Man vs Nature – Spiritual Split

In reading the article by Lynn White, the first paragraphs reminded me of something I had learned while working as an outdoor school counselor. When colonizers came over to the west coast from Europe, they wanted to build as many places as they could. With the sandy beaches of the west coast, some worked needed to be done to help stabilize the land and allow for more construction. They strengthened the sand with European Dune Grass, and (likely) unknowingly having a strong effect on the natural ecosystem of the coast. With the new tall grass, a species of bird known as the snowy plover was hit hard, no longer being able to find their nests in the brush, and having nests stepped on and destroyed by travelers.

Man’s own ambition has been a detrimental factor on our worlds ecosystems for centuries. Although we claim to care for nature and want to conserve it, our actions speak louder than our words. So many species have gone extinct because of humanities actions, and so many more are on the same track to sadly join them. With global warming, accelerated by many of man’s actions, our entire world is in danger of extinction.

With all of this, as we have seen in the readings, especially from the most influential religious figure there is, religion and more specifically Christianity has an interesting relationship within man’s relationship with nature. As a religious person myself, I have always found it interesting to see the attitude that many people have towards animals as well as plants and all aspects of nature. People who claim to be very religious will also come around to support things that directly destroy God’s creation. They will use religion as an excuse for some things and disregard other sections of the Bible entirely. The Bible calls upon us to protect the Earth and God’s creation, yet here we are arguing whether or not that very creation is in danger despite years of evidence. It causes a very conflicting relationship.

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.
Pope Francis,**Laudato Si 

The Church, Nature, and Climate Change

The connection made between religion and climate change, and the environment as a whole, is not a connection I have ever made. So while reading The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, the connection between the two was a surprise. However, reflecting upon and reading further into the passage written by Lynn White Jr helped me make the connection. Throughout the passage, White argues that due to Christianity, the western world has regressed in caring for and maintaining the Planet. While at the same time progressing through technological innovation. Another passage, Laudato Si, written by Pope Francis, acknowledges that as humans, we have regressed and let our excess cause much harm to the Earth. However, in his writing, The Pope uses scripture to argue that it is not Christ-like to cause harm to the Planet.

When reading White’s analysis and argument of why religion is the cause of climate change, I found it plausible that because Christianity does not deify nature, the western world, which throughout modern history has practiced Christianity, has caused our current crisis. The idea that regarding nature as sacred and causing harm to nature is evil has been seen repeatedly in many different cultures. When comparing Christianity to cultures that respect nature, it can make sense to conclude that Christianity is at fault. Although reasonably argued, I disagree that Christianity is the leading cause of today’s ecological crisis. When I was reading Laudato Si, I realized that the characterization that White made of Christianity is unfair. Pope Francis argues with many examples from the scripture that humans should, and even need, to respect the Planet and all animals because they, like humans, were purposefully created by God. And it was in this reading that the idea of “universal communion” resonated with me. The Pope further argues that if our hearts were authentically open to universal communion, we would achieve equality. To me, equality, in this case, means that we see nature as equal to humans and that it is necessary for us to live. Without caring for and preserving nature and seeing it as something necessary for our survival, we go down the path we are currently on. 

I can see the message that The Pope is trying to get across, care more for nature, and inspire Christians to do more to combat climate change. It is backed up in The Bible that to be a Christian also means that you care for the environment, and if Christians genuinely believe this, it makes me wonder how White concluded that Christianity is the cause of climate change. In wondering about White’s conclusion, I concluded that neither Pope Francis nor White is correct. While Christianity may have a part in both creating and solving climate change, I do not believe it has a role in creating or solving it. 


Many humans believe that they are not a part of nature. This belief has been exemplified by some teachings of Christianity (Lynn White). Instead they believe they are above nature , leading to numerous occasions of devastation affecting the Earth. Global warming, deforestation, the wasting of natural resources, are a few examples of the consequences of humanity doing whatever they see fit without addressing the consequences. Solutions must be made, and that can only result if people come together(Papa Francesco 44). Reminding some Christians of their faith and how it relates to protecting the Earth could help slow the degradation of our beloved planet ( Papa Francesco 48). Regardless of our faith, we must have the belief that a positive relationship with the Earth is necessary for the survival of humans and creatures. Everything is interconnected. We are equal to one another, even mountains and soil are equally valuable(Papa Francesco 61).

