In “‘Bless the Lord, All You Works of the Lord’: Nature and the Incarnation” (Views, December 2001), Scott P. Richert asserts that “modern environmentalist thought” seeks to preserve a closed, idyllic system through the exclusion of man.  This is either disingenuous or uninformed; either way, it is a wholly inaccurate characterization of modern environmentalism.  While the Wilderness Society and others lobby to preserve isolated pockets of primordial nature in a sea of urbanization, no serious environmentalist would agree with Mr. Richert that “paradise, it seems, is no place for man.”  Quite the opposite: It has become apparent over the years that only those places that are well known and well loved are likely to be preserved.  In fact, arguably the most tragic event in American conservation history, the damming of Glen Canyon, occurred precisely because the canyon was unknown to all but a small group of prospectors, cattlemen, and river rats.  Any exclusionary tendencies on the part of the conservation community have been pragmatic compromises.  The problem is not humans per se, but the eight billion of us currently sharing this finite sphere (many of whom feel compelled to drive their four-wheelers over a good part of it).

While I agree with Mr. Richert that Christians are uniquely positioned to be responsible stewards of creation, I believe that they have fallen tragically short in this regard.  Why does it seem that every proposal to rape and desecrate our natural heritage comes cloaked in the pious exhortation of “man’s dominion over Nature”?  For once, I would like to see the same rationale used to advocate the preservation of some small part of this suffering world.

        —Nicholas D. Radovich
Denver, CO

Mr. Richert Replies:

Mr. Radovich has, unfortunately, misread both my article and my intent.  I was not criticizing conservationist organizations, which try to preserve nature for the benefit of man, but mainstream environmentalist thought, which, contra Mr. Radovich, has become increasingly anti-human.  I agree that “only those places that are well known and well loved are likely to be preserved”; indeed, I have argued that very point at least twice in Chronicles in the past year (see “For Keeps! A Christian Defense of Property,” Views, April 2001, and “Not in Your Back Yard,” Letter From Rockford, May 2001).  I also agree that Christians “have fallen tragically short” in their duty to be “responsible stewards of creation”; that failure, in fact, is one of the concerns that prompted the very article that Mr. Radovich is criticizing.  I cannot agree, however, that “the problem is . . . the eight billion of us currently sharing this finite sphere,” and not simply because Mr. Radovich overstates the population of the Earth by about a third.  The ground-breaking research of such thinkers as Virginia Abernethy should have taught us by now that the problem is not population per se, but the cultural, political, and economic conditions that help determine the carrying capacity of a region.  Indeed, these conditions—the product of human choices—may affect carrying capacity even more than natural conditions, since they often override man’s recognition of natural limitations, encouraging excessive optimism in reproduction.