All week I have been expecting the Religious Left to get excited about the UN’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. It seems to be the perfect blend of transnational wealth redistribution, massive regulation, unaccountable bureaucrats, and a healthy dose of neo-paganism all masterminded by the finest environmental activists money can buy. Perhaps they have figured out what most governments have yet to discover, that the UN climate meetings are a massive waste of time and money. There are a few events being held by the World Council of Churches and others, but the really interesting stuff is coming from a group calling itself the “Temple of Understanding.” In the description of their event they note:
Our purpose here is to perceive how the commercial, industrial age has disturbed the biosystems of the planet, at a depth never before known. Science, technology, industry, commerce, and finance have brought humanity into a new age yet they have brought devastation to the planet. The most radical disturbance is human self-centeredness and rights over all other modes of being, including animals, plants and the Earth itself, which have no rights. This radical discontinuity between the human and the non-human needs to be balanced with a vision of the ecological civilization. Our great work is to bring a transition from this period of devastation to a mutually beneficial way of living on earth.
The inspiration for this event is the late “ecotheologian” Fr. Thomas Berry. Scholar, author, and recipient of numerous awards for his work in the area of human-universe relations, Berry is also recognized for his “Twelve Principles for Understanding the Universe and the Role of the Human in the Universe Process.” Written decades ago, it was clearly destined for use at the Rio+20 conference. Points eleven and twelve offer a metaphysical framework for conference goers. Berry writes:
11. The ecological age: a new intimacy is sought with the integral functioning of the natural world; destructive anthropocentrism is replaced with eco-centrism; transition to the primacy of the integral Earth community.
12. The newly developing ecological community needs a mystique of exaltation and finds it in the renewal of the great cosmic liturgy, which celebrates the new story of the universe and its emergence through evolutionary processes.
It is easy to write off people like Fr. Thomas Berry and the Temple of Understanding as being from the fringes of environmental movement. Perhaps these are just people prone to late-nite AM radio conspiracy jockeys and drug induced drum circles. But when a leader of a nation promotes a similar message it can become a bit more mainstream.
In December 2010, the Bolivian Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed a law establishing the Rights of Mother Earth. Rooted in a political ideology that despises anything resembling free market capitalism, the Rights of Mother Earth demands a cessation of commercial activity. The law explicitly states, “Neither living systems nor processes that sustain them may be commercialized, nor serve anyone’s private property.”
Not surprisingly, when put in the difficult position of supporting the commercial interests of coca growers union (which Bolivia’s President Evo Morales also leads), versus other indigenous interests, Morales sides with the commercial interests. This is a common outcome of Socialism, which in Bolivia is a mild form of Communism, and is evidenced by the nationalization of major industries. Even Socialist governments are forced to make trade-offs which in this case means the coca farmers are more important than the non-coca farmers. As George Orwell noted, the Commandments of Communism can be boiled down to a single maxim, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The anthrophobic ideology under-girding the radical environmental movement can also tragically be found in the liberal hierarchies of mainline church denominations. The United Methodist’s General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) recently endorsed a position paper offered by the CoNGO Committee on Sustainable Development as part of the submission to the Rio+20 Conference. This position paper encourages the recognition of Earth rights as equal to human rights. The paper states:
Earth rights are human rights; they are not separate rights. If people do not have access to clean water, food, and sanitation; if people are restricted in their prudent use of land in the name of ‘progress;’ if people are victimized by governments and corporations which engage in unbridled extraction, pollution and devastation of land and bodies of water, then human and Earth rights are violated.
Additionally, one of the 2012 legislative priorities for GBCS is to see the US fully fund the United Nations Population Fund. The UNFPA has been linked to the China’s use of coercive and forced abortions to ensure compliance with the “One Child Policy.” While GBCS states its wants to reduce maternal and infant mortality through effective family planning, the UNFPA is largely recognized by pro-life groups as one of the most pro-abortion agencies within the UN organization.
As these liberal denominational hierarchies stray from the foundations of scriptural authority and historic teachings of the Church, they become fascinated by new fads like giving the Earth rights. Rights, in their highest form carry responsibility, but how can the Earth be held responsible? What responsibility does the bird or the tree have? Who will hold the Earth responsible when it violently shifts and destroys thousands of human lives? What court shall the Earth be brought before? Is the high calling of the church to stoop to this level of absurd discourse?
Concern for environmental degradation does not demand allegiance to anthrophobic environmental ideologies. According to Scripture, humans are the crown of God’s creation and evidence of his sovereign authority. It is not a transnational bureaucracy that “creation anxiously longs for,” but rather the regenerate sons and daughters of God. As one might expect, there is no workshop for that at the Rio+20 Conference.