One Finite Planet

Religious environmentalism.

First Published:

There is a real need to protect the environment, and advocacy for the environment is necessary.

However, for some, elements from religion and spiritualism can, to varying degrees, become associated with environmental activism, creating what I refer to as “religious environmentalism”, where environmentalism must compromise living standards.

Against this religious doctrine is goal of a good life and advancement for all humanity and protecting the environment.

While linking spiritualism with the environment is not necessarily always problematic, there times when it can be, and can result in activism in the name of the environment, that is not necessarily helping the environment at all.

Synopsis: Environmentalism can become like a religious belief.

I feel this is a complex topic, and this is a very early draft.

The elements from religion that can become intertwined with environmentalism include:

  • The gods.
  • Faith: From belief in climate change through to the concept of Gaia.
  • Belief in the need for unnecessary temperance or even abstinence.
  • Calls for sacrifice and suffering for the cause.

Religious environmentalism can potentially be a problem because of advocates calling for what amounts to lower living standards for humans that need not even benefit the environment, but instead just turn people against environmental activism.

Elements of religion adopted by at least some environmentalists.

The gods: the object of worship.

Obviously, religions have gods.

Religious environmentalism has either nature, the Earth or the Universe in the role of a god.

Nature becomes elevated to the more realistic “tried and tested” to always healthy and good for humans. The reality the cyanides are extracted from plants and deathcap mushrooms, Irukandji jellyfish etc are all port of nature is forgotten with statements like: “it is healthy because it is all natural”.

Nature can be treated as an infallible god, despite the reality that a natural death awaits the existence of life on Earth.

Faith: The core of religion.

At the extreme, people into healing crystals, the zodiac, homeopathic medicine and many other “faith” based ideas or “fringe science” concepts, are typically also strong environmentalists.

Even belief in climate change (or my preferred label of disastrous weather) often comes down to faith, with the science not understood by many passionate advocates.

Sacrifice and suffering.

Sacrifice and suffering for religion.

From hairshirts through to self-flagellation, religion has a history of those people believing they can be more “holy” by suffering for their cause, even when there is no basis in logic.

Sacrifice and suffering for the environment.

Examples include ideas that:

  • people all need to live in smaller houses.
  • even if vehicles are EVs, people should still only have the smallest cars possible or use only public transport.

The need for balance.

Things humans do impact the environment.

But every animal breathes, and breathing produces CO2 and thus could be said to impact the environment. That does not make every animal “evil” or “against the environment”, but instead requires a balance of plants and animals.

If one person walks on the grass, it is ok, but if too many people walk on the grass a track of bare Earth will form. The same principle applies to many things humans do.

There are cases where humans need to “reduce our footprint”, but in many cases that is only a temporary fix until we change our shoes, such as from burning fossil fuels to other forms of energy.

Just like every animal, too many of us create a “plague” and damage the environment, but the solution is not to all reduce our footprint in every way, in order to grow population of the plague until life is like in a battery hen farm. Instead, if we target a balanced population where we can all live “free range” in normal sized houses and drive large cars if we like.


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