How Environmentalism Harms the Poor

The book of Genesis was written in part to counteract a theory later known as Manicheanism. It held that a god of good created spirit and a god of evil created matter. In this view, the more spiritual we are, the less we are connected to matter. This position suggests that by withdrawing from matter, we will become more spiritual. Logically, this would make the fallen angels, who are pure spirit, models of spirituality. Genesis, for its part, tells us that God looked on each level of creation to see that it was good. Evil was not to be identified with matter since it was a good created by God.

Evil was not located in God but in the free choices of good human beings who could redirect the natural purposes of matter as He did or did not intend. The good things of creation could be used for purposes that were not proper to their being or to the being that used them. One side of Genesis, then, was to affirm the basic goodness of matter over against the notion that it was itself the essence of evil. Matter could “occasion” a use that was distorted, but that distortion did not arise from the nature of matter as such. It follows from this position that the wonder and delight in nature, its beauty, is itself a good that deserves our attention, wonder, and care.

The other side of Genesis is the admonition that man was to increase, multiply, and subdue the earth. The implication was that precisely by providing for man’s needs and purposes, the earth would be a better place. The purposes of both matter and man were directly connected. It would be a misuse of matter if it no longer could serve man’s ends. The earth was not simply given for it to sit there unused and uncultivated. It was rather to be a garden, the work of human hands. It was intended to support the purpose for which man existed. It was not itself the purpose of creation.

The notion that somehow man was not to use the earth but sort of forage off it was a cover for laziness, mindful of the parable of the talents in the New Testament. It indicated a failure to understand that man is himself a being who also naturally belongs to creation. He exists initially within the cosmos both for his own transcendent end and for completing creation, which cannot reach its true purpose by itself without his improving it. We can, say, imagine the beauty of the Amalfi Coast without any sign of human habitation along it. But it clearly is more beautiful with the towns, ports, trees, and gardens that men have added to it over the centuries.

The so-called “natural resources,” while being what they are, themselves have an order or intelligence about them that is open to human knowing and using. We have every reason to think that this knowing relation of human mind to natural resources has to do with human purposes and the end of man as such. It is quite possible to think that the sufficient natural resources were put on the earth to last as long as God intended man to last. No need for anything further.

A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it was when man first appeared. Behind this theory is a subtle denial of the whole issue of the resurrection of the body. Man’s ultimate end is not this earth but God. The earth and its development by man are themselves the arena in which the drama of each person’s relation to God could be and is worked out. It is also true that this “working out” concerns one’s neighbor and man’s relation to fellow man.

This brings us back to the question of the use of the earth for man’s sake. Often this issue is cast in terms of helping the poor or the so-called “preferential option for the poor.” There is much ideology behind such phrases. In one sense, modern atheism finds its moral justification in the claim to aid the poor. But do these systems help the poor or subject them to state control? In the beginning, everyone was poor. Why is everyone not still poor? Is it not the real purpose of society to lift everyone out of poverty? And should not this escape from poverty result primarily from each person’s own intelligence and labor co-operating with others?

If we think that the preferred status of society is that everyone be poor, that situation is easily accomplished by doing nothing. It would be immoral to help the poor if being poor is the best status for everyone. But if we think that the poor should not be poor, we best be sure that the system we choose to help the poor really works. Not all do. The justification for being concerned with the poor is either that we know how to help them to be not poor or that we want them to be poor. Religious concern for the poor was never intended to have as its purpose making everyone poor.

The two views of Genesis, then, can serve as a general framework to place our thinking about the purpose of creation and its relation to the end of man in order. Poverty is always a relative thing. And scripture makes clear that the poor will always be with us. This reminder would seem to mean that we will never completely “solve” the poverty problem in this world. But if we do not solved it, but do the best we can, it does not mean that the poor cannot reach the transcendent end for which they were created. Rather it means that everyone, rich, poor, and everyone in between still must and can work out his salvation in whatever society he lives in during the time in which he is alive.

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.


Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., taught political science at Georgetown University for many years. He is the author of The Mind That Is Catholic from Catholic University of America Press; Remembering Belloc from St. Augustine Press; and Reasonable Pleasures from Ignatius Press. His newest books include A Line Through the Human Heart: On Sinning and Being Forgiven (2016) and On the Principles of Taxing Beer and Other Brief Philosophical Essays (2017). His most recent books are Catholicism and Intelligence (Emmaus Road, 2017) and The Universe We Think In (CUA Press, 2018).

  • Bedarz Iliaci

    “In the beginning, everyone was poor. Why is everyone not still poor? Is
    it not the real purpose of society to lift everyone out of poverty? And
    should not this escape from poverty result primarily from each person’s
    own intelligence and labor co-operating with others?”

    Surely, these statements lack a basis in Genesis and betray an evolutionary view, more in common with the libertarian story and it is very odd to find it in the middle of expositions from Genesis.

    For in the beginning was Adam and was he poor?. Were his sons poor?
    Clearly, men sunk into poverty quite later, even after the Deluge so it is very odd indeed that a Christian writer will fall into standard atheist evolutionary worldview when he leaves religious talk and begins to talk economics and sociology. It is a sort of compartmentalization of one’s religion.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      Yes, they were poor, and in nothing so much as in the poverty of their imaginations. The hunter-gatherer may be able to satisfy all his wants, because those wants are few and his views narrow; the citizen of a civilised country has a rich, varied and commodious existence, of which the hunter-gatherer can form no conception. In the history of human progress, wants and the means of their satisfaction grow together by a reciprocal influence. In that sense, poverty is, indeed, relative.

