There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment

In between sessions at the young-Earth creation seminar I attended last month, there was a promotion for an upcoming anti-environmentalist documentary entitled “Axed: The End of Green,” created by Montana filmmaker J.D. King. According to the promotional video, the objective of the documentary will be to expose “the dark side of the green movement for what it really is.”

I can tell that Mr. King likes nature; there are plenty of shots of him hiking or driving in the mountains of Montana. This is a very good thing, and actually a point of common ground between him and those in the environmental movement. Here’s the video (less than three minutes long):

The video begins with film clips from radical environmental groups such as this: Earth First! mourning the loss of a tree. When I watch a video like this, my first response is that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I have a little bit of common ground with the Earth Firsters—I like trees—but their biocentric/ecocentric philosophy has a number of problems, and is seriously out of balance in regards to the place of humans in the creation. If all environmentalists were like this, it would be rather easy for most people to dismiss the entire movement. But a strong majority of environmentalists are not like this.

Like Mr. King, I am convinced that there are potential dangers in the environmental movement, such as threats to individual liberty, property rights, and free markets. I would add that the pantheistic underpinnings of much environmental philosophy are not only wrong, but are actually inadequate as a foundation for a robust ecological understanding.

The shots of Mr. King splashing through mountain streams alternate with clips of mining, oil tankers, and closed logging roads; along with short statements from citizens who are concerned about jobs and the economy.

It would have been nice if the video, at this point, had presented a plea for balance: Not just wilderness, not just development, but a sustainable balance in which the environment is protected for the glory of God, the good of people, and the fruitfulness of the creation, which are all aspects of a Biblically-informed environmental ethic. Instead, there was an urgent call: “We demand that green be removed from the political platform!”

The jaw-dropping quote from the video was this:

“…The farmer, the miner, the foresters; their freedom must be returned to them to manage their affairs the way they know is best, because they are wiser than any bureaucrat…”

Farmers and foresters often take very good care of the land, and can also—even if they own the land and know what is right—sacrifice long-term health of soil and ecosystems for the sake of short-term profit.

It was the inclusion of “the miner” that I found astonishing. I am not opposed to mining, but it was rather incredulous that the speaker would say that mining companies would take better care of the land if they didn’t have bureaucratic regulators blocking their way. As my Sunday School teacher said when I told him this, “Has this guy ever been to Butte?”

Butte, Montana -- 19th & 20th century mining created the United States' largest complex of EPA Superfund cleanup sites, mostly before effective regulation. Image -- ArcGIS Imagery Basemap
Butte, Montana — 19th & 20th century mining created the United States’ largest complex of EPA Superfund cleanup sites, mostly before effective regulation. Image — ArcGIS Imagery Basemap

This is libertarianism run amok. This is conservatism—and I am a conservative—at its worst. What is it that this let-the-miners-mine-the-earth-unhindered type of conservatism actually seeks to conserve? Land? Resources? I don’t know.

The basic problem with this laissez-faire anti-environmentalism is that it, like Marxism and liberation theology, grossly underestimates human sin. Many conservatives have no difficulty seeing the dangers of big government, or the moral decay in our society, but somehow give a free pass to large corporations, forgetting that these too are run by sinful people. Because of this sin, and the Biblical role of government to restrain sin, sufficient regulation of industry, including mining, is necessary in order to ensure the long-term health and flourishing of both humans and the natural world. To say that either people or nature would be better off if government bureaucracy would just get out of the way is neither Biblical nor conservative.

The environmentalists on the left often err by being overly biocentric or ecocentric; leaving God and people out of the picture. The anti-environmentalists on the right often err by being overly anthropocentric; too centered on humans with their individual rights and needs. A more Biblical approach is a theocentric environmental philosophy that acknowledges God as Creator and Lord of all, humans as responsible stewards of the creation, and nature as God’s handiwork: glorifying its Maker, providing for human needs, and worth being protected for its own sake. There is nothing Biblical or good in a conservatism that facilitates abuse of nature rather than seeking to conserve and protect it.

Grace and Peace

P.S. There is no connection intended between the teaching of Nathaniel Jeanson of ICR and the documentary “Axed: The End of Green.”

