His essay can help us build a framework to begin unpacking this biblical idea of stewardship. Page: 180. Sometimes there are legal barriers to property rights’ definition and transfer, as in the case of water law in many states, and those barriers can be removed. See Stephen Moore, "The Coming Age of Abundance," in The True State of the Planet, ed. Thinking, for instance, that reducing carbon dioxide (co2) emissions will prevent destructive global warming, some Western environmentalists are lobbying for severe restrictions on energy use, and are opposing the introduction of modern sources of energy into less developed nations.27 But because human enterprise is largely dependent upon access to energy, restrictions on energy use are likely to further prolong the time it takes for people to achieve the wealth that makes possible the longer, healthier lives that we in the West sometimes take for granted. 64. Our goal is to equip these same people and organizations with resources that promote satisfying and fruitful work, within the context of a free and virtuous society, as the best, and most sustainable, pathway out of poverty. To some extent they might be, but it is very unlikely that the reductions in emissions could be achieved through government-mandated efficiency measures alone; almost certainly, some actual loss of production would result. 1:15—16]); the gradation of powers from lesser to greater (Exod. 15. A World Bank analysis concluded that urban [particulate matter] and [sulphur dioxide] concentrations peaked at per capita incomes of $3,280 and $3,670, respectively. It added, "As the debate unfolds, it has become increasingly clear that–contrary to conventional wisdom–there does not exist today a general scientific consensus about the importance of greenhouse warming from rising levels of carbon dioxide. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.59. While we do not rule out all collective action, we believe market mechanisms are frequently better means, in both principle and practice, to environmental protection. Economists find that free economies outperform planned and controlled economies not only in the production and distribution of wealth but also in environmental protection. Even prehistoric people hunted some animals to extinction. Before the Reformation, few countries had widespread education, and even afterward, schooling was available principally to the rich. 37. Additionally, the areas surrounding the parks are economically more productive than the state-protected areas. Species Extinction As Roy W. Spencer, senior scientist at nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Center, points out: All measurement systems agree that 1998 was the warmest year on record. Materially, the world is a far, far better place today than it was not only one millennium ago, but even one century ago. 48. For instance, air and water are the major resources suffering from pollution in certain places because they are usually treated as common property, that is, property where no one has exclusivity. On the other hand, in a legal framework in which polluters are made liable for damage done to others’ person or property, people also seek to minimize pollution that falls upon others. 17. Similarly, opposition to "unsustainable" agricultural practices used in the developing world–practices that serve as a take-off point for substantially more productive and environmentally sound agricultural methods down the road–threatens to condemn large numbers in the developing world to perpetual poverty and hunger. And it concluded, "based on all the evidence available to us, we cannot subscribe to the politically inspired world view that envisages climate catastrophes and calls for hasty actions. (By the way, we can only look at other people’s outward appearance. How realistic are these fears, and, to the extent that there are real dangers, what can we do about them? Thus, for example, in the United States, national ambient airborne particulate emissions fell by about 80 percent from 1940 to 1994, and total suspended particulates fell by about 84 percent from 1957 to 1996; sulfur dioxide (so2) emissions fell by about 34 percent from 1973 to 1994, and so2 concentrations fell by about 80 percent from 1962 to 1996; carbon monoxide emissions fell by about 24 percent from 1970 to 1994; nitrogen oxide emissions peaked around 1972 and have declined slightly since then, while concentrations have fallen by about a third since 1974; volatile organic compounds emissions peaked in the late 1960s and by 1994 had fallen by about 30 percent; ozone concentrations fell by about 30 percent from the early 1970s to 1996; lead emissions (probably the most hazardous air pollutant) fell over 98 percent from 1970 to 1994, and concentrations also fell by about 98 percent.26. 