Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Christian Environmental Ethics

I posted this recently on a birding forum. The specific issue was baiting an unusual owl for photography purposes - using a mouse to draw it close to the road, where it could be hit by passing vehicles.

Allow me to share a bit of a different perspective on this issue.

Those of you who know me (or those who read email addresses) know my vocation: I am an evangelical pastor (please do not translate that into "raging fundamentalist", the stereotype doesn't fit well) & former businessman. I came late to birding (mid-30's) and even later to environmental/nature care contemplation (late 40's), so be aware that this is all still "under development". I am currently teaching environmental ethics & concerns as part of an overall course, while learning on the fly.

Personally I find a solid foundation for such discussions and action in the Judaeo-Christian, biblical concept of stewardship. The concept includes ruling/management and service/care - for those of you who are interested, I can provide some references & sources. Unfortunately, the concept has also taken serious hits through historical Western cultural abuses on one side and significant treatises on the other (such as White's in 1967).

Enough background for the moment. Should we bait birds for photography (or pish during certain seasons, or play tapes to attract rare species, or harvest natural products when impact is inevitable, or a hundred other significant issues) is impacted by our underlying beliefs, our knowledge and experience, and by our motivations/desires. These are often in conflict with each other. For me - and for many thoughtful Christians who have been reexamining the issue for the last 20 years (see www.creationcare.org) - the concept of stewardship, of managing/serving/caring - when combined with knowledge & experience - while checking our motivations (eg, Sparky's selfishness thoughts, well expressed) - helps me to make decisions in the field.

Those decisions have not always been correct. Sometimes I have stepped over a boundary I should not have, through selfishness or ignorance or peer pressure. Forgiveness (on a variety of levels) and personal growth are essential.

So, would I have baited the Northern Hawk Owl for photography purposes? Probably not. As I internalize the event, I perceive that the possibilities for personal hastiness, selfishness and ignorance - ignorance of the true impact of my behavior on the bird (which I'd seen on Saturday as well) and its kind - cause enough questions for me to hold off. However, I would also be willing to listen to the North Dakota photographer's rationale (which we haven't heard), to see if my understanding is incorrect.

My perspective, which is perhaps a bit different in our increasingly secular culture.

1 comment:

D Wright said...

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