Additional blog posts on the environment can be found at

7 thoughts on “There is more than one way to be really wrong about the environment

  1. Thank you for the critique. I agree that humanity is very sinful and can act selfishly without concern for others or for the environment. My point is that those in the government can be just as sinful and selfish, or worse, because power corrupts. In fact, the worst environments and societies in the world can be found in communist and socialist countries, where the government is the strongest. The challenge here is balancing these two ends of the spectrum- something this film will dive into. – JD King


  2. Al

    Please explain to me, what is Libertarianism run amok? Because I have never witnessed it in my lifetime! I’ve been around since the 60’s, and I know since the Great Depression, and Great Society there hasn’t been any, I would like to know. I will explain it you, which I have done to many neo-cons and progressives. We are anti-corporatists, we want competition in a free market place, which we do not have. We have crony-capitalism/fascism as of right now where we have monopolies, where you have to pay to play. Most mom and pop businesses are over-regulated out of business. The one question I always ask, if we Libertarians are for big corporations, why don’t corporations support Libertarians? They seem to support neo-cons and progressives and big government types. I support J.D. 100 percent, because in my opinion anti-environmentalism as you say it is, but I’m sure J.D. has his own wording is way less sinful than agenda 21, where a collectivist oligarchy rules you behind a barrel of a gun. Believe that!


  3. geochristian

    Al — My point is that “there is more than one way to be wrong about the environment.” We can quibble about what “libertarian” means, and it means different things to different people, just as “conservative” means different things to different people.

    One way to be wrong about the environment is to place the environment above humans, rather than taking an integrative approach which has God at the center, the creation as being intrinsically good even apart from its resource value to humans, and humans as being stewards and gardeners within and over the creation. The Agenda 21 people are an extreme expression of this, and I agree that implementation of their socialist agenda would be bad for all, but not all environmentalists are at that extreme.

    Another way to be wrong about the environment—what I focused on in this blog post—is that taken by the anti-environmental wing of conservatism and libertarianism. This position states that the environment would do best if we just cut way back on regulations. There are certainly regulations that need to be modified, but those who want to do things like close the EPA or gut environmental regulations like the Clean Air Act are extremists who are out of touch with both political and ecological reality just as much as the Agenda 21 people.

    If what I am describing isn’t your type of libertarianism, then don’t be offended. I distrust large corporations just as much as I distrust large government. But in a world of sin and selfishness, we cannot just let large (or sometimes even small) businesses get away with whatever they want to do to make a profit, which usually means economics trumps ecology. That is why I am neither a progressive nor a laissez-faire conservative when it comes to the environment.


  4. geochristian

    JD — I’m sorry I neglected to reply back in June, but thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that socialist/communist countries had atrocious environmental records. I lived in Eastern Europe for over five years, and saw the results of this up close. I know there are a number of factors involved in this, but I would like to highlight what I think are a few reasons for the ecological catastrophe of the communist bloc:

    1. The economy always trumped ecology. The communists had their five-year plans with production goals that had to be met, and things like clean air and clean water stood in the way.

    2. Short-term goals always trumped long-range goals. Siphoning water out of rivers for massive irrigation projects in Central Asia boosted cotton production, but at great long-term cost for the Aral Sea, the ecosystems for hundreds of miles around, and the people who lived there.

    3. The earth was looked at as a commodity or resource for human use, not as God’s good creation that had intrinsic worth.

    4. There was no avenue for protest. One didn’t want to stand up under Stalin or Ceausescu (or stand up to the local thugs) and say “This is wrong.”

    I strongly favor a market economy over socialism, as that has produced the most widespread prosperity and freedom in human history. But I do not favor unrestrained exploitation, which is what you seem to be advocating, whether that is your intention or not. Again, to allow a mining company to do whatever it wants leads to something like Butte, and I don’t think that is what many of us want, nor do I think it is what God wants. In other words, I don’t think you have found a good balance (and I’m saying this based on your trailer, not your entire film).

    If you look at my four points in this comment, the first three can just as easily happen in a market economy. 1) To many “conservatives,” the economy always trumps ecology. If the economy is bad, we need to loosen up on the environment to prompt growth. If the economy is good, we need to loosen up on the environment so it doesn’t drag the economy down. 2) The invisible hand doesn’t have eyes, so it doesn’t always have wisdom to see upcoming calamities. 3) The earth’s resources are all there for our present use, with little thought for the long-run. This is an overly human-centered perspective on resources.

    The main thing we had going for us in the West was the freedom to protest and advocate. Corporations didn’t do anything about the fact that the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland used to catch on fire from the pollutants that were dumped in it until they were forced to, and they weren’t forced to until people raised a stink about it. The same goes for the mining waste at places like Butte.

    From your trailer, I know you have a love for the creation. I just don’t think your approach offers a good alternative to “green.”


  5. Pingback: Earth Day 2014 — Conservative environmentalism — seeking balance « The GeoChristian

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