Don’t worry about how much we pollute the earth, and what impact that may have on global temperatures and human life. It will all work out in a thousand years or two, according the evidence of geologic history. That’s the bottom line of George Will’s recent column and review of Robert Laughlin’s article in The American Scholar. The earth doesn’t care.
True enough, writes Rusty Pritchard–former Emory Univ. professor and now president of the Christian organization called Flourish–in a blogpost at Q Ideas. “While the earth might not care if we drive a hybrid, our grandchildren do.”
The fatalistic lesson drawn by Laughlin is that human actions just don’t matter on the longest time scales. The earth is resilient, he argues, and a stable, liveable climate should return in a couple thousand years, no matter what we do. Fair enough–few would disagree on that point, although there are no guarantees. But Laughlin misses the point of those who think about things like atmospheric pollution. No one is asking what impact our actions will have on an oblivious earth or an uncaring universe. And the Bible itself certainly never uses that as an ethical filter to help us decide right actions. The questions for us in the here-and-now have to do with human history and futures, not with geological time scales: Do our actions harm our neighbors? Do they honor the Creator and uphold the integrity of his good creation?
It’s an important debate; one that Rusty Pritchard wins hands down with the Christian principle that love of neighbor makes our concern for the earth the biblical answer. Regardless of what the earth might say.