    • hombre111

      In the Bible, everyone was not poor. Poverty belongs to the powerless and to those who have lost their status in life. The people of the Bible did not become poor until the arrival of their kings, with their bureaucracy, their need for luxury, and their pledge to provide national security. He obtained those things through taxation of the subsistent farmers who made up most of the population. Those who could not feed both the king and themselves lost their land. And so, the class of the poor was born. .
      An evolutionary view is the only view that makes sense in this modern world. Read Chardin. Study history. Learn how the modern Church interprets the Bible. Look at the story of your own unfolding life.

      • musicacre

        Are you saying there is a “Modern” church and perhaps a “traditional” church? There is one church, not two. Christ came to take away the poverty of spirit; he didn’t come to re-endow the dis- possessed with mere material goods.

        • hombre111

          Yes there is a modern Church. Read the large volume on the social teachings of the Church. And read some of the stuff by Pope Benedict, where he talked about the re-distribution of wealth. The so-called “traditional” Church usually sides with the wealthy and the privileged. Beginning with Pope Paul VI, the modern Church made a preferential option for the poor.

  • Alecto

    Modern environmentalism is nothing more than a reincarnation of the Progressive movement which seeks to destroy private property. In fact, these people are referred to as “watermelons” because they are green on the outside, and red on the inside. That is the one thing they have in common with the modern Catholic church which also seeks to mitigate or abolish private property rights. That’s why the Vatican Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace proclaimed a “right to water”, as well as “Towards a Better Distribution of Land”. Even EWTN has a show dedicated to environmental issues. While this may not fall under doctrine, it is certainly a dominant theme for many Catholics, widely taught at Catholic schools and omnipresent in preaching. It is evidence to me at least of the widespread influence of progressives on the Church.

    I can’t agree that Genesis was written as a reaction to a 3rd century philosophy? Genesis is part of the Pentateuch, which clearly predates Manicheanism as part of the Torah, and had to have been written centuries before Christ. Jesus would have been familiar with Genesis as would any Jew living at that time.

    • Is it possible that the concept of a “good god” versus a “bad bad” to have existed durring the writings of Torah? Is it possible that the concept of the material world being bad versus the a spiritual world being the only good to have existed durring and before the writings of Torah? The answer is not only possible but infact these philosophies did exist before Torah.

    • hombre111

      The Church teaches that private property is not the most important human value. Read the Catholic Catechism. Read the encyclicals of Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and, most recently, Pope Benedict. Prepare to be shocked and alarmed by what Pope Francis is going to say. Or pretend they have nothing to say. People who are in favor of birth control are not the only cafeteria Catholics around here.

      • The Church does not, however, say that private property is not desirable. And the Church has resoundingly condemned socialism. The chief battle today is Modernism, which has overrun our clergy, as well as those in the pews (I cannot think of all of them as “faithful”.)

        • Bono95

          But can you think of all of them as “unfaithful”?

        • hombre111

          I’m not sure what you mean by socialism. If you mean the government ownership of all the means of production, you are correct. But many countries in Europe have programs Americans would label “socialist” that the Church would consider a proper support for the weak and vulnerable. And I am not sure what you mean by Modernism. I was forced to sign a pledge against Modernism when I was ordained a priest. It was in Latin, of course. And hopelessly vague. Beginning with Pope Pius XII, the Church began to take back what Pope Pius X had done, and Vatican II dealt a strong blow to the accusation of Modernism.

      • Alecto

        Why is the Catholic church diverting precious resources to address distractions and disengaging from its salvific mission? I do not care what the Catholic clergy thinks about my property, nor do they have any right to criticize me for using my brain, my skills and hard work to support myself or accumulate assets (unless it comes from sinful activity). I haven’t seen the clergy condemn drug lords in Mexico? Why not? Because people like me make an easy target, that’s why! If you can guilt enough people into surrendering their property to a bunch of church ignoramus et ignorabimus who are clueless about sustaining economic activity, or worse, using that property to destroy those who do understand how to create opportunity or sustain economic activity, well, then you can get control of everything. It’s time to take a stand against the economic illiterates who populate the hierarchy.

        Capital formation is a universal good. Savings, self-sufficiency, private property and economic activity provide work and opportunity for the masses and God sees that it is good. The fact is that far too many in the Catholic clergy want universal poverty because people are easy to control that way. And too many in the clergy want to use the government to accomplish that end. Unfortunately for them they’re discovering after all these years, the government isn’t their friend. I pity them their ignorance.

        The Church’s destructive economic interference by blessing unproven environmental science, anti-poverty “programs”, endorsing government sponsored healthcare for all or expansion ad infinitum of the government deprives good people of a living, their property, their savings, and creates onerous taxation. The Church has only succeeded in alienating people who might be open to its message of salvation by destroying their lives. Why don’t you read The Little Red Hen? Or Hayek? Or Friedman? Or Adam Smith? Or, hey, how about Proverbs? Because the notion of being responsible for yourself or asking able-bodied people to be productive members of society bothers you? Because it’s difficult to tell people they’re slothful, covetous or stupid even though God didn’t make them like that?

        And on the topic of cafeteria Catholics, those who support anti-life positions like birth control are violating doctrine. I am not. I am engaged in prudential discussions on which Catholics of good will can and do disagree. Maybe YOU need to reread the Catholic Catechism!

        • Bono95

          The Church does not want everyone to be poor. It wants everyone to be able to have enough money and property to sufficiently take care of themselves and their families. Riches and luxury are not condemned and are not evil in themselves, but wealth can easily distract us from God and our duties. Like the author said, if the Church really wants everybody to be poor, why is She helping poor people everywhere to become less poor?

