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Earth Day and Human Evil

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

April 22 was Earth Day. The organization that helped to transform this observance into a national holiday is none other than the 102-year-old Sierra Club. The Club's 550,000 U.S. members recently voted on a proposal that advances the idea of stemming the tide of immigrants into our country.

Needless to say, the issue has created a division among the ranks of the environmental organization. One side favors restricting immigration on the grounds that it contributes to environmental degradation. The opposing side sees such a notion as inherently racist in character. If the initiative passes, the Sierra Club will have to draft a new policy advocating immigration restraints.

Conservatives who wish to restrict immigration would most likely be surprised to discover that such an unlikely group shares some of their opinions. However, conservatives who are calling for more controlled borders and stronger measures against illegal immigration see the objective as one of fairness in economic and legal terms. On the other hand, environmentalists who prefer to see limitations enacted perceive immigration as just one more source that is contributing to the increase in human population. According to their perspective, this is intolerable because human beings are considered to be the originators of all ecological ills.

The concept of limiting the number of people on earth has a lengthy and faulty history. In the 19th century, Thomas R. Malthus posited that human population grows faster than its means of subsistence. Therefore, apocalyptic famines are the inevitable result.

The advances of the Industrial Revolution tarnished Malthus's theories. This did not deter environmentalists from continuing to promulgate doomsday predictions, though. In 1968, the Sierra Club published a book by Paul Ehrlich entitled The Population Bomb. In a Malthusian replay, Ehrlich forecasted ecological catastrophes. And just as in the case of Malthus, the devastation never materialized.

Statistics show that the current population growth is slowing. Yet people forget the dire predictions that were never fulfilled. As a consequence, the public remains receptive to warnings concerning a multitude of new crises that demand our urgent attention.

Recently, additional groups such as the Population-Environment Balance (PEB) have called for an immigration moratorium. As would be expected, PEB assigns blame for environmental problems that exist in the United States on population growth.

These developments within the "green scene" are not really that surprising. In fact, the more extreme activists in the environmental movement share a belief with traditional Christians. Both agree that human beings are evil. The difference, of course, is evident in the solutions that are proposed to address the flaws of mankind. Environmentalists want to eliminate as many people as possible. Christians want to convert them.

G.K. Chesterton mused on this curious consensus between such disparate groups in this manner: "The strongest saints and the strongest skeptics alike took positive evil as the starting point. If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do."

Along with the many ceremonies that have become a part of the Earth Day tradition is an idea that has become the environmental answer to post-modern religious practice. An old concept has been dusted off and repackaged, but many of us recognize it for what it is -earth worship, plain and simple.

This idolatrous position generates a particular outlook in regard to humankind. Many in the environmental movement decry the traditional Christian belief that human beings possess a God given dominion over other forms of life that inhabit the planet. In the opinion of radical environmentalists, human beings are not merely the cause of the problem. They are the problem. The highest form of environmental purity is thus achieved in an unspoiled wilderness, free from the presence or influence of Homo sapiens.

Immigration reform is long overdue and conservatives should welcome allies into the fold. Still, the underlying precepts of the ecological collaborators must be scrutinized carefully. In accepting our stewardship responsibility, we acknowledge that the beauty and majesty of creation must be protected and preserved. However, relegating man to the equal status of an inchworm only serves to create a demeaning and abusive climate. In the end, we will find that the decimation that occurs will be that of our treasured freedoms.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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