Opinion: Stewardship of Earth crucial to survival

PUBLISHED: 08:30 14 September 2019

East London Humanist chairman Paul Kaufman points out that the world wasn't created for human convenience.

East London Humanist chairman Paul Kaufman points out that the world wasn't created for human convenience.


Pesky wasps! They appear as if from nowhere around August each year, spoiling picnics, causing panic. They are unloved as much as bees are loved. What possible use are they?

It's interesting how people whip out fly spray to kill a wasp who wouldn't dream of hurting a bee. Yet wasps are also vital pollinators and keep down "pests" that destroy our crops.

Wasps are one tiny reminder that the world wasn't created for the convenience of humans. We are just one species in a complex interdependent web. The web has evolved over billions of years on this (probably) unique planet in a tiny corner of the vast universe. But a human centric view of the world persists. Not least among some religious fundamentalists who interpret literally the Old Testament edict to "Be fruitful, and multiply" and to "have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." It was only 400 years ago that Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Catholic Church for pointing out that the earth isn't at the centre of the universe. And only 1992 that the Church formally apologised.

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It is not entirely coincidental that two key world figures spear-heading reckless human destruction of the environment draw support from the extreme Christian right. In the States Trump is suppressing climate change research by NASA while pressing for oil exploration in Alaska. In Brasil his ideological brother, President Bolsonaro, has wasted no time in giving free rein to the destruction of Amazon rainforest vital to all our futures.

Thankfully there is also a Christian tradition of stewardship of the Earth, shared by adherents to other religions, not least Islam, which incidentally has a proud history of scientific advance in mathematics and astronomy.

It is also intrinsic to Humanism.

The battle to save the planet is a battle of ideas. It's not just about recognising the degradation of the environment. It's also about fighting archaic and irrational beliefs that humans can continue to multiply and plunder the planet without consequence and that God will provide, as long as we have faith.

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