          • Alecto

            We’re way passed that. I believe the Catholic church out of ignorance or a misguided interpretation of scriptures does in fact want all people to be poor and it is populated by ignorant fools who are suckered into believing the Ted Kennedys, John Kerrys, Nanny Pelosis of the world. I see nothing to contradict that. I agree that wealth can and does distract from what is important. It takes a very strong character not to allow vast sums of money to corrupt us. That’s why I’ll never be rich. But this isn’t about rich vs. poor. This is about the right to determine how to pursue one’s career, business, or opportunity to realize a dream which is, thanks to people like hombre, becoming extinct. It isn’t the rich who suffer, it’s the middle class being taxed and regulated into oblivion, being deprived of opportunities to start businesses, to invest, to help others. I cannot see that as some “ultimate good”. It isn’t, it’s slavery.

            • Bono95

              The middle class being taxed into oblivion is the fault of a godless government and false Catholic politicians, not of the Catholic Church. The Church allows all careers that are not inherently sinful, and states that working conditions must be safe, pay must be sufficient, hours must not be excessive, and all laborer must do the best job possible.

              • Alecto

                When Cardinal Dolan and other official Catholic representatives publicly praise Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Kerry and other “false” Catholics, and certain inept and ignorant Catholic clergy condemn Paul Ryan’s budget, it is the Church that is speaking to most Catholics. And, the Church educated those “false” Catholics. So, the Church is responsible for them. Why does the Catholic church get involved in issues such as the environment, working hours and pay, or the environment? Or for crying out loud, budget issues? I personally don’t listen to any Catholic clergy statements on any of those issues, but many Catholics do. The Church continues to prop up governments everywhere as promoters of the “common good”. It is very dangerous. These issues are best left to individuals to sort out, not the Catholic church. It is the Church’s intervention in these issues which harms its attempts to address the very aspects of morality on which it does have sound teaching but remains confusingly silent.

        • hombre111

          Part of the Church’s salvific mission is to help the rich understand the huge spiritual risk they are taking in their addiction to more and more wealth. Jesus said, of the rich, “Woe to you, you have HAD your reward.” And he said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.” And then there was his parable about the rich man and Lazarus.
          As a priest, I ask you to read Jesus’ own words, ponder your mounting assets, and do a little praying. I subscribe heartily to the teaching of St. John Chrysostom. He said some people are good at making music. It should be shared generously. Some pople are good at art. That talent should be shared with neighbors. And some people are good at making money. That money should also be shared.
          If you are like other rich people I have come to know as a priest, you wake up and read about the stock market. You spend huge energy all day long on increasing your wealth. You go to sleep satisfied about your investments and bank accounts. Jesus had another parable about such a man. God watched him and said, “you fool.”

          • Andy

            Bless you, hombre111. I am delighted that there are people like you and Pope Francis in the priesthood. I am very grateful for your sanity.

          • Alecto

            That statistic is a twisted one, in fact the average household has not lost wealth. That figure did not include various deferred savings vehicles like 401Ks or IRA, HSAs. Don’t worry though, your friend and savior Barak Obama will rectify that very soon. That way, no one will be able to find any job because the capital that creates business opportunities will no longer exist. Everything will be doled out by the massive Leviathan you think is so wonderful and “just”. On that topic, what is “just” about stealing what I have earned, set aside and prudently accumulated by depriving myself? That is expressly a violation of the Seventh Commandment. I am far from rich, don’t wake up and read stock quotes, or go to bed satisfied about my investments. I have been working since the age of 15, supporting myself for my entire adult life. Along the way, I have helped people from my own resources, taken risks, and never asked anyone to feel sorry for me when I failed. I took my lumps and I gave a few to people who deserved them. If you need somebody to give you one of those, I’d be happy to oblige!

            I am trying to ensure there is opportunity left in this country after people like you have done with it. When I learned the clergy in Chicago was responsible for giving Barak Obama his first job as a community organizer, and that Cardinal Bernardin personally backed him, I realized what foolish people populate the clergy. Thanks to your help, he is going to ensure “mounting assets” are a thing of the past, except of course for his friends and allies. Thanks to you and the rest of the idiots who enabled Democrats to essentially ruin any hopes I had of starting my own business like my father and his father before him. So, I mean this from the bottom of that hard heart, priest: Wake up. Wake up and look around you. Stop deluding yourself that “rich” people are the problem. The problem is a society devoid of a moral center thanks to the very people you and your brethren nursed, encouraged and supported with my church donations. Jesus may forgive you for that, but I never shall.

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  • hombre111

    The old straw man argument splendidly put and duly shot down. But the environmentalists I know, including Pope Benedict, have a different view. First of all, we are called to be stewards of the earth, not simply its subduers, like some kind of race of Huns. Rape and ravage for the sake of an uncontrollable market system leaves behind an earth that cannot support people, with unbreathable air and undrinkable water. This is not good stewardship. We are called do discover the interconnections that exist between all that lives and exists. We are called to do everything we cannot to work in harmony with the only planet we have. This was and remains the vision of St. Francis and the Franciscans. This is what we do if we have a sacramental view of reality, seeing revealed in the people and world around us the presence of God. This is our responsibility if we want the grandchildren to have a future.

    • Your “uncontrollable market system” is presently shackled with a mind-numbing maze of government crafted controls. A free market has not existed here in at least 150 years.

      • Amen William, Amen! You are correct.

      • V.A.V.

        the Free market spoken of by people like David Ricardo and Adam Smith was free from Regulations AND free from Monopoly. But certain people today speak of the free market, when truly they want a Monopoly Free from Regulations.

    • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

      I think the term “environmentalist” here is used to mean someone who only cares about preserving the earth as it were without any human on it. «A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it was when man first appeared». In that sense, I strongly disagree with including Pope Benedict on that category. But, I totally agree with the point that this is an ethical issue, which cannot be controlled by any market (assuming any controlled or “free” market will make our action ethically right is contrary to the Catholic Social Thought)

    • Adam

      Not only is the article full of straw men, but it is anti-Catholic. Our responsibility to preserve a safe environment for our fellows and our descendants is perhaps the greatest moral challenge of our time. Our church teaches that the poor are the very most vulnerable to environmental degradation. When we exploit the environment, which is usually done for profit, we exploit the powerless.

      For example:

      “Today the great gift of God’s Creation is exposed to serious dangers and lifestyles which can degrade it. Environmental pollution is making particularly unsustainable the lives of the poor of the world … we must pledge ourselves to take care of creation and to share its resources in solidarity.” — Pope Benedict XVI (2009)

      “At its core the environmental crisis is a moral challenge. It calls us to examine how we use and share the goods of the earth, what we pass n to future generations, and how we live in harmony with God’s creation.” –U.S. Bishops, “Renewing the Earth” (1991)

      “Today the ecological crisis has assumed such proportions as to be the responsibility of everyone…The…’greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions…” –Pope John Paul II, “Peace With All Creation,” (1990)

      These quotations are from, which contains many links to Catholic websites that stress the morality of environmentalism.

    • Caroline

      “Rape and ravage for the sake of an uncontrollable market system leaves behind an earth that cannot support people, with unbreathable air and undrinkable water. ”

      I agree, homber111. It is sad that for many, as can be seen by the comments here, political affiliation trumps the teachings of the Church. To learn how the assault on our environment hurts the poor, one only has to look at how the people of Bangladesh (which tops the Global Climate Risk Index 2009) are struggling with climate change ( It is the poor who are disproportionately affected by the increase in famines, drought, floods, fire, and all other natural disasters linked to climate change (it is indisputable that such disasters are increasing in severity.)

    • TtT Engine

      The U.S.A. is effectively morally and financially bankrupt. Worshiping the earth and bankrupting the greatest country ever created have served no useful purpose, but feel good theology. Socialism, Marxism and pagan worship of the earth are three forms of evil. American Catholics in the best case have completely marginalized themselves by becoming judas catholics in the voting booth. In the worst case, we are on the verge of extinction. This extinction will bring on the end of the world because the gates of hell cannot prevail against God’s authentic Catholic Church. Christi Fidelis !

  • Great article, Father

    All good arguments must start with premises that have foundational truths and are stated clearly. I find your proposition that the earth was made for man and not otherwise; and that man was to develop it, in order to survive and display Man’s image of God. I once was upset that the land just North of our development was going to be developed by a real estate firm. This land I hiked in, observed birds of all sorts and found a since of relaxation hidden in there. After the developer had finished its project I have been amazed at what a beautiful job the developer had done. It is a pleasant place to be.

    I think, as Wanniski had proposed, that all civilizations have a religion. He goes on to address countries like the old Soviet Union and Germany and their religions. He then ask so what is the United States’ religion? He said Mother Earth. I tend to agree with him. All religions have a Creed, Code and from these emerge a Cult (Kreeft).

    Here is the Creed of the Environmentalist:

    We believe in one god, Mother Earth

    and in Her son Al Gore born of the DNC and the press

    he was crucified died and buried by George Bush and the Supreme Court he will come

    again by the power of the Academy to take your property.

    Again, great article.
    PS I hope you are not a fan of Belloc’s Distributism

    • musicacre

      What’s wrong with Belloc?

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  • supineny

    In case anyone missed it, this article is disparaging environmentalism because it will keep man alive longer than “God intended”.

    So, folks, please go and do God’s will. We’re supposed to die and go to heaven. So if you have a factory, please dump toxic waste anywhere you can. Your goal is to get it in the ground water. Please paint the walls of you local school with lead paint. It will eventually cause little kids to have neurological disorders, and that’s great. They’ll be at God’s side quicker than if you use latex.

    And whatever you do, don’t worry about using the earth however you see fit. I mean, if you’re powerful enough to do so — I realize most of you have barely paid for your mortgage, so the idea of buying a gigantic forest and clearing it is probably beyond your means. But if a multinational corporation does it, please stand by and salute them. They are advancing God’s plan. The goal is to pave the earth and fill the oceans with petroleum and plastic crap. And if we manage to make the world uninhabitable — well hallelujah. We have done his holy work.

    • supineny

      let me footnote my response by making clear i’m responding to this passage:

      “It is quite possible to think that the sufficient natural resources
      were put on the earth to last as long as God intended man to last. No
      need for anything further.
      A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the
      purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it
      was when man first appeared. Behind this theory is a subtle denial of
      the whole issue of the resurrection of the body. Man’s ultimate end is
      not this earth but God.”

      • Scott Waddell

        Thanks for the clarification, but it doesn’t make your comment any less of a straw man.

        • supineny

          Scott, forgive me but the real straw man is right there in the quote i’ve posted: the enviromentalist who wants to revert the earth to its state prior to man’s existence. That’s hardly the goal of the professional scientists dealing with environmental issues. They are pragmatists, often working on very specific problems.

          The idea that is being floated here, in the article and in reader comments here, is that in fact ‘environmentalists’ are some sort of pious scolds who want to bring man’s admirable progress to a halt. Ayn Rand’s nightmare, you might say.

