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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : If Our Doctrine is Green, Why Isn’t Our Culture? » If Our Doctrine is Green, Why Isn’t Our Culture?

If Our Doctrine is Green, Why Isn’t Our Culture?

Rusty - March 9, 2005

Having grown up in a conservative Mormon home, my perspective on the environment was as follows: don’t smoke, don’t litter, global warming is a left-wing conspiracy, and there is plenty on this earth to spare. Whenever anyone suggested that our generation is depleting the ozone or that we were using up the earth’s resources, I’d smugly laugh it off and think, “They don’t know God’s feelings on it. He says that there is plenty to spare (D&C 104:17) and that everything on the earth is made for my benefit (D&C 59:18-19).” Silly, silly liberals, don’t they read the scriptures?

(I didn’t know it then, but I was playing that great religion game Quoting-Only-The-Scriptures-That-Support-My-Argument. It’s a Bloggernacle favorite!)

So, after years of being smarter than everyone else, I continued reading:

“Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward.” (D&C 136:27)

“For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.” (D&C 104:13)

“And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion” (D&C 59:20)

Okay now, let me get this straight, God gave us this earth, BUT WE HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE WITH IT!!!! Whatever! If God didn’t want me to drill for oil, He wouldn’t have put it there! Sure, DDT was bad, but these new chemicals are much safer, the company said so! Factory farming? Great! That means cheaper Cheetos!

Please tell me that these are not our best solutions. Please tell me there are no Mormons working at Monsanto, whose very business is excess and extortion. Please tell me Bush knows that the acronym EPA has the word “Protection” in it. Please tell me that saving fifty cents on milk is not paramount.

It seems our doctrine regarding the environment is quite progressive, yet our cultural interpretation is lacking. Hugh Nibley opined, “We have taught our children by precept and example that every living thing exists to be converted into cash, and that whatever would not yield a return should be quickly exterminated to make way for creatures that do.”

A phrase which tends to pop up in these conversations is “fill the measure of its creation, that it may have joy therein.” Are we assisting God in this effort? Are we enabling the animals and plants to fill the measure of their creation? Is it even possible to do this AND take what we need from the earth? I can’t imagine a better way to do this than through the principles of sustainability.

Why are there not more Mormons embracing these principles? This is not a Luddite mentality I’m talking about. Sustainability is a cradle to cradle, eco-effective model of thinking about how we make things, how we consume things, how we use these resources our Heavenly Father has given us. It’s also a fine way to make money. Two amazing books about these principles are Cradle to Cradle and Natural Capitalism. Best money you’ll spend this month. Disappointingly, these books should have been written by Mormons.

The Church owns the 205,000-acre Deseret ranch on the Utah/Wyoming border. A few years ago they purchased the desert land (right next to identical government land) and gave two directives: make a profit, improve the resource. They began implementing sustainable land management principles. I’ve since visited the ranch and it changed my life. It changed my perception and understanding of this earth and our relationship with it. The land is green (while the neighboring land is still brown). It’s now Utah’s largest bird sanctuary (that means it has a healthy ecosystem). The water level is rising. The cows graze naturally (being the major catalyst in the improvement of the ecosystem) and is considered some of the best beef in the world. Oh, and it’s quite profitable.

Since I originally wrote this post I found out that the Church has given a new directive for the ranch: within a certain timeframe figure out how to run the ranch sans fossil fuels and implement those changes. Hmmm… now why would the Church want to figure out how to do that?

In our little Mormon blogging community, we don’t discuss this very much (the last time Times and Seasons blogged about environmentalism was in 2003). Why? And why is our Church culture not adopting these principles that our doctrine seems to embrace?

1 Comment »

  1. Without modern science, including Monsanto, the earth would be a considerably different place.

    There are arguments on both sides of the evironmental issues that “good” Mormons can be on either side. DDT may be thought of as bad, but banning it’s use is causing millions of preventable deaths a year due to mosquito borne diseases. DDT is cheap and effective with less side effects than many of it’s replacements. What are those lives worth…blah…blah…blah.

    That’s what I say, either side can be argued.

    Should we be more careful about the environment, of course.

    Should we be radical in our approach, or our tactics…I don’t think so.