Humanity must also learn that the Earth is fragile, and we must be careful with it. We cannot live in a fantasy, with the belief that the Earth has infinite resources(Papa Francesco 68). First, we must make human life equal and solve human problems then we can solve the issues of the environment. Then humans must control and be mindful of the power they have gained through technology(Papa Francesco 78). Technology is almost like a pet: it needs to be trained in order to have a positive impact on society. Humanity must be aware of the risks of rapid technological growth as well.

Society then needs to come together. Various perspectives and methods will be needed to solve the ecological crises. The logic of “use and throw away”(Papa Francesco 91) followed by many humans also should be replaced with something more positive. Huge corporations should also be monitored and not allowed to over power local agriculture. Discussion should be made at multiple levels to fix ecological issues. 

Pope Francis, Laudato Si

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.

The Anthropocentricity of Western Christianity and the Church

Growing up in a private, Christian school, learning and memorizing the Bible was an integral part of the curriculum, but one section was hammered into our heads, over and over: “And God said to them … have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, God calls Adam and Eve to populate the earth, but more importantly to express domination over it. Even today, Christianity takes an anthropocentrist view on the world, encouraging young minds to think of our planet not as a home, but as a tool, a resource.

In Pope Francis’ piece “Laudato Si”, he calls Christians to think about their place in our world, and how the dominion mandate detailed in the Bible does not mean absolute domination, but a responsibility towards cultivation and upkeep. The other piece, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis” by Lynn White Jr. takes a more aggressive approach towards opening the eyes of the people towards the current ecological crisis, detailing the effects Christianity has had on Earth’s biosphere, and how it has led to the problems we are faced with today. The call to action in both articles is clear and easy to follow: these two authors agree that Christianity as a whole, and the Church need to reevaluate the anthropocentrist beliefs pertaining to our environment that have sprung up from Western Christianity, and in turn have influenced western civilization towards the belief that in order for humanity to progress at all, total domination is required. 

The ideas of each piece are almost indistinguishable from one another; Francis and White both place a burden onto Christians to reexamine their beliefs, but the approaches they take cannot be more dissimilar. Francis’ article is more of a gentle call for the people who he acts as a head of, stating that Christians have misinterpreted multiple verses and passages pertaining to the domination of the earth in the past, but they should begin to reject the notion that just because we are made in God’s image, that we are given the right to total domination. On the contrary, White places a “huge burden of guilt” on Christian’s arrogance aimed at the environment, blaming them for the ongoing ecological crisis. Although the vehicles of delivery are different for each of the pieces, they maintain the same message; shape up Christians, or ship out.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.

At Odds

Both religion and ecology are often talked about in our modern age, but seldom are the two linked together. More specifically how the different outlook of Christianity on nature when compared to other world religions. White makes some interesting claims in his essay, The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, especially surrounding the topic of Christianity’s impact on nature. He starts by pointing out the seemingly unrelated events that happen when, put bluntly, stuff happens. The environment is always changing, much due to its complexity and the number of organisms it holds in balance. Much like how we are taught in biology that if a predator’s population shrinks, the prey will increase to the point of famine. This alone is not too interesting, however the introduction of Christianity into the picture sheds new light. 

Christianity, as with any religion, is practiced by people. It is an event which brings with it ideas and guidelines on how the world works. White’s claim that “Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.” is a very interesting one. The way he described the actions undertaken by its followers, and in the differences from earlier religions, struck me as very poignant. When White explains how technology advanced under Western Christianity, I think he is saying that this advancement came directly because of a disregard for nature. This can obviously be said of events such as the industrial revolution, but it is fascinating to me hearing about this through the lens of a commonly practiced religion. White posits that even in our modern, by his 1960’s standards, secular society, the pervasiveness of the Christian disregard for nature permeates the general mindset. 

White’s claims are reinforced by the encyclical Laudato si’, wherein Pope Francis reinforces some of the domineering mindset over nature seen in Christianity. Though the Pope also recognizes this and seems to be willing to adapt to a more nature centric vision of Christianity. White makes the claim that, “Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious”. This seems to be the approach that the current Pope seems to adhere to. Not the rejection of Christianity, but more of a reformation of the way nature is considered.

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.

