George Stanley: I agree to a lot of the comments made so far. April said it right – we were gifted sacred lands as the first people of Turtle Island [North America] The Canadian government wanted to cut us off from our culture and spirituality – residential schools, disease, abuse, forced haircuts, forced language – but this failed because we were close with Mother Nature, to all the sacred things given to us by the Creator. Today, we are still holding on to that.
Lorna Dueck: My Christian faith teaches me that humankind has been given the Earth as a gift from God, a gift to be stewarded with great responsibility. It does mean that human societies are superior to the rest of nature, but not to the point of abusing them. The Earth and its products are a gift to comfort and nurture our lives, and it’s our mandate to both care for and prosper from its bounty. But faith also helps me understand that sin has marred our existence with the Earth, that sin looks like any of the environmental problems that are plaguing the planet, so, as a Christian, my task is to navigate the path between “Develop at all costs” and “Don’t touch anything because the Earth is sacred” with a keen sense of humility before God.
Guy Nicholson: Speaking of stewardship – overpopulation has been a significant factor in the tension between nature and economy. How significantly have religious beliefs contributed to this? In today’s world, is there anything religion can realistically do to resolve this tension?
Sheema Khan: I would say that the tension between nature and economy is of our own doing – due to greed and avarice. We have enough resources for everyone. However, economic policies often look to the bottom line first, and the welfare of humanity second. Why are large farm operations content with destroying food (due to “market dictates”) rather than sharing it with those less fortunate? Why must pharmaceutical companies be “forced” to provide much-needed medicine to the poorest?
Peter Stockland: Overpopulation is a Malthusian myth, long debunked. The world’s population will crest and begin to decline in the next decade. That decline, far more than hysteria over rising sea levels, is what should concern us. If religious faiths should be doing anything, they should be continuing to raise the alarm about the anti-human agenda behind the perpetuation of overpopulation scaremongering.
Lorna Dueck: “Overpopulation” is a gift that has reconnected us to responsibility for the environment. People are not a disposable or renewable resource. We stand distinct in sacredness, each of us carry the image of God, and if we refer to the human race as “overpopulated,” I think we are off-kilter spiritually. As the world’s population grows, we are moulded into stronger ways to extend love, sacrifice and creativity for the benefit of all.
Howard Voss-Altman: Where is the scientific evidence that the world’s population will begin to decline in the next decade? Indeed, respected demographers have demonstrated – based on actual research – that the world’s population is expected to be over seven billion in the coming years. These people will expect a standard of living – the ability to consume precious resources (water, minerals, air) – that the Earth will be unable to provide. Once again, we will have to do a lot of explaining to our descendants.
Guy Nicholson: Lorna and Peter, I can’t agree with you – of course people are not disposable, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t negative consequences to perpetual growth in the world’s population. I guess “over” depends on your own perspective, but mine is that a levelling or even decline in the world’s population would be a positive environmental development.
Peter Stockland: A positive environmental development for whom, Guy? My strong belief is that no one really believes there are too many people in the world. What they believe is that there are too many “other” people in the world. But if we love our neighbours as ourselves, as the ethical monotheisms insist we do, then we cannot logically call for the abolition of others without calling for the abolition of ourselves. And no one should ever believe in abolishing themselves.
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