          However, ‘environmentalists’ include scientists and engineers who work on things like determining what materials will kill you if they get in the water, cleaning up oil spills. Figuring out what to do when the nuclear reactor blows up.

          It seems obvious to most people that there’s a line to be drawn somewhere between using ‘natural resources’ with absolute freedom, and controlling this use in a way that’s beneficial to mankind. And you can argue about exactly where that line is, and to what extent we should also be considering other creatures and so on. But I think we would all agree that the line exists somewhere.

          But if we think we don’t need ‘environmentalists’ we are saying there should be no line. It’s laissez-faire. Perhaps it’s a libertarian streak — we don’t think people should be governed. I contend that’s what the author proposes. He makes clear that he takes a skeptical view of ‘sustainability’ because he thinks God gave us just enough stuff.

          And if someone (the author?) would like to explain in plain english how the utopian theory of his imagined environmentalists is a “subtle denial of
          the whole issue of the resurrection of the body,” I would be very interested. Because he really seems to be saying that having a vision of a green earth is not merely naive or impractical, he is saying that it denies us the coming end times. That is, by ‘saving’ the earth, we postpone the glorious resurrection of the body. Do you conclude otherwise? Explain.

          • Scott Waddell

            Simple. You interpreted his comments as meaning “anything goes”. There is simply no support for this.

          • Bono95

            What the author means is that there’s a fine line between caring for God’s creation and worshiping the creation instead of the Creator. We shouldn’t purposely dump toxic waste in rivers, but we also shouldn’t just shut down a factory that is or is “potentially” creating and dumping the waste without considering if the people who work at the factory can live with their jobs gone or if there’s a way to safely dispose of the waste without closing the whole manufacturing plant.
            We should take care of the earth as we do our houses (i.e. keep it tidy and habitable), but we should also realize that one day, this world will end, whether or not it still has ice caps, rainforests, an ozone layer, etc. That doesn’t make wantonly destroying those things OK, but it should remind us that our true home is Heaven.

            • supineny

              thanks for jumping in, Bono, but I think you’re saying a lot of things that the author simply does not say in any form that i recognize.

          • dch

            Yes, the writer never identifies or quantifies these ‘environmentalists’ that are somehow in control and impoverishing the meek. The whole resurrection thing is pure magical thinking.

    • Augustus

      This is the worst straw man argument I’ve ever encountered. Only an ideologue would miss the point so badly. For some people environmentalism is a religion. This type of reaction is all the evidence we need.

      • supineny

        I explain in more detail in my response below to Scott, please read if you care to. I really don’t think I’m the one with the straw man here.

    • Bono95

      I don’t know, most of the extreme environmentalism I know is more bent on keeping people alive for much less time than God intended. The biggest greenfreaks are huge cheerleaders for contraception, abortion, and euthanasia, and some claim the earth can only support a maximum of a billion people, if that. None bothered to explain how they propose to get rid of 6 billion of us with 0 emissions, though.
      Recycling, not littering/polluting, conserving water, electricity, etc. is one thing. Depriving people of jobs by forcibly shutting down factories, destroying innocent babies and old people, giving nature obscene precedence over man, and preaching an ill-disguised outlook of human beings as plague upon poor old Mommy Gaia is quite another.

      • supineny

        The article simply talks about ‘environmentalism’ so we must assume he is talking about the full range of practice, not just the most questionable. He’s talking about all of it.

        Second, it doesn’t matter what the other positions of these ‘greenfreaks’ are. We are talking about environmentalism. The question is whether it is or isn’t a legitimate concern in general. If it is legitimate, but the people who practice it have other opinions that are illegitimate, the question would be how to correct them on their illegitimate views while preserving their legitimate views.

        • Scott Waddell

          The article simply talks about ‘environmentalism’ so we must assume he is talking about the full range of practice

          No, a fair interpretation is taking a cue from the “ism” in “environmentalism”. He’s talking about the ideology, not normal practices like stewardship and conservation.

          • supineny

            gored? you taunt but you dont discuss.

            • Scott Waddell

              I’m just trying to keep you from setting yourself on fire. You’ve been warned so I consider my duty discharged.

              • supineny

                I agree, and I thank you. You admit that ‘stewardship and conservation’ are ‘normal practices.’ Exactly my point. ‘environmentalism’ is the ideological basis for ‘stewardship and conservation’. The former is the general idea, the latter are two practical consequences.

                How can you value the practical application of an idea, and be opposed to the theory behind it? That is illogical. And that is where the above story gets it terribly wrong.

                • Augustus

                  I think you are ignoring the problem Fr. Schall is highlighting. Environmentalists often put the environment before the welfare of humans. They see trees as more valuable than people. And they often exaggerate the danger that human development poses to the environment. Thus a pipeline that multiple government studies say poses no environmental danger and that is estimated to create upwards of 20,000 well-paying jobs and increase our supply, and thus lower the cost, of energy (thus stimulating economic growth) is delayed because of pressure from environmentalists. All this during an economic recession when people are suffering. This hostility to human flourishing can be observed in the administrations green policies. For example, the federal government sues three oil companies because a total of six birds were found dead on their property ( Fortunately the case was thrown out of court. This administration puts the demands of environmentalists before the well-being of humans. This is not stewardship. It is planet worship.

                  • supineny

                    I think you’re making distinctions that Rev. Schall doesn’t make. He is speaking very broadly, even mystically about how the very concept of environmentalism is wrong. he is saying it is a hindrance to man’s role on earth, in the short run, and irrelevant in the long run as there will be a resurrection of the body and an afterlife, rendering any environmental considerations mute. Environmentalism? Don’t need it.