Pope Francis, Laudato Si

The Nature of Nature 🍃

When one is attempting to define time periods on the geological scale, it’s important to find both very broad and wide-reaching similarities that separate them from other periods. As a result, it is often best to use geological functions, such as the changing of the climate, or an extinction-level event like an asteroid impact, to define an era of Earth’s history. However, prior to the development of humans, all periods were defined by natural phenomena, or blind chance. This is what makes the idea of the Anthropocene such a fascinating idea. The idea that we as a species have become so wide-reaching that we have fundamentally altered the very composition of our planet’s surface is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. The moment humans began creating stone tools and laying down the seeds of agriculture, we have been changing the planet to suit our needs. But never before has this become so wholly apparent. As industrialization forces us to utilize greater and greater percentages of the natural world, we must stop and ponder the question: Have we gone too far?

The two articles which we have been presented analyze this question, and offer solutions to a world crushed by the weight of humanity and technological “progress.” The first is a scientific journal entry by Lynn White, Jr. He mentions how “it was not until about four generations ago that Western Europe and North America arranged a marriage between science and technology, a union of the theoretical and the empirical approaches to our natural environment. (White 2)” For generations people had been studying the world in a scientific manner. And for generations people have been adapting and creating new technological tools with which their lives could be improved. Their fusion and ubiquity in our modern society is a newer process, heralded by the Scientific Revolution and similar processes, but such industrializing efforts have been going on much longer, such as the invention of the water mill in the first century BCE.

In any case, White correctly points out that what we often think of as the “Western world” has arrived at the conclusion that the domination of nature is necessary for humanity to prosper. Such ideas have perpetuated, although alternative ideas have since emerged. He believes that the influence of Christianity in Europe may be the primary culprit for this, claiming that “Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions, not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends. (White 4)” The idea that we are allowed, if not encouraged, to exploit nature for the sake of man thus appears to be Christian in nature. It is therefore interesting to approach the second article, which deals with the same problem of humanity’s destruction and abuse of nature, yet is written by the head of the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis speaks of the ecological plight humanity faces due to its actions, just as White did. They both even speak of the same historical figure, Saint Francis of Assisi. However, what fascinates me the most is that while White considers him to be a radical who challenged Christian ideas with his spiritualism and devotion to nature, Pope Francis celebrates him and regards him as his inspiration, for precisely the same reasons. He also responds to the claim White supported, that Christianity encourages this domination over the earth. His response: “Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to ’till and keep’ the garden of the world. (Papa Francesco 49)” As sentient beings, he believes it is still our duty to command over the earth, but it is important that we do so in a benevolent and caring way, providing for the earth so that it may provide for us.

Whether or not Christianity is to blame for the destruction of nature, it is abundantly clear that something must be done to repair the damage. Both authors concur that a solution must be actively sought. Social, political, and economic incentives for perpetuating this ecological process must be analyzed and redirected to better alternatives, lest the problems become too great and we drive ourselves to extinction. The Anthropocene era is defined by human activity and transformation of the earth, but perhaps with the right circumstances, such processes can benefit both humans and nature.

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.

Pope Francis,**Laudato Si

The Ecological Impact of Christianity

The topic of ecological crisis and the impact humans have had on the environment is one that’s gained much attention in the last decade, but viewing it in religious terms was something I had never considered before. White’s argument in The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis caused me to reconsider the consequences of popular religion. He claims that Christianity influences all individuals in the west, even those who don’t actively practice it, to adopt an outlook that establishes humans as superior to all other life on Earth. Despite the fact that the number of people who practice Christianity is dwindling – if only slightly – the impact of Christianity is admittedly still prevalent. I can only speak for the American west coast from experience, but there are definitely visible influences of Christianity. We can see it around the Holidays, when most people still refer only to Christmas, and I could see it around my small hometown in the way that everyone automatically assumes others are Christian. Now, in saying that Christianity has a large impact on society, it isn’t definite that those impacts are always negative or detrimental. In terms of its ecological impact, those who actively participate in Christianity and deeply study its teachings can often be seen doing volunteer work around their communities to try and reverse the impact of humans on their surroundings. So, when asserting that the underlying consequences of Christianity being a popular religion have caused humans to view themselves as superior to animal and plant life, it might be more appropriate to say that the misconstrued beliefs of Christianity have caused this.

Chapter 2 of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ seems to have a direct argument against this same idea that White proposed. He contends that those who closely follow the word of God will see that God intended for humans to have dominion over Earth, but to also live in harmony with the Earth and its creatures. In living on Earth, humans have a responsibility towards nature. With this in mind, I believe that, like White said, the problem to solve humanity’s view towards nature should be solved in religious terms, but rather than encourage everyone to turn away from Christianity, there should rather be an effort to teach that humans don’t have any jurisdiction over nature, and that we must make a change to our subconscious view on our relationship with the Earth if we want nature to have a chance at surviving.

