Human Nature Complicates Environmental Restoration

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Human Nature Complicates Environmental Restoration

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Instead, man has plundered the land, resulting in widespread soil depletion and environmental pollution. We now suffer the consequences of our failure to respect and properly care for our land and other natural resources.

Today a counter revolution seeks to reverse that trend by advocating a wide variety of life style changes—some as minor as women wearing green eye shadow and others as major as drastically cutting back on consumption of fossil fuels and finding alternative energy sources.

An often overlooked component in the search for solutions to this age old problem is a fundamental trait of human nature. The Bible teaches that our human nature is naturally inclined to be self-serving. Paul explains, “For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot ” (Romans 8:7 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
American King James Version×
, NRSV). In 1 Timothy 6:10 1 Timothy 6:10For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
American King James Version×
Paul further notes that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (NIV).

These verses pinpoint the human tendency to take advantage of other people’s good intentions. Selfishly motivated persons in powerful positions can thwart the most sincere attempt to solve a knotty problem, including how to care for our environment. For example, generous, well intentioned financial grants are sometimes exploited by greedy people for personal or corporate gain and prestige. Such persons take advantage of openings in environmental issues to gain votes, publicity or profits.

A March 16, 2006 Time magazine commentary exposes what it regards as abuse of a good program. It points to carbon credit trading (developed as a result of the Kyoto Protocol) as a secular form of “indulgences” that allows the wealthy to continue polluting the environment while claiming to be aiding the cause of environmental cleanup.

Unfortunately even sincerely concerned environmentally minded citizens may be misinformed by one-sided or exaggerated information that can lead to misguided zeal. The award-winning movie “An Inconvenient Truth” warns of a danger of oceans rising some 20 feet. On the other side of this issue, a March 24, 2007 World Magazine article cites a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicating that the oceans would likely rise only 16.5 inches over the next decade.

Predictions depend on how the “model” of an anticipated disaster is constructed. Models are formulated based on both scientific knowledge and theory and can be very inaccurate.

For example, consider this dire prediction issued on May 22, 2006 that failed to happen: “For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become ‘major’ hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.”

Another example, closer to my home, is the alleged nitrate problem in Central Oregon where I live. A 5.1 million dollar study concluded that all of my city’s residents must upgrade to expensive new septic systems to avoid polluting area wells and rivers and contaminating the aquifer. Many assume that this expensive study must be true simply because of its size and cost.

However, its conclusions are largely based on a predictive model which is not sufficiently corroborated by relevant well-sample data. Also, scientific evidence has been presented which contradicts the findings of that report and the way its conclusions were reached, indicating insufficient evidence of a potentially disastrous nitrate problem in this area. Our area drinking water continues to be among the best in the nation.

History shows that man has the tendency to swing from one extreme to another. Overreacting often results in poorly planned programs that pose more immediate threats to society than the problems they seek to correct. This trait of human nature is an important factor to consider for all far reaching proposals. We should strive to avoid doing more damage than good with overzealous, poorly conceived or poorly documented environmental “solutions.”

Solving some problems will require God’s intervention because human attempts to recognize, identify and solve the world’s problems usually fall short and are often misguided due to human nature. The Bible clearly points to a complete restoration of the entire earth during the coming millennial rule of Jesus Christ. But it also predicts that our human and environmental problems will worsen before that divine intervention occurs.

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