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The theology and Ten Commandments of conventional Environmentalism: Plug for a new Environmentalism

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The Ten Commandments  ( 1956 )
The Ten Commandments ( 1956 )
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If I'd been raised a good Christian, I might have accepted the theology that if I try to stay true to God's will or intentions, I will go to Heaven where I can expect to see some of my friends and family: my father and mother and grandmother for example and maybe (hopefully) all the family pets that I have loved during my lifetime. Heaven is the biggest perk of being Christian. The less you analyze it the better. Just accept it, it comes when you sign off on the Ten Commandments, attend church as often as you can and pray for the souls of your loved ones and fellow human beings. Being a good environmentalist has parallels to being a good Christian. If you were raised a good Environmentalist you accept that, if you stay true to aligning the conduct of your life with the wisdom or will of the Natural World or the laws of Nature, in other words, live more or less in balance with these laws or "soft" Commandments, life will smile on you, you will be in good hands, and (regardless of your religion) even your death will be "natural" somehow. Nature will provide, nature will supervise everything.

If you were raised a good Christian and a good Environmentalist, all the better for you, but being a good Environmentalist would suffice to open doors to grace and continuity. The less you analyze the better. The theology of conventional Environmentalism has its priests and prophets, its sacred texts and its "churches" or power spots, like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon or a cruise to Alaska. (I just read in a two page ad in AARP [The Magazine] the headline: "The restorative Power of Alaska - Renew your spirit in Alaska's natural wonderland".)

As with old school / conventional Christianity, the Church of Environmentalism has its Commandments, somewhat similar to the ten Christian Commandments, partly because Environmentalism reflects Judeo-Christian values.

"You shall have no other gods before me." = Whatever you do, the Environment comes first.

"You shall make no idols." = You shall not be distracted by false or diluted images of environmentalism. That's a tough one because Western capitalism tries every trick in the book to make us feel like good environmentalists by selling us environmental-friendly "stuff" from cars to food to clothes (gear), to lawn furniture.

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." = You shall not take the name of Mother Earth in vain. (We learned that from the [1974] Chiffon Margarine commercial, where Mother Nature, mistaking Chiffon Margarine for butter, upon being informed of her mistake, warns "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature", underscoring her warning with a clap of thunder.)

"Keep the Sabbath Day holy" = Keep Earth Day holy. (As long as we have one day to honor the Earth then for the rest of the days of the year we are off the hook.)

"Honor your father and mother." = This has been expanded to "Honor the ancestors, and also our descendents." This commandment is based on seeing the world as a macrocosm of the house or household, which environmentalists define in ecological terms where the root of the word "ecology" derives from the Greek oikos or house.

"You shall not murder." = You shall not murder any life. Murder meaning "needlessly or unlawfully or maliciously kill" certain living things. (i.e. Good environmentalists are OK with killing in wartime, and killing / slaughtering animals for food, and eliminating "pests" [a label of convenience] by any effective means.)

"You shall not commit adultery." = This is a tough one. You shall not "cheat" or stiff the Environmental Commandments just because it is a holiday or because you are on vacation.

"You shall not steal." = The Environmental version of this eighth Commandment must be understood in the context of stealing land from the indigenous people who lived here before us. Since these lands were stolen by our ancestors this Environmental Commandment is a shaming Commandment. "You shouldn't have stolen. Shame. Now, what are you going to do about it?"

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." = A good Environmentalist knows that truthfulness consists in showing oneself true in deeds that do not trash the environment but also in being careful not to present ourselves (to our neighbors) as if we are better environmentalists than we really are.

"You shall not covet." = We should banish our desires for whatever doesn't belong or come to us or fall within our budget to purchase, such as an electric car or solar panels or a heat pump or a pellet stove or being able to afford all organic food or being in a position to grow our own organic produce..

A few more thoughts on the theology of Environmentalism. A pillar of that theology is recycling. There is a lot of ritual and rich symbolism around the all American environmental convention of recycling. Unfortunately only 5% of the 46 million tons of plastic waste generated annually in the U.S. gets recycled. Despite the claims of the plastic industry, plastics were not designed to be recycled.

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Gary Lindorff is a poet, writer, blogger and author of five nonfiction books, three collections of poetry, "Children to the Mountain", "The Last recurrent Dream" (Two Plum Press), "Conversations with Poetry (coauthored with Tom Cowan), and (more...)
 

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