5:12—14; 6:23) and subjecting creation to the curse of futility and corruption (Gen. 3:17—19; Rom. The perverse incentives created by the law may well lead an owner to surreptitiously destroy that animal or plant–or any habitat that might attract it.75. That pollution declines when economies grow wealthier has already been seen. But the data–to the extent that both sets are to be trusted–now show the opposite to be true. The only way he could be assured of an exclusive right to a buffalo was to shoot it. Thus global warming is likely to prove positive for human health. Stay in the know and receive our weekly email newsletter full of the latest news, blog posts, and event updates. D. L. Hawksworth (London: Royal Society/Chapman and Hall, 1995), 13—20; Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich, Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species (New York: Random House, 1981); John Tuxill and Chris Bright, "Losing Strands in the Web of Life," in The State of the World 1998, ed. We used a lot of water to make things. Why should we question people’s judgments about where they choose to live? The Recent Evangelical Debate over Capitalism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 1991). The lost economic growth in any developing countries that are forced to comply with Kyoto emission restrictions spells added decades of suffering and premature deaths for their people, for whom the affordability of basic water and sewage sanitation, health care, and safe transportation will be long postponed. The fact that a piece of property can be bought or sold means that a resource owner who ignores the wishes of other people does so at a cost to himself, a reduction of wealth. 20:13—15). What of God’s concern for all people of all times? The price system does not adequately represent all desires, and its failure to do so is caused by a lack of appropriate property rights. and rev. Over the last 25 years, your support has brought us to this place. Another economic forecasting firm, Charles River Associates, projects lower costs–about 2.3 percent (or, currently, about $193 billion) of gdp per year. But when people are confident that their most urgent needs will be met, they begin allocating more of their resources to needs deemed by them less urgent–including increasingly rigorous environmental protection. If a buffalo hunter decided to postpone the shooting of any particular animal, he had no assurance that he would have the option to exercise that right in the future. that we otherwise could not afford to promote. Indeed, Christ even involves fallen humans in this work of restoring creation (Rom. All of these principles are reflected in the Constitution of the United States. It is time to reverse this trend. 104:14—23). Michael Cromartie (Washington, D.C.: Ethics and Public Policy Center/Eerdmans Publishing, 1995); and "Takings and the Judeo-Christian Land Ethic: A Response," Religion and Liberty 9 (March/April 1999): 5—7. Ibid., 93—94. 65:20). 60. Their preferences will be expressed only in people who exist presently, so it is useful to have someone stand in for them today; they need agents to represent them. More recently, Rev. That becomes especially true when the benefits of additional knowledge are rejected and when it is forgotten that improved technology and increased societal wealth are what allow society to deal with environmental threats most effectively. [3] S. L. Thompson and D. Pollard, "A Global Climate Model (Genesis) with a Land-Surface Transfer Scheme," Journal of Climate 8 (April 1995): 732—761. High death rates in the tropics appear to be more a function of poverty than of climate. In many parts of Southern Africa, where full rights of access and control over wildlife have been granted to landholders (of both private and communal land), biodiversity is better conserved in the areas surrounding national parks than in the parks themselves. When two eminent statisticians challenged the claims, asserting that no empirical field data existed to support them,61  the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (iucn) responded by commissioning a major worldwide field study. Richard Stroup, one of the originators of the New Resource Economics, describes the incentives of the esa in this way: Under the Endangered Species Act, the owner must sacrifice any use of the property that federal agents believe might impair the habitat of the species–at the owner’s expense. Population Growth Then each producer would face an appropriate incentive structure and could decide if it would be cheaper to purchase pollution rights and continue polluting at the company’s historical rate, or to adopt pollutant-reducing technology, or to shut down. In short, the lack of sound data to support claims of species extinction rates continues.65 Instead, the observational data indicate very low rates of extinction. Such policies not only delay the achievement of the affluence that makes environmental protection affordable but also condemn millions of people to more years in poverty. Our stewardship under God implies that we are morally accountable to him for treating creation in a manner that best serves the objectives of the kingdom of God; but both moral accountability and dominion over the earth depend on the freedom to choose. What is more, as already noted, the same book contains repeated admissions that the model predictions of high extinction rates were repeatedly falsified by field investigation. But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master’s money in the ground. Similarly, in Scotland, John Knox’s followers, convinced that personal knowledge of God and his Word was essential to the maintenance of civil as well as religious liberty (Ps. For most of human history, people have had little regard for the environment. Most important, increasingly refined models now indicate–and empirical observation has confirmed–that the majority of the warming will occur in the winter, at night, and in polar latitudes.40 This warming is far from sufficient to cause the polar ice caps to melt, which means it is also unlikely to result in significant rises in sea level–one of the most feared results of global warming because it was thought likely to inundate many coastal cities in which millions of the world’s poorest people live. At this point, the biblical environmental ethic must inform the private-property system. Dr. Timothy Terrell, Professor of Economics, Liberty University, Notes In addition, roughly two-thirds of the overall increase is attributable to natural, not manmade, causes (primarily changes in solar energy output).34. 