Note: This is a slightly modified version from the post that went out to email subscribers this morning. Because this issue is so sensitive I tried to explain a little better why I wrote it and what application I feel it has to what we might face as Christians.
As a Christian who tries to make my faith relevant in every area of life, and not just as a compartmentalized part of my life, I feel like I often have to confront the assumption by others (in error) that I don't care about the environment because I either don't esteem sciences' opinion as high as others do, or because I make values and pro-life a higher priority in my voting. I want to share some reflections on this, and maybe it will help others who face the same thing.
I read today that Al Gore plans on a 24-hour broadcast to defend man’s impact on global warming. I think about this topic now and then because it comes up so much. I am not a scientist, and I am sure I don't understand all the arguments, but I’ll share my struggle with this whole thing, and then close with a thought. I am not bashing on global warming believers in what I am about to say—I am sure they have sincere
hearts and I can only wish more Christians shared their passion for a
cause. I just can't, at this point, buy what they are saying when I
really think about it. I obviously can't personally verify the numbers I am using, but I have tried to find websites that seemed solid. So, here is how I think about it all:
Depending on what internet site you look at, anywhere from 70–75% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. That leaves only 25–30% covered by land.
One web site said that 70% of the world’s land mass is covered by vegetation. So, that means 17.5–21% (70% of 25% and 30%) of the world is vegetated. This means only 7.5–9% of the world is land that is not covered in vegetation.
According to one web site, half the earth’s landmass is unihabitable for one geographic reason or another. So now you are down to anywhere from 12.5–15% of the earth is even inhabitable.
So, of the 7.5–9% of the earth that is land not covered in vegetation, or of the 12.5–15% of the earth that is even inhabitable, what percent is covered by industrial, emissions producing people, buildings, and vehicles? I couldn’t find the figures, but I’ll bet it is tiny! I know I have flown over the United States many times and I am awed by the percent of the land below me that is uninhabited, or sparsely and agriculturally inhabited. One web site I did find says the U.S. Census Bureau qualifies “developed land” as land with 30 or more residents per square mile. According to that qualification, as of 2000 only 5.4% of the United States is considered developed! And we are a developed country!
So, take that fractional percent of the earth's water and land surface that is populated by emission producing, pollution producing people and facilities. Set that aside for a moment and consider that a conservative estimate of the thickness of the critical portions of our atmosphere is 29 miles thick. (The stratosphere is, I understand, the area of our atmosphere where the ozone is contained and it is from 11 miles above the surface to 29–31 miles.) If we take all of the atmosphere it is hard to know where it ends because it fades off into space, but different web sites put it at many hundreds of miles thick.
I can’t even do that math, but if you picture the critical atmosphere of 30 miles thick, spread that thick above every part of the earths surface (almost 197,000,000 square miles according to multiple web sites), that is a lot of atmosphere! Thirty miles thick over close to 200 million square miles! And the tiny percent of the earth that actually produces emissions (and many of those are heavily regulated) is supposed to be affecting that so much that it is altering the earth’s climates?
As I said earlier, I am not a scientist, but that just doesn’t make sense to me. And, honestly, I get tired of it being implied that I don’t care about the earth or the environment because I don’t buy global warming. Our family loves the outdoors. We live where we do, for one reason, because of the wide open spaces, the clear skies, the clean air, the wildlife, the stars, etc. We police after ourselves, and others, when we are in the wilds. We fish. We camp. We compost. We conserve water. We recycle. We believe God made us custodians of the earth, but we also believe He made the earth for us and not the other way around. I guess if you believe evolution then you believe Mother Nature is your equal, but if you believe Creation you know man is God’s shining Creation, made in His image, and given the earth for stewardship and use.
Frankly, the global warming argument strikes me as another tower of Babel. While I am not saying global warming believers are arrogant, I do believe that the extension of what they are saying, laid out as I have tried to do, is another sign of man’s arrogance (intentional or unintentional). To me it is inherently arrogant to think that we are so mighty that this fractional percent of people and factories can affect the earth’s climate on a global scale. I do believe sin affected it—I believe the whole earth groans under sin’s curse. And, I believe we can locally affect it and destroy its air and streams and land. But the claim of global warming is, too me, at this point, not something I can believe. Maybe I just don’t give us enough credit. I just know that there are, to me, much bigger issue at work and that we live in a world that desperately needs to know the love of the God that made them in His image and loves them beyond measure. This is, to me, the crisis that should energize us all, and I don't think it means we have to not care about the earth and be custodians of it, but we remember it is not our equal, it is for us and not us for it, and that it will pass away one day while human spirits will live eternally. I don't like having to choose sometimes in candidates that don't meet all of my viewpoints on things, but when I have to choose I will choose pro-life, family values, and a Christian with a solid, Biblical world view (and witness) every time.