On The Environment
In October of 2011 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California alleging that Sea World’s captivity of orca whales was slavery and a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. See Thirteenth Amendment, here. PETA representatives claimed that this was the next logical step in the battle for civil rights. See CBS News article, here.
In February of this year, the judge dismissed the case noting that the Thirteenth Amendment’s abolishment of slavery applied to people, and that the whales–Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka, and Ulises–were not people. See Daily Mail article, here.
While comical and obtuse, PETA’s lawsuit is undeniably based on premises the modern culture seems to be slowly adopting. Namely, that human beings have ruined the planet and that nature and its creatures are more precious and worthy of respect than people. And, as crazy as it is, this may indeed be the next logical step in the direction the culture is currently headed.
It is, perhaps, just an extension of the pervasive, perverse belief that members of Western society should be guilt-ridden and apologetic for its history. (A history that built the modern world, of course.) The next step is apparently that human beings should be guilt-ridden and remorseful for their activities on the planet, and thus it is only natural to move human beings below nature in the order of the universe as modernity sees it.
One does not have to go far to see examples of these upside-down priorities. In the Northwest there has been a practice of weaponizing trees with metal spikes to maim the human beings trying to cut them down. See Tree Spiking in Wikipedia, here. Moreover, arson against developments and even bombings have occurred in the name of saving trees or animals. See Eco-Terrorism in Wikipedia, here. Further, attempts to prevent research on animals that helps human beings appear in the news with regularity. Even efforts to maintain populations of wolves and other animals by preventing their hunting can create environments dangerous for people. See, for example, here.
It is not news, of course, that wild animals can be dangerous. The danger is instead a world view that puts nature ahead of human beings. A world view that leads to harming human beings in the name of protecting nature. Tradition holds, after all, that nature and all of its creatures are in the care of mankind, which should respect nature as its stewards. Above all, though, we must respect people over nature, human life over animal life, human needs over any lesser concern. On this topic, one can only begin in the beginning.
In Genesis God charges mankind with the responsibility of subduing the creatures of the Earth and having dominion over it. See Genesis 1:28, here. See also, Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 307, here.
The implications of all of this are clear: “We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves.” Pope Benedict XVI, For The Celebration Of The World Day Of Peace, January 1, 2008. See here.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, though, simply looking at the natural order of the world reveals that human beings should care for the Earth. Efforts to recycle to keep the environment around us clean respects creation and provides for future generations. Reasonable laws are necessary to prevent unchained capitalism from running rampant and any associated dumping, pollution, gouging or waste make sense to protect our drinking water, our air and our future. Similarly treating animals with care and respect is natural, compassionate and to be commended. The point is not that we should not care for God’s creatures, our environment or the planet, but that we should not do so by putting them over us. To do so reverses the natural order, which in turn contributes to the increasingly orderless culture we live in.
The news, if you watch for them, provides endless examples. This month the administration is expected to announce higher automobile emission standards that will almost double fuel economy requirements by 2025. The environment is certainly a consideration with this increase since lower emissions can mean cleaner air, and less reliance on foreign oil (though much of the United States reliance on foreign oil is because it will not take advantage of resources readily available to it).
However, the law requires standards that could not even be met today, and which will require intense research to make possible. See, for example, here. When met, the standards will raise the price of automobiles substantially, pricing them out of reach of many consumers. This will impair people’s ability to obtain more beneficial employment and will likely reduce further the number of jobs in the auto industry as consumers stop replacing older cars for many years.
The near-term benefits to civilization of the change are not tangible, and the immediate economic cost to people is high–it has a great chance of reducing their livelihood and liberty. It is an untimely intrusion of government into the free market and represents the government’s dictating its wishes as opposed to a measured response that the market may likely accomplish in time on its own. In short, it places nature over people. While a more subtle example, it appears to be just another facet of the mentality of the day.
It is a mark of modern culture that it always marries good intentions with nonsensical rationales. To love and appreciate creation because it is God’s creation is a blessing. To find joy in the splendorous beauty that nature offers is rightly admirable. To love nature and blame and disparage human efforts, however, is just another step on a long road headed the wrong way. It is a mentality that should be watched for and guarded against if common sense is to gain any role in the direction of a directionless culture.
© Copyright 2012 Traditium.