environmental movement is one such movement.

I have much sympathy to the environmental movement. The way that many of our ancestors treated the environment was simply abysmal. They poured pollutants down the rivers which we drank from, poisoned the air we breathed and generally left their trash out of site. Many of the great capitalists in the past would think nothing of cutting down a whole forest, fouling a river or wiping out a species in the ever relentless pursuit of greater profit. Afterwards retiring to great estates that would maintain nature in its most pristine if not sometimes contrived forms. Hence it was right that this total disregard of our common environment should have been opposed. But what started out as a noble cause has morphed into an ignoble philosophy.

What irks me with regard to the environmental movement is its quasi religious overtone. Walking on elevated bridges through forest canopy is meant to inspire the same religious awe that the relics of the saints were meant to arouse: A trip to Amazon, equivalent to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Somehow, any disturbance of the way things are is the equivalent of sin. Indeed it is this undertone; that mans presence is sacrilegious to the environment, that rubs me the wrong man. In Christianity man was cast out of the Garden of Eden when he ate from the tree of knowledge. In the environmental movement, paradise was lost when God created man. I suppose Nietzsche could be considered a proto-Greenie.

I take the biblical view that man was put in the Garden of Eden to tend it, not worship it. This means that we have a responsibility towards it and not veneration. We are free to use the resources of nature, provided we do so with good husbandry; for we are the stewards of this Earth and not its owners.