    I’m for sucking everything I can from the earth and letting my grandchildren take care of any problems that might cause.
    don | Email | Homepage | 03.09.05 – 6:51 pm | #

    Are you considering sustainability “radical”? If so, that’s the problem. Here we have a way to utilize the earth’s resources in a way that is completely natural, as or more effective in their purposes than the traditional ways, and it’s considered radical. It’s not a matter of what is a less-toxic chemical we can spray on the mosquitos, it’s re-thinking the whole way we harvest crops, re-thinking the way we travel, re-thinking the way we obtain energy, etc.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 03.09.05 – 7:08 pm | #

    Hmmm, you do still have a full time job and school right Russ? I was always curious about how much you complain about having no time, but thanks for explaining to me today where your time goes. :-P
    Bryce | Email | Homepage | 03.09.05 – 9:10 pm | #

    Well, just as I was thinking I was the only Mormon who though green! I live in Texas where the state politics, and yes the LDS members politics have become every bit anti-environment as Utah.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 03.09.05 – 9:16 pm | #

    Bryce,
    Sometimes I have to do something other than those things. This is my way to unwind.

    Don,
    Wow, another Don in the Bloggernacle! I think you’re going to have to add a letter for your last name or something to distinguish from the Don that writes posts on this blog.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 03.09.05 – 9:52 pm | #

    Don has a point about it being to able to argue both ways. You can look to the EPA’s record and see that half the time, they’re only guessing at what they’re doing and have made a lot of mistakes. Plus, when you get into groups like PETA and such, you really ARE dealing with radicalism.
    I used to have a roommate we called a tree hugger for all his ideals. He was sincere, but he was dumb about doing it. Idaho’s been in a drought and so he thought he’d help out by only flushing the toilet when he went #2. This raised a big “stink” in our house! The bad part however, was that he didn’t even KNOW about the trick of putting a brick in the top of the thing! Anyway, human consumption of water in Idaho (as opposed to farm use and such) is less then HALF a PERCENT!
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 03.10.05 – 2:26 am | #

    Why? And why is our Church culture not adopting these principles that our doctrine seems to embrace?

    ‘Cuz Nibley is right and all we really care about is cash?

    Nice post Rusty. I’m finding myself turning more green all the time too. (Curse you’re logic Brother Nibley!) I’ll add those books you mentioned to my ought-to-buy-and-read list.
    Geoff Johnston | Email | Homepage | 03.10.05 – 2:26 am | #

    However, I very much agree with you that most Mormons I know do noteven consider environmental issues a problem at all. They have selfish attitudes (like one’s who say they’ll let their grandchildren deal with it! Thanx a LOT, dad!) or have the only worry of profit. I think that’s one of the reasons why cities and buildings in Europe are so much cooler and have lasted longer then here in the states. They consider beauty ALONG WITH profitability and cost-effectiveness, etc.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 03.10.05 – 2:29 am | #

    Before we adopt your environmental ways of raising, growing and harvesting things Rusty there are other things to consider.

    Let’s not use chemicals to fight wheat blight and reduce our harvests from 80 bushels and acre back down to 30 and see what happens.

    Stop digging for gold, silver, minerals and oil. Don’t drive anymore, or at least less.

    The chain reaction to some ideas if implemented would be catastropic.

    Sure it works on a nice ranch in Wyoming, cattle and a bird refuse, but how does that grow apples in Washington without coddeling moths?

    Recycle, buy organic, pay more for things that will make a difference. But in the real world I agree with Nibly. Maybe peace would come to the world if we all just loved each other more!
    don | Email | Homepage | 03.10.05 – 2:57 am | #

    Amen and Amen!

    No one ever seems to consider that while the world may have been full and to spare back in the 1830′s, it may not be today!
    Ben S. | Email | Homepage | 03.10.05 – 9:10 am | #

    Bret, if the cities in Europe would stop caring about beauty they would instantly go bankrupt due to the lack of tourism we bring them each year…plus, do you remember how much Paris smelled of smoke or old?
    But really, I think we sometimes associate environmentalism with liberalism and therefore it becomes evil. Since, we all know all liberals are evil, worring about the environment must be too. I would LOVE to see us, as a people, begin to help in ways more than service projects for Eagle Scout or Youth Conference. We’re so pro-comunity and pro-family as a church we, I think, need to realize the importants of pro-environment and how well it coencides with our basic teachings of togetherness and striving for a Heaven-On-Earth atmoshpere.
    So, do we start with throwing our cans in the recycle bin? Or do we throw out the preservatives and live the organic life? I’d hope there is a balance we can all find for ourselves that can one day be the solution we seek. Help us oh brethern of the church…?
    Bryce | Email | Homepage | 03.11.05 – 12:38 am | #

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