                    Whereas your position is more a matter or making distinctions between just and injust environmentalism. you don’t deny that the environment or ‘stewardship’ are valid concerns, you decry foolish excesses, misguided idealism and injustice.

                    Which to me seems like a more palatable view: at this point, who thinks it’s good to allow a factory to dump toxic waste somewhere where it will get in the town water supply? So many environmental issues are basically public health issues, obviously very much to do with humans.

                    As for trees — well, they’re not important as individuals the same way people are, but we probably should be nice to them, they do suck in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. That’s good for people.

                  • Bono95

                    Totally. Have you or anyone else here seen the BBC series “Planet Earth”? Every episode focuses on a different ecosystem (desert, mountain, cave, rainforest, coral reef etc.) and the plants and animals that live there. The cinematography is amazing and you’ll learn and see some really neat stuff. However, this nearly ruined by the last episode in the series, which features a bunch of environmental “experts” who want more land turned over to national parks/wildlife preserves (a legitimate goal if attainable) and believe that earth can’t support more than 1 billion people, if that. What’s almost more sickening than even that is the discrepancies between some of their claims and the film clips they use to illustrate them. Here are a few examples:
                    The film crew had a hard time keeping up with some Mongolian deer herds. These herds apparently have been hunted to near extinction by poachers, who are said to chase and overtake them in cars before shooting them. But if the people making the documentary could hardly get close enough to film the deer in trucks and jeeps that I little doubt are much better than any vehicles your average poacher has access to, how is that a viable explanation?
                    And then there was a species of African antelope that are “dying out because of increased human activity and habitat destruction”. What was the human activity they showed? Drilling? Laying down a highway? Building a city/factory/housing development? No, no, and no. It was a poor farmer breaking his back trying to plow a field with a big stick because the environmental elites won’t let him and his fellow farmers have tractors (though tractors are somehow A-OK in 1st world countries). I wonder if the greenfreaks realized that if one of the antelopes wandered too close, that man would have no qualms about beating it over the head with his stick and bringing it home for dinner.

                    • supineny

                      As in my note to Augustus below, aren’t we talking about where we draw the line, not whether we should?

                      Like so many of your arguments, Bono, your theory about poachers is based on your personal conjecture without any evidence or expertise to support it. You leave open the possibility that poachers are quite able to shoot animals that are difficult to photograph close up.

                      Similarly, you find it appalling that an ‘expert’ would conjecture how many people the earth can support. But how do you know what the number is? God does not magically provide food to the hungry after all– famines continue to occur in the world.

                      And while the question of the farmer vs. the species of antelope raises important questions, I would like to know what you think of driving species to extinction for short term economic gain? is it okay? Are you complaining about the particular circumstance of this farmer, or about the idea of humans trying to preserve animal species?

                    • Bono95

                      I don’t know how many people this planet can support, and I never claimed I did. But, considering that we are now at 7 billion and there is still elbow room for everybody and a large amount of as yet uninhabited land, I’d say that limit is quite a bit more than a billion.

                      I am by no means against creating more preserves and national parks provided that doing so does not harm innocent human life and activity, i.e. set aside the land where the wildlife is already and where there aren’t any people, don’t tear down houses or tell poor farmers to get lost.

                      Famines happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s not enough rain, sometimes it’s too much rain, sometimes it insect infestation, sometimes it’s a fungus, sometimes it’s a big political/corporate mess, and sometimes it’s a complicated mess of 2 or more of these factors. The current world food supply is more than sufficient to feed everybody properly, the problem is that distribution is highly unequal, and this is a problem far better solved by working towards better distribution, not less people.

                      Slaughtering animals or people or doing anything similarly bad for brief economic gain is not at all justified. But I don’t think that poor farmer intended anything or anyone any harm. He was just trying to survive as well as he could, and it really bugged me that the environmentalist talking sounded as if he either didn’t see the guy’s situation or was willfully ignoring it because he sympathized more with the antelope. If a way can be found for the people and antelopes to live side by side without either party being harmed or neglected, I’m all for that. I guess my complaint here was the environmentalist’s apparent indifference toward his suffering fellow-man, though for all I know he might have had a plan for benefitting both the farmers and the antelopes. He just didn’t express himself very well if he did.

        • Bono95

          Concern for the condition of God’s creation is legitimate, but the problem is that many environmentalists make out the problems to be much worse than they really are, and they refuse to see human beings as a part of God’s creation.
          It is important and quite legitimate to be concerned and prepared for something like an oil spill or nuclear disaster, or any similar disaster that is definite and can and has happened. But for things like global warming and holes in the ozone, it’s not so easy. Earth goes through so many cycles with varying temperatures which can make one place unusually warm while other places have their normal temperature or are unusually cold, that it is very difficult to say if any human activity is really warming up the planet.
          The first hole in the ozone was discovered in the 70’s, but it could have been around for who knows how much longer. The ozone layer destroys itself by as much as 50% in its cycles, whereas no more than 5% destruction can be accurately attributed to any human activity.
          And finally, more important than concern for even the most legitimate environment issue is concern for the state of our souls and of those of our neighbors. Souls live forever, in Heaven if they’re good and in Hell if they aren’t, while the environment will only last as long as the earth/universe.

      • Caroline

        “The biggest greenfreaks are huge cheerleaders for contraception, abortion, and euthanasia …”
        Bono95, you could equally well say that “the biggest homophobes are huge cheerleaders for environmental destruction.” We need to transcend such crude attempts to pigeonhole people into narrow categories, along with the compulsion to confuse “some” and “all”. The world is not so simplistic.

