Green Movement Turns To God To Advance Cause

Marc Morano | Senior Staff Writer | Monday, December 23, 2002

Green Movement Turns To God To Advance Cause

Washington ( - It may or may not be a marriage made in heaven, but environmentalists are enlisting the help of religious groups to persuade Americans to consume and pollute less through "self-restraint."

Gary Gardner, director of research at the environmental group, Worldwatch Institute, helped coordinate a meeting between environmental and religious groups last week in Washington, D.C.

"I think there is a real opportunity to advance the cause of sustainable development by having the environmental community and people of faith work together on issues of common concern," Gardner told In a separate statement on the issue, Gardner said the collaboration between environmental and religious groups "could change the world."

"It's a powerful combination that until recently remained virtually unexplored," Gardner stated.

The Worldwatch Institute released its new study detailing how religious groups worldwide are pushing green causes.

The report, "Invoking the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in the Quest for a Sustainable World," states that environmentalists "have become more aware of the power of spirituality in creating an emotional connection between people and nature."

Jeramy Shays, director of Seminars for the Environmental Law Institute, said she is "very excited about the connection of faith and environment."

"Our consumption in this country is embarrassing. I think it hurts us internationally. I just think it's wrong," Shays explained.

Shays added that the intersection of faith and ecology is natural.

"When you express moderation, reduce pollution and when you don't waste, you are doing unto everyone else what you would want them doing unto you," she said.

Gardner believes religion's emphasis on "self restraint" will help promote the environmentalists' message of limiting consumption.

"[Self restraint] is one big thing that faiths have to offer to a consumer culture," Gardner said. "It is not in our own best interests nor in our interests as a society for all of us to be highly consumptive individuals. There is a real virtue to restraint."

Douglas Grace of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment said the merging of religion and environmental causes is only in its infancy.

"Religion and religious people are beginning to see the connections between the created order and the human's placements and the responsibility that we have," Grace said.

Caring for the environment "goes back to the beginning in [the biblical book of] Genesis when God created the world and put Adam and Eve in the garden and told them to take care of it, to be stewards of creation," he added.

Julie Greene of the National Council for Science and the Environment said, "Faith and the environment are intimately connected."

"It should not be viewed as pushing a religion, but rather the religious groups reaching out to other members of their community to push environmental protection," Greene said.

Jesus Would Take the Bus?

Many of the participants praised the recent anti-SUV campaign called, "What Would Jesus Drive?" They said they had no doubt Jesus would choose an earth-friendly mode of transportation.

"I think Jesus would have driven the most fuel efficient vehicle he could find ... he would want to use the most environmentally friendly vehicle that is going to protect his father's world," said Grace.

"I also think [Jesus] would use public transportation," he added.

Grace's group, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, was one of the sponsors of the recent anti-SUV campaign invoking the name of Jesus.

Gardner also pondered the potential driving habits of Christ.

"It's an interesting question, how would Jesus evaluate a transportation option, what criteria would he use? How would Jesus or any other religious leader view their responsibly to the environment?" Gardner asked.

"SUVs don't get great gas mileage, contribute to accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere and eventually lead to global warming, climate change," he said.

'Shameless Gimmick'

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the free-market environmental think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, found it ironic that the greens would attempt to merge forces with religious groups.

"There's nothing like the political Left dropping, on a dime, their objection to attempts by the [religious] faithful to impose their values on others through the political process," Horner told

Horner was also unimpressed with the anti-SUV campaign invoking Jesus.

"It is a shameless gimmick to ask, in reality, 'What Would Jesus Drive, if I were Jesus? It is arrogant for people to assume what Jesus would drive," Horner said.

Noting that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) found the lighter the car, the higher the fatality rate, Horner commented that Jesus would "take into account the safety of his people" in choosing a vehicle.

"If [environmentalists] were concerned at all about people, they would consider that even the NAS has cited that current [federal] CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards cost up to 2,400 lives per year," Horner said, noting that higher fuel economy requirements typically mean cars get lighter and therefore more deadly.

"Disregarding [CAFE standards] ... could hardly be less moral," Horner added.

EPA Seeks Faith-Based Grants For Green Causes (Dec. 20, 2002)

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