Mormonism and the Interplay Between Economic and Environmental Sustainability: Should a Worldwide Church Have a “One-Size-Fits-All” Environmental Ethic?
By Ken K. Gourdin
In response to a query whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an environmental ethic on the Mormon Dialogue & Discussion Board, I linked to a recent address by Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Church’s Quorums of Seventy which was given at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah’s 18th Annual Wallace B. Stegner Symposium on Land, Natural Resources, and the Environment (link last accessed today): http://www.ulaw.tv/videos/religion-faith-and-the-environment—marcus-nash/0_93udac8v.
However, I pointed out that while the Church of Jesus Christ does encourage responsibility toward the environment among its members, a “one-size-fits-all” environmental ethic would not fit the varying circumstances of a worldwide church. One cannot pay due attention to environmental concerns if one’s chief concern, instead, simply is where his next meal is coming from. Individuals and nations must reach a certain level of economic sustainability before they have the wherewithal to pay sufficient attention to environmental concerns, and it’s easy for more developed nations to look down their noses at the alleged environmental “sins” of their less-developed counterparts. “You should be more environmentally responsible,” they might haughtily say. “Easy for you to say, given how much you take for granted,” might be the retort. This is how I framed the issue in my response on the above-described thread:
At the risk of being branded a heretic by those who so clearly care more about the Earth than I do (and who, thus, believe that my Temple Recommend [a form of identification required of all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who wish to enter one of the faith’s temples] should be revoked), the reason why I don’t think a one-size-fits-all, from-the-pulpit pronouncement regarding a doctrine of environmentalism [to members of the Church of Jesus Christ] would work is that an area needs to reach a certain level economically before it can start to pay adequate attention to environmental concerns and to formulate effective solutions to them. We belong to a worldwide Church. Historically, a common criticism of [church leaders] is that their approach to some things has been entirely too “Utah-centric.” But, dang it, they should go ahead and proclaim a one-size-fits-all, hard-and-fast doctrine with respect to [fill-in-pet-cause-here].
There it is. Heretical, I know.
Salt Lake City Weekly contributor Rainer Huck made a similar comment in a letter to the editor in response to a story recently published in the alternative publication, last accessed at http://e.cityweekly.net/cityweekly/2013/05/16/#?article=1901564:
Just when you thought environmentalism couldn’t get any wackier, consider what’s going on in Rwanda. That’s right, in Rwanda, where about a million were killed with machetes, an even more implacable foe has emerged: plastic bags!
To combat this new threat, the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) sends out patrols armed with scary-looking AK-47s to bring plastic-bag criminals to justice.
One baker seemed innocent enough until the police checked the inside of his seeming legal paper bags and found them lined with plastic.
Another patrol stopped a driver whose truck was carrying empty drinking-water bottles and finds they were packaged in—and this is serious—plastic bags!
You might think this all a joke, that poor African countries might have priorities other than waging war on plastic bags.
But check it out and see for yourself. Crazy environmentalism has its tentacles everywhere, making the rich poor and the poor impoverished.
Political environmentalism costs us trillions yearly, creating the worst cost/benefit ratio of any enterprise. Hopefully, the people will figure this out before we’re totally bankrupt.
Salt Lake City
I’m not sure how much I would have in common with Mr. Huck politically. I suspect we might be on opposite sides of the aisle if we belonged to the same political assembly. However, in this case he’s spot-on.