21:35—36; 22:1, 6; Lev. The Act says, "The term ‘species’ includes any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plant, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature" (emphasis added).68  The trouble with this definition is that when most people unfamiliar with the esa think of a species as being in danger of becoming extinct, they think this means no individual organism of that genetic definition will be left anywhere–or, since the esa applies to the United States, at least there. When he created the world, God set aside a unique place, the Garden of Eden, and placed in it the first man, Adam (Gen. 2:8—15). It’s a theme in the Bible you can trace from Genesis to Revelation. Even in the early 1990s, when the National Research Council appointed a panel dominated by environmental advocates–a panel that included Stephen Schneider, who is an ardent proponent of the catastrophic hypothesis–the panel concluded that there was no scientific basis for any costly action.55 If any scientific consensus has grown since then, it has been critical of the catastrophic vision and the policies based on it. Economic demographer Mikhail Bernstam explains: Trends in pollution basically derive from trends in resource use and, more broadly, trends in production practices under different economic systems. That commission enables Sustainability Scout to keep offering reliable information. Liability forces a resource owner to bear the costs of actions that harm others. Despite this rather lukewarm endorsement of private-property rights as the correct mechanism for controlling resource use, several facets of such a system deserve some approbation. These rules are crucial determinants of what information is generated and what incentives the decision makers face. Utah State University political science professor Randy Simmons observes that "the Supreme Court declared in its Tellico Dam decision that the act defines ‘the value of endangered species as incalculable,’ that endangered species must ‘be afforded the highest of priority,’ and that ‘whatever the cost’ species loss must be stopped (tva v. Hill, 437 U.S. 187, 174, 184 [1978]). Robert William Fogel, "The Contribution of Improved Nutrition to the Decline in Mortality Rates in Europe and America," in The State of Humanity, ed. In Germany, Martin Luther insisted that widespread schooling was important so that people could read the Scripture–which he had translated into the vernacular–for themselves. That means that whatever the Bible has to say about environmental stewardship still applies, and on a larger scale. See, for example, Indur M. Goklany, "Richer Is Cleaner: Long-Term Trends in Global Air Quality," in The True State of the Planet, ed. ed. All of these ideas and much more are parts of what it means to be a steward. And improved life expectancy comes not just from declining child mortality but from declining mortality rates at every stage of life.20. Britain’s Queen Anne (1665—1714), for instance, was pregnant eighteen times; five of her children survived birth; none survived childhood. The image of God consists of knowledge and righteousness, and expresses itself in creative human stewardship and dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26—28; 2:8—20; 9:6; Eph. These principles indicate that a biblically sound environmental stewardship is fully compatible with private-property rights and a free economy, as long as people are held accountable for their actions. This high and ever-growing use of resources per unit of output explains the high extent of environmental disruption in socialist countries.23. These principles, when applied, promote both economic growth and environmental quality. Rates of population growth offer scarcely more reliable guidance for the concept of "overpopulation." Many religions and denominations have various degrees of support for environmental stewardship. 2:14—15). 46. The fat sheep eat the best of the pasture and tread down the rest of it. See Samuel H. Preston, "Human Mortality throughout History and Prehistory"; and Kenneth Hill, "The Decline of Childhood Mortality," in The State of Humanity, ed. We support appropriate development not for its own sake but, for example, because it uplifts the human person through work and the fruits of that labor, empowering us to serve the poor better, to uphold human dignity more, and to promote values (environmental, aesthetic, etc.) In the contemporary world, Africa’s rates of increase are the very highest, yet rates of population growth were even higher in North America in the second half of the eighteenth century. 5:6—21; Rom. National Research Council, Reconciling Observations of Global Temperature Change (Panel on Reconciling Temperature Observations: National Academy Press, 2000). Author: D.A. While we understand that passions may energize in the pursuit of sound environmental policy, we also believe that reason, coupled with a commitment to "do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with … God" (Mic. Roy W. Spencer, "How Do We Know the Temperature of the Earth? 