        • Bono95

          I didn’t say all environmentalists are big on killing people, I said that the most extreme are. There are indeed honest, concerned, caring people who just want what’s best for everyone and everything; people, animals, plants, and the planet as a whole. I have no problem with people like that, and can see the value in recycling, conserving energy and resources, and being prepared and equipped to deal with true environmental disasters and things like that. But if it gets to the point that I have to kill my children, parents, and grandparents to save a ball of rock that, however special and unique, will not last forever, I draw the line. Nothing is ever worth killing innocent people for.

      • musicacre

        China brought on a famine of horrific proportions,(Mao) killing almost 50 million people by starvation….just by upsetting nature. They killed off the birds that would ‘ve eaten insects. The insects proceeded to eat all the crops. (Read Steven Mosher) For these times, more subtle; they have poisoned honey bees. The trickle-down effect will be more horrible. It was one thing to work on getting rid of pollution which has been in the forefront since the 70’s. Quite another to say humans just breathing are causing cataclysmic damage. Therefore humans must be eliminated; except the well-connected ones:) The anti-lifers are always trying to make people feel the world is in a disaster situation. It’s the only way they have power over the masses.

    • Caroline

      ‘In case anyone missed it, this article is disparaging environmentalism because it will keep man alive longer than “God intended”.’
      Yes, that does appear to be the message. Not very pro-life, is it? Perhaps we should all disparage medicine because it keeps people alive.

  • I would certainly look to Thomas Aquinas before barking up the tree of John Locke. Certainly Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis are well aware of the chasm that separates these two thinkers.

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  • Environmentalism, in the western world, is largely the hobby of well-to-do people who do not work with their hands or their backs, who drive cars with automatic transmissions, who live far from their places of work, who farm their children out to day-care, who settle no more than four persons in a house of more than 2000 square feet, who use dishwashers rather than their hands and dryers rather than clotheslines, who vacation in the big national parks, who do more than their share of flying, who urinate estrogen into the water supply, and who cheer forward every form of moral pollution that the imagination of man can conceive, with the bilge floating downstream to where the poor and the vulnerable live.

    • Bono95

      Yeah, yah gotta be pretty darned rich to afford solar panels, hybrids, a strictly vegetarian/vegan diet, etc.

      • supineny

        there are millions of people living in India who practice vegetarianism and they are from every economic strata of society, including people who have very little money. your claim is absurd.

        Not all individuals can afford solar panels, true, but most individuals can’t afford their own coal-burning power plant either. Which is to say, our collective behaviors can impact the environment in a beneficial or detrimental way as well.

        • Bono95

          You’re right that many poorer people don’t eat a lot of meat, but the question here is are they vegetarian by choice or necessity?
          Answer: There are some for whom its voluntary, but in many cases I’d say it’s more because meat is expensive and what animals they own (if they own any) are needed more for other things like milk or wool. And in the latter cases, their diet is not completely meat-free. True, meat would only be had for special occasions or when a cow or goat was too old to give milk. and the meat would be rather tough, but poor people who are normally vegetarian only by necessity usually do eat meat if they have any.
          And I don’t honestly know how much coal energy costs, but I believe it is cheaper than most “greener” energy sources, and more universal. Solar panels are only really good when and where it’s regularly sunny, and the charge they hold only lasts so long. Hydro power requires a river, and that river has to flow at certain speed. Wind turbines also need to be built where wind is steady, but not to fast. The best place for that is somewhere in the Dakotas, but not enough people live there to make building them worth it. And if the turbines need to be stopped for any reason, they have to be stopped with brakes that operate by burning coal or oil.
          I’m not going to stop anyone who lives where 1 of those alternate energy sources is available, affordable, and practical, but I wish more such people would not try to stop me from using coal-fueled energy. Same for vegetarianism/veganism. If you don’t want to eat meat, that’s just fine with me, but please don’t give me grief for enjoying bacon and eggs.

          • supineny

            Hey Bono, if you ‘honestly don’t know’ something, that means you should look it up before you start making pronouncements. You come off as someone who doesn’t stop to verify what they think. But I will try to bring you up to speed.

            In India, there are large geographic areas (the province of Gujarat, and most of Southern India) where most of the Hindus and all of the Jains are vegetarians for religious/moral reasons. It has nothing to do with expense or cheapness of meat, it’s because they don’t believe in killing animals to eat them.

            In the context of our discussion, all it means is that vegetarian diets cannot be said to be the privilege of the rich. Most Indian vegetarians are not rich.

            As for coal — don’t forget you have to measure long term consequence against immediate cost cutting. Coal is immediately cheaper, but it’s dirty, and then you have to pay to clean up later. How much pollution can we tolerate? Good question, but it seems like there’s a limit. Read about the air quality in Beijing. If coal burning is really a major cause of global warming, well, it could be incurring some major costs, like billions in dollars in damages. Then how much money did you save?

            • Bono95

              I said above that there ARE poorer people who are voluntarily vegetarian. Perhaps what I should have asked is if there are any 100% vegan poor people. It’s relatively easy, economically speaking, to simply forego flesh, but the ability to find and afford a diet with no meat, seafood, eggs, or dairy products whatsoever requires a decent-sized store/market to select from, sufficient money on hand to buy whatever vegan food there is, and the spare time to ascertain whether something is 100% vegan or time to prepare something that is, and these are all things many poor people don’t have.
              Vegetarianism, then, can be found in all social classes for voluntary reasons. Veganism, however, much more likely to be found in middle class to wealthier circles.

              My apologies for not being clearer before. Thanks for the new info.

