Sunday, 18 August 2019


What a long and unsympathetic sounding word for something that should be very simple, namely a love of nature centred on the understanding that it is the creation of a Creator. The environment? Is that a word that conjures up in your mind birds, trees, plants, flowers, animals, fish? Does it speak of mountains, rivers, valleys, hills, fields and hedgerows? Are the wind or the sky or the sea or the desert the environment? Of course, in one sense they are but the point is that something real, life-giving, even alive in a way, and beautiful is often reduced to an object of science, and not just in the minds of professional scientists who analyse and dissect either. It is so too for activists (another terrible word speaking of aggressive ideology) who are supposed to be fighting (again, note the word) for its preservation.

There was a time when people who spoke out against the destruction of what we now call the environment did so from love of nature and a strong awareness of its beauty. Often, on some level at least even if that was only because they came from a world in which a divine reality had long been accepted, they were conscious that it was a gift, a garden to be tended, and though we were workers in the garden we were not the head gardener. Now the situation seems to have changed. Now, many people who would call themselves environmentalists don't believe in God and don't see nature as a creation. Sometimes their approach is purely pragmatic which is to say they want to preserve nature so that human beings can continue to exploit it only more sustainably, the utilitarian attitude. But sometimes much of their motivation seems to come not from love of God but a kind of hatred of mankind and this hatred they can best express by attacking mankind for what it is doing to the environment. They want human beings to take a hit because they don't like human beings or certain sectors of humanity anyway who are perceived as rich and powerful. Not because they love nature. Granted this is a simplification because motives are often mixed, but it is clearly a factor and sometimes a major one.

In the spiritual world (which is the real world) motivation is all-important. Why you do what you do matters much more than what you do though, clearly, the two are interlinked. And fundamentally the only good motivation to do anything is love of God. In the final analysis, what is not inspired by this is not well motivated. Trying to preserve nature or make a 'sustainable environment' if you do not know what (or who) created this is still all part of the rebellion against God. It is part of evil. When all is said and done, good can only flow from love of God. There is no good, none whatsoever, without God.

I have loved the natural world all my life. To begin with, just for itself but even then I felt there was this aspect of a veil to it and that behind it there was something more real and truer, the response to which is where this love came from. I never learnt how to drive a car, partly because of the noise and stink they made, partly because I suspect I am not really someone who can focus on mechanical things (this is not meant as a badge of honour, I see it as a defect), but very largely because I hated what roads had done to the countryside and the town. To nature. Don't get me wrong. I like roads as in tracks and paths that lead to new places and join separated people. But I hate them as metalled scars that deface the environment (appropriate use I would say) and don't blend in to their surroundings. And that take far too many vehicles on them which travel far too fast.

So I would regard myself as a lover of nature, as is any sane and normally constituted person, though now I see it as a creation. Which doesn't lessen it in itself. To see a saint as a person through whom God works doesn't lessen the individuality of that saint. It actually augments it and so it is with regard to nature as creation. 

I love nature but I don't like the environmental lobby who often, not all but many and the most vociferous, use nature to advance a political agenda or an ideology that, when looked at clearly, denies God. If you deny the Creator of nature your understanding and appreciation of the natural world is much diminished, whatever wonders you may claim to find in it. And you are not on the side of the angels, not the good ones anyway.


Bruce Charlton said...

@William. Good stuff.

As you may recall, I was a keen 'environmentalist' from age 15, partly influenced by Tolkien; but then becoming political.

In those days (middle 1970s), there was quite a lot of good in the 'ecology' movement - which was about individual people, 'small is beautiful', self-sufficiency, reducing personal consumption ('voluntary simplicity') and the 'distributism' of William Cobbett's 'three acres and a cow'; and *therefore* there was near zero mainstream political and business support.

Through the nineteen eighties the movement was captured by government, big business and globalism - and now it is all about increased consumerism of expensive (and high status) 'green' products, and Climate Change; and the (utterly ineffective) 'solutions' are all top-down, coercive, international and bureaucratic.

Environmentalism has now taken its place alongside the sexual revolution and 'human rights' as a major instrument of transhumanist totalitarianism. I now regard the environment movement as wickedly motivated, corrupt and deeply dishonest; an 'instrument of the devil' (as I once heard the Rev Ian Paisley say about something!).

William Wildblood said...

As you say, Bruce, like so many things it started off with good people and good intentions but was captured by the haters of the real good and used as a political tool on the one hand and instrument of spiritual corruption on the other. Why the latter? Because the creation is separated from its Creator who is totally ignored. It's pagan idolatry without any of the nobler quantities of the better sorts of paganism.

Eric said...

"It's pagan idolatry without any of the nobler quantities of the better sorts of paganism."

It's even worse than that. Pagans were deeply immersed in nature, 'environmentalists' are not so much. The "environment" is an object for them, a mere landscape. And it is not about the integrity of nature at all, but the antropocentric 'environment' of human scope. That is, idolatry of the idea of the environment with a disguised hatred toward the nature behind, resulting in the solipsistic alarmism of climate change.

edwin said...

One of the attractions of environmentalism is that it grants instant credibility (in the media) to anyone who calls himself an environmentalist. No study, no experience, no accomplishments required. You become an expert on everything and have the right to pontificate on most every aspect of public policy. A moral gravitas is also granted the environmentalist, whose motives cannot be impugned. As a reporter in the 1980s, I covered the "environmental" beat for a county newspaper. What I discovered was that leaders of these movements tended to be rather sad and angry people: life had not worked out for them in terms of personal relationships or career. They wanted someone or something to blame for their unhappiness and they wanted respect. "Voila! I am environmentalist!" The Left, of course, exploits personal failure and discontent and channels it for its own purpose: Absolute Power. There is also an element of what one writer described as "spilled religion." Those who have no unifying vision based on a belief in God and human spirituality often latch onto something that stands in for it. The possibilities of substitutions are endless, and environmentalism is popular in this regard.

John Fitzgerald said...

I'm particularly concerned at the moment by this pernicious notion that having children is bad for the environment and that therefore the moral and responsible thing to do is not to have children. A couple of Royals have given their assent to this view and unfortutately this wicked idea only seems to be gathering momentum.

My take is this - virtue signallers who make themselves into exemplars and heros for not having kids are nothing more than useful idiots for capitalism. Because that's what it's all about. It's the mania for growth embedded into capitalism that has caused all the problems. The market isn't sensitive to the environment. It's sensitive only to profit. Communism is massively at fault too Both systems see nature as dead matter to be exploited and it's this absence of a spiritual dimension (what Saint Augustine called the City of God) in politics and society (the City of Man) which has created and is currently exacerbating the environmental crisis.

Bruce is right to flag up the folly of environmentalists calling for top down solutions from the same dubious institutions (the EU, IMF, etc) who contributed to the mess in the first place. The only solution is spiritual. As Emmanuel Mounier wrote in 1930s France: 'We call for the primacy of the spiritual - the spiritual first, then politics, then the economy.' Unless and until we do this the climate-change crisis and the idiocy and villainy it engenders in certain minds will only deepen.

JMSmith said...

Forty or fifty years ago, most environmentalists were also amateur naturalists. They enjoyed things birding, or hiking, or canoeing, or landscape painting. As a geographer, I've worked with environmentalists all my life, and this has certainly changed. The most ardent environmentalists I know nowadays are far more likely to jet halfway round the world and sleep in a conference hotel, than they are to hike up a mountain and sleep in a tent.

William Wildblood said...

Thanks for confirming what I suspected but didn't know for sure. It's as though people used to hate the destruction of nature because they loved nature but now the spirit of opposition is a strong motivating factor.