To protect the common Interest

The definition of Anthropocene is a geological time period dating from the beginning of significant human impact on Earth’s ecosystems. In The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis, White discusses his beliefs that humans and Christianity has negatively impacted the ecology of the world. His first argument is that all living things impact their environment, which I believe most people would agree. As species are introduced to different environments and different natural disasters, among many other events, populations of all organisms are continually impacted. However, people have done things to cause severe damage to the ecological system. White describes that human ecology is deeply defined through a cultures beliefs about nature. White delves into how he believes that Christianity is responsible for the destruction and damage done to the ecological system. He explains that Christianity gave man the mindset that nature exists to serve man, and therefore nature has been exploited and damaged. White praises western science and technology, but explains that more science and technology will not heal or stop the destruction, only changing the mindset of the people to respect and care for nature will. I do understand and relate to some of White’s ideas. For example, I  personally choose not to eat meat because I love animals (pre-vet major!) and it doesn’t feel right to me because I am aware of how animals suffer and don’t always have the living conditions I wish they would all have. Lots of people feel entitled to use animals for their purposes (aside from meat), but I am someone who does not see animals beneath people. Not all people who eat meat and use animal products view animals in this way, which makes the conversation interesting because so many people have different experiences and views on things. Some people take a viewpoint of gratitude and respect and want the animals to live in good welfare and have the least stressful processing experience possible — something I support as progress to a better world. This is an example of although people have different views, we may have more in common than we think and it is possible for people to work together to find a solution.

In the other text written by the Pope, it is addressed the global destruction that is and has been occurring, but takes a different viewpoint on it. Instead of blaming Christianity for the damage, it calls people to make changes to protect the ecological system as it was given to us by God, and therefore we should care for it. Their goal is to restore nature to how it was originally given to us, by changing attitudes and lifestyles. My take on the connection between these two articles is that although people can disagree and have different opinions on a topic, it is still possible to work together to come to a solution to protect the common interest. 

Lynn White, Jr., “The Ecologic Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155:3767 (10 March 1967), 1203-1207.

Pope Francis,**Laudato Si

The divide between modern humans and nature

In Lynn White’s article entitled “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” she argues that the primary reason behind climate change is that Western science, which is globally considered most significant, is based in a Christian context where man is dominant over Nature. Because of this, White’s overarching claim and conclusion is the ecological crisis is a religious issue, and as such, it cannot be remedied with more science and technology, but rather with a momentous change in “religion.”

Through White’s historical examples, especially those of the “new” plow Northern peasants began to use in the 7th century Europe that “attacked the land with such violence”(3) and the Christian story of creation, I believe she makes a sound argument (although I may be partial because I agreed with everything she covered before I read the article). I do take issue with science. Not science in itself, but the aspect of Western science that requires acting upon discoveries (what White refers to as “technology”). Generally, modern humans have tried to make things “better” by taking action. This has led to humans taking action without fully understanding the consequences. An example of this is monocropping, which was useful in feeding an ever-growing population. However, monocropping led to the erosion and nutrient depletion of soils, including topsoil, which is imperative to our ability to grow anything at all. In reality, the best solution would have been to halt population growth, but with the ideals of (Caucasian) human domination and superiority, that would have proven difficult. 

White’s article brought up more questions in me than answers, such as: is there a specific invention, time, idea that created a divide between humans and nature? I suppose the most obvious answer is the invention of agriculture – domesticating wild plants so we did not have to forage. Agriculture was originally used to supplement foraged foods in difficult years, which seems like it would have little effect on the environment, especially since it was on such a small scale. I suppose a follow-up question is: did agriculture, in the form it first originated, benefit the earth? Agriculture tends to create an environment less biodiverse than Nature, even when practiced in the most sustainable and regenerative way, so it seems, in itself, to have a neutral to negative impact on the planet. But, again, on such a small scale, it probably would have little effect on the environment. But with a larger population (even one significantly smaller than we are now), the human race is actively reducing biodiversity through agriculture on a mass scale.

I would argue then that the largest divider of humans and Nature is not agriculture, but the sheer size of the human race, along with the desire of modern humans to, out of greed, desperation, or power complexes, exploit the Earth for profit. I agree with White that to save the current environment, a shift in religion, beliefs, and ideals is necessary.

White, L. (1967). The historical roots of our ecologic crisis. Science, 155(3767), 1203–1207.