Population Growth and Religion
The Union of Concerned Scientists:
Today, the Earth’s atmosphere and life-sustaining resources are being altered by human activities as never before. Global warming is being driven by our extensive burning of fossil fuels, clearing of tropical forests, and other changes in our use of natural and agricultural landscapes. Biological diversity—the extraordinary variety of genes, species and habitats that comprise life on Earth—is being rapidly and irrevocably diminished as we transform forests and other natural habitats to human uses, deplete marine and aquatic fisheries, and stress remaining natural habitats through pollution and atmospheric change. Human-made chemicals have damaged the stratospheric ozone layer that protects people, plants, and animals from harmful ultraviolet radiation. These and other patterns of global environmental change are, in turn, driven by a combination of rapid population growth, high consumption of energy and natural resources, and perverse market and policy incentives.1
What kind of spiritual development and quality of life will this allow in the future? Does humanity have the moral right to cause the extinction of other species? How many medicines, cures, and scientific revelations from nature are being forever lost in the pursuit of unrestricted corporate profits and governmental impotence? Could humanity deliver more souls to God over the long run by sustaining a fruitful environment first, then multiplying? Is this not our instruction from God? These are the questions established religions of the world should put to serious and immediate reflection—some Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic, and many other religious leaders have already started to do so.
Pope John Paul II explains, "Men and women…bear a unique responsibility under God: to safeguard the created world and by their creative labor even to enhance it."2 This is a call for sustainability and enhancement of God’s creation, not Corporate America’s distorted view of the Bible authorizing unlimited exploitation and destruction. Reverend Charles Treadwell of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in McKinney, Texas, proclaims, "We have multiplied. We have subdued the earth. Now it’s time to focus on the Second Creation story."3 Genesis 2 of the Old Testament reveals the Second Creation story and it instructs Adam to work and "take care" of the garden.4 Patriarch Bartholomew, of the Greek Orthodox Church, writes, "For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation…to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, stripping the earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands…to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life with poisonous substances—these are sins."5 Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic scholar, says, "...man cannot gain an awareness of the sacred aspects of nature without discovering the sacred within himself or herself."6 Dr. Freda Rajotte of the World Council of Churches: "Today the World Council’s primary concern is the integrity of Creation. You can’t talk peace without justice. And you can’t have justice if you destroy the climate, allow flooding, permit ruin of tropical forests, ignore sustainability. This becomes a question of poverty—of oppression."7
In addition to being our life-support system, nature is God’s enduring and wise teacher for humanity—a physical, living, and nourishing link. To preserve this teacher and inspiration for future generations and ourselves, it’s imperative we institute sane public policies that encourage conservation and population reduction to reverse environmental decay.
© 2001 by William C. Gladish. All Rights Reserved
(additional information on overpopulation.)
1Union of Concerned Scientists, "The Global Resources Program and Our Issues," 15 Sept. 1999, www.ucsusa.org/resources/res-home.
2Trebbe Johnson, "The Second Creation Story: Redefining the Bond Between Religion and Ecology," Sierra Club Magazine Nov./Dec. 1998: p. 54.
3Johnson, "The Second Creation Story," p. 54.
4Zondervan Publishing, The Quest Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1994) Gen. 2:15: p. 4.
5Carl Pope, "Reaching Beyond Ourselves: It's Time to Recognize Our Allies in the Faith Community," Sierra Club Magazine Nov./Dec. 1998: p. 15.
6Marjorie Hope and James Young, Voices of Hope in the Struggle to Save the Planet (New York: Apex Press, 2000) p. 170.
7Hope, p. 100.