8:21). Highly speculative computer climate models drove the great fears of global warming that arose in the 1980s and endured through the 1990s. Diane Knippers, President, Institute for Religion and Democracy 8. Excerpt from a speech by Jerry Taylor delivered on February 4, 1997, to the Environmental Grantmakers Association: "Environmentalism in a Market Society: Creative Ideas." Instead, this philosophy negates the biblical affirmation of the human person’s unique role as steward and eliminates the very rationale for human care for creation. In the Bible, God commands man to be a steward of the environment. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace International, said in an interview in the New Scientist in December 1999, "The environmental movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the mid-1980s ... political activists were using environmental rhetoric to cover up agendas that had more to do with class warfare and anti-corporatism than with the actual science...." What we have said above indicates that Moore was right in his critique of the movement to which he made such an important early contribution. If that individual also holds rights to the coal, that same information contains incentives for the owner to take actions that satisfy other people, namely, to make coal available to them. It costs you nothing extra. The independent economic forecasting firm wefa, even after accounting for likely improvements in energy efficiency, estimates that meeting the United States targets under the Kyoto accords would cut annual economic output by about $300 billion (or about 3.5 percent of the roughly $8.4 trillion in 1998 gross domestic product [gdp]) and, by 2010, destroy more than 2.4 million jobs and reduce average annual family income by about $2,700. For voluminous statistics and able discussions on these and dozens of other elements of material progress, see Julian L. Simon, ed., The State of Humanity (New York: Blackwell, 1995). "Study Finds No Support for Global Warming Fears," Los Angeles Times, March 16, 2000, metro section. Lester R. Brown, Christopher Flavin, and Hilary French (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998); Jessica Hellman et al., Ecofables/Ecoscience (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University/Center for Conservation Biology, 1998); and Mark H. Williamson, Island Populations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981). Scotland’s high literacy rate and its Calvinist ethics of work and saving were important factors in its making contributions to the Industrial Revolution far out of proportion to its small population and earlier economic disadvantages. For as people come to feel more secure about their basic needs, they begin to allocate more of their scarce time, energy, and resources to attaining formerly less urgent ends. The lack of a full rights structure means decision makers do not have appropriate incentives and information. B. D. Santer et al., "Interpreting Differential Temperature Trends at the Surface and in the Lower Troposphere," Science 287 (February 18, 2000): 1228. While one might think this is bad news for deserts, the opposite is true, for deserts make up only a tiny fraction of the earth’s surface; over three-fourths of it is water, and most of the remainder is moist land. View: 394. But the alternative, however attractively humble it might sound, is really untenable. The result, as illustrated in Figure 1, is a series of pollution transitions. James Gwartney and Robert Lawson, with Dexter Samida, Economic Freedom of the World, 2000 Annual Report (Vancouver: Fraser Institute, 2000), 15. The fact that the world is not experiencing overpopulation or destructive, manmade global warming or rampant species loss does not mean that a change in policies or practices is not needed to address other issues. 47. 19. The social institutions pertinent to environmental and resource issues are the rules that assign responsibility–that is, property rights that determine who can take what actions and who gets a hearing with regard to those actions. An Institutional Basis for Environmental Stewardship. Julian L. Simon (New York: Blackwell, 1995). 4:24; Col. 3:10). 68. 16:27; Rom. (Tempe, Ariz.: ibr Press/Institute for Biospheric Research, 1982). People choose to run it any other way but his. It is tempting to say that we must not politicize this (or any other) environmental issue, and we do not intend to do so; our focus is on sound science rooted in a value structure that emphasizes honesty and openness to debate and evidence. Having also created the first woman and having joined her to Adam (Gen. 2:18—25), God commanded them and their descendants to multiply, to spread out beyond the boundaries of the Garden of Eden, and to fill, subdue, and rule the whole earth and everything in it (Gen. 1:26, 28). 42. 1 of Civilization and Capitalism: Fifteenth through Eighteenth Century, trans. See also Richard L. Stroup, "Endangered Species Act: Making Innocent Species the Enemy," PERC Policy Series, April 1995. Therefore, it is not surprising that resource misuse occurs when property rights are incomplete. In part, this is because they fail to describe ecosystems as they really are, and they unrealistically attribute to large, connected regions (e.g., the Amazon rain forest) the characteristics of isolated islands.64 This means it is likely that the real extinction rate is much lower than 0.008 percent of species lost per year. 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