Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Earth Might Be Fair

Earth Might be Fair is a series of articles that were compiled and edited by Ian G. Barbour. It was published in 1972. The topics of science, theology, how the human race views the earth, and population were discussed in an ecological light.
I found the principles of the publication to be sound. It was enlightening to see how the Christian faith was viewed in the environmental world. There are some who assert that Christianity should bear the blame of our current environmental condition, while others assert that it is the answer. No matter what the author’s respective view on Christianity (or other religions) was though, they all agreed on one thing; what had to change was how people viewed the earth, and they knew that the best way to do that was through the faith of the people.
Technology was discussed at length. An important distinction was made between technology and science. Technology for example is the computer that I’m typing this on, while science is the study that made the creation of the computer possible. Technology and science walk hand in hand, but they are not one and the same. I found this view to be refreshing as well as informative, and the various authors in Earth Might be Fair, agreed that society should focus on producing technologies that improve (or don’t harm) the environment rather than addressing the harmful effects of technology. This method wouldn’t only reduce the amount of harm to our environment, but encourage a wiser use of resources (government funding, research, etc).
How the human race views the earth was the main issue of the book. Whether it be that man should view himself in light of a genetic ancestry that tied him to all species, the miracle that man has even come into being, the miracle of the creation of the earth, or how estrangement from nature by objectifying it has led man to degrade the world he lives on. All these combined to try and instill in man a feeling of not only connectedness to the world around him (plants, resources, animals), but of blessing, and through that blessing an obligation to be responsible for the world around him.
I believe that the underlying principle of the book was not to present facts, but to change minds. From the introduction to the conclusion and throughout every article the authors presented information in an effort to get people to change the way that they saw and perceived the world around them. Some authors used logic, other religious appeal, and still others made an appeal to people’s fear.
The religious and fear appeals were used the most often, perhaps because it is a person’s sense of the spiritual, and a person’s life that is most valued. However, a blunt appeal to fear isn’t constructive. When an argument seeks to make a reader insecure, thought processes aren’t changed only diverted for a few moments in time while the reader is engaged in reading. An appeal to one’s religion calls on a reader’s sense of moral obligation – something they have chosen in their lives. By reasoning with this aspect of a person lasting change can be made.
I agree that technology needs to be encouraged to be more responsible, I agree that religion when really understood encourages mankind to take care of the earth, I agree that for any significant environmental change to be made people who consume too much (though that remains to be defined), should consume less (and recycle more). Out of all the things I agree with in this book, I cannot bring myself to agree with its views on population. Proposals in the book to “control population” were appalling; the “solutions” ranged from sterilizing 10 year old girls (and mothers of 2 - as a matter of law), to having the government decide which couples would be allowed to produce offspring. I respect that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not believe that anyone is entitled to saying what human life is really worth bringing into the world.
In conclusion the book has a lot to offer. I think that it is an example of why people are often so ardently against environmentalism as well though. The ideas presented are as a whole sound and good, but their presentation is sometimes over enthusiastic, or abrasive. To accomplish what this book is trying to do (change the thoughts and attitude of people in order to change people’s actions) a more moderate approach is needed.
I read this book all the way through.

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