              • supineny

                you don’t need a specialty store or a giant supermarket to find rice, beans and vegetables, which will likely be the backbone of your diet if you’re a vegan. I believe you’re once again talking about something you’ve never explored and have no idea about.

                • Me

                  A lot of vegans grow their own vegetables.

    • sseller

      So, you’ve listed every stereotype about environmentalists, but do you actually have any evidence that these things are true? You say it’s largely the hobby of these people who do things you don’t care for, but you don’t provide any sort of statistics or examples–you just seem to stereotype those who adhere to certain viewpoints you don’t like. Is this the standard you use with your students? As long as they spout some oft-repeated generalities about a literary text, they are given good marks? As an academic, I would hold you to a higher standard, but it just seems like you’re using this as a forum to inaccurately typify people who believe certain ideas you don’t agree with instead of actually discussing the content of the article or exploring whether some ideas of environmentalism can be compatible with so-called “authentic” catholic teachings. Many of the people on this board wonder why those who subscribe to more traditional catholic viewpoints don’t seem to get heard often enough in the mainstream media or discourse. Perhaps when you stereotype and misrepresent the views of those you disagree with, it marginalizes your position. Food for thought.

      • Caroline

        I agree, sseller. The asinine stereotyping is bad enough, but the perversion and rejection of true Catholic teaching on this topic by many knee-jerk reactionaries is just sad.

    • supineny

      So your problem isn’t with the idea of environmentalism, it’s with the people who betray it’s principles?

      another vote for environmentalism.

    • Andy

      Tony Esolen writes, “Environmentalism, in the western world, is largely the hobby of well-to-do people who do not work with their hands or their backs, who drive cars with automatic transmissions, who live far from their places of work, who farm their children out to day-care …”
      One has to be: a) incredibly gullible to dismiss environmentalism on such specious grounds, and b) incredibly angry, i.e., you have to believe in “us versus them”, where there is always a “them”, and “they” are always evil. Environmentalism is not about “us versus them”, it’s about “us” — all of us, including those, whom others have mentioned in these comments, who are economically and socially vulnerable. Please don’t confuse your personal need for conflict and hostility with the very pro-social goals of environmentalists. Please don’t be thrown into a state of cognitive dissonance by the fact that the leadership of the Catholic Church very clearly and unambiguously supports pro-environmental policies and sees these as an issue of social justice.

  • GrahamCombs

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but is there really a Fr. Schall? Or more to the point, priests like Fr. Schall? I’ve never met them. The spring-gun of political correctionness is so lightly sprung and so easily tripped in the presence of most of the priests I hear in person. Not that they are bad priests but that they seem to accept so much that I have learned the hard way to question. The Church still seems in love with “the rebel” but abhors questions aroused by orthodoxy and experience. I find the Church a very lonely place…

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    A French Anarchist publication got it exactly right – “There is no “environmental catastrophe.” The catastrophe is the environment itself. The environment is what’s left to man after he’s lost everything. Those who live in a neighbourhood a street, a valley, a war zone, a workshop – they don’t have an “environment;” they move through a world peopled by presences, dangers, friends, enemies, moments of life and death, all kinds of beings. Such a world has its own consistency, which varies according to the intensity and quality of the ties attaching us to all of these beings, to all of these places. It’s only us, the children of the final dispossession, exiles of the final hour – the ones who come into the world in concrete cubes, pick our fruits at the supermarket, and watch for an echo of the world on television – only we get to have an environment.”

    • Bono95

      Great insight, Mr. Paterson-Seymour. Thanks for posting. 🙂

    • supineny

      I would say there’s nothing ‘exact’ about this quote. it skips from metaphor to paradox to breathless generalization without stopping very long for a reality check anywhere.

      In the world depicted here, the people who ‘don’t have an environment’ are depicted as living in a purely social and psychological context, they pay no attention to ‘nature.’ Those who ‘get to have’ an environment — ‘we’ — have a mediated, suspect relationship to nature.

      In reality, none of us living beings has stopped breathing air or drinking water, in which case all of them/us are dependent on the natural resources that are necessary to provide breathable air, drinkable water, food, etc. Whether or not we think about it, whether or not we know farmland first hand.

  • crakpot

    Another environmentalist notion contrary to what Jesus said is the idea that the earth is fragile, and in stasis:

    “Regard the birds of the air, they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather to barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them..”

    This is particularly pronounced with the superstitious fear of carbon dioxide. Simple thermodynamics will tell you that there can be no such thing as a greenhouse gas effect, but it is undeniable that carbon dioxide is an essential plant nutrient. More CO2, more plants to feed us. Sounds like a robust design, not a teetering rock.

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  • Rational Persuader

    There is an implicit assumption that humans will ruin the environment. People claiming that fail to look around and see the gardens, reforestation, clean water systems, sewage systems, and such actions taken by humans to maintain and improve their environment.

    The source of such notions in societies like the US is the born-sinner belief of Christianity and the uncreative drive-to-the-bottom foundations of Marxism.

    The two ideologies are closely related, both arising from Plato’s two-worlds error in trying to understand the human mind. Marxism denies the mind, Christianity perhaps less so due the influence of Aristotle through Saint Thoma Acquinas. Both Marxism and Christianity consider certain outcomes as inevitable (but teach revolution and prayer to ensure an outcome), Marxism is deterministic, Christianity says every outcome is God’s will.

    A key error that environmentalists make is ignoring the justice system in societies like the US, especially tort law. If your neighbour’s activity can be shown objectively to be significantly harming you then you can sue him for damages. (Marxists do not want a justice system because it might limit their initiation of force, some religions like Islam want a non-objective justice system like “Sharia Law”.)