The London Times once asked its readers, "What's wrong with the world today?" G. K. Chesterton, never one to pass up a chance like that, reportedly wrote back a simple response: "Dear Sir, I am."
Modern environmentalists seem to share Chesterton's answer, though their reasoning could hardly be more at odds with his. Humanity, they insist, is what's wrong with the world. We're destroying it, pushing species after species into oblivion and permanently altering earth's climate. But besides voluntary self-extinction, these environmentalists don't offer any solutions.
Instead, they spend their time and money fantasizing about human annihilation. I'm thinking of movies like "The Day After Tomorrow," "The Happening," or disturbing commercials like the infamous ad showing children exploding into bloody pulp because, you see, they wouldn't reduce their carbon footprints.
And last month, a new series of public service messages took up that mantle. Produced by Conservation International, the ads feature A-list celebrities voicing an assortment of living things and habitats who all have one message for us: Nature doesn't need humans, and it can kill us if it likes.
Cast in the role of the ocean, Harrison Ford growls, "I'm most of this planet…every living thing here needs me. I'm the source. I'm what they crawled out of…I don't owe [humans] a thing. I give. They take. But I can always take back…I covered this entire planet once and I can do it again."
The series of ads, which aired on CNN, also includes Robert Redford as a frustrated redwood tree, Penelope Cruz as a passive-aggressive stream, and Kevin Spacey as a sarcastic rain forest.
But the capstone of it all is Julia Roberts' icy performance as Mother Nature.
"I've been here for over four and a half billion years," declares Roberts—"22,500 times longer than you—I don't really need people…I have fed species greater than you, and I have starved species greater than you…My oceans, my soil, my flowing streams, my forests, they all can take you or leave you…I'm prepared to evolve. Are you?"
Roberts' ominous tone led one journalist to observe that she sounds more like the White Witch of Narnia than Mother Nature.
But what's most striking about Conservation International's message isn't its thinly-veiled misanthropy, but just how little it offers in the way of solutions. Humankind does more harm than good, we're told, and boy, have we got it coming. And that's about it.
Well, if humans truly are the problem, maybe having fewer of us would do a lot of good. Actually, that's the very conclusion Eduardo Porter came to last summer in the New York Times where he suggested population control as a solution to climate change.
Secular environmentalists have reached a dead end—literally. Humans are the problem, so saving the planet will mean lots of people winding up, well, dead in the end.
But this is where Christianity offers a surprising response. With Chesterton, all Christians agree that we are the problem. But that's not the whole story. We're also the solution, because the Christian worldview offers something secular ecology cannot: a concept of stewardship.
You see, if we are merely "the other great ape" as naturalists assume, then we have no moral obligation to care for our planet. But if, as Genesis teaches, we are fashioned as God's vice-regents, placed on earth to love one another and to cultivate creation, then we have a duty to Someone much higher up the totem pole than Mother Nature. What we need are Christian environmentalists—believers with a theology of ecology. Only then can we counter this movement's death wish with life-giving solutions.