Whose Green? Which Man?

Whose Green? Which Man? November 5, 2011
Courses in political ideologies will almost inevitably cover the green movement or ecologism in some way, shape or form. At the heart of the coverage on ecologism is a critique on anthropocentrism: the giving of humans prime consideration as a political subject. The theories of ecologism posit a series of alternatives, and while their contents vary, what ties them together is they almost always displace the political centrality of humans in favour of the earth, flora or fauna. At its heart, such political programs are redefining what constitutes the polis by incorporating other categories of beings as citizens.
To the secular ear, this may all sound well and good, but then any political program that begins from the premise of the removal of the primacy of human beings must provide an account for occurrences such as the one reported here, in which a program to give priority parking for cars using electricity, at the expense of the handicapped who now have to be parked further away from businesses.
Environmental naysayers might jump at reports like this to argue the evils of any program to topple the political kingship of man. To the Christian ear, this might sound well and good, until one considers one key question: what exactly is the man we are talking about? Is there only one type of anthropos in anthropocentrism?
It would seem that the issue lies not so much with anthropocentrism per se, but a secular definition of anthropocentrism in which a secular anthropos – the autonomous, self-seeking, materialistic individual – is given pride of place in the social ladder. This secular anthropocentrism is one in which limitless consumption is regarded as a built-in good for the anthropos, and thus one in which environmental degradation is the inevitable result.
The conservative reactionary may decide that this secular anthropos is the kind of anthropos to defend in the rejection of the extremities of the green agenda, and there would be cases where the Christian may similarly and sometimes rightly resist that agenda. But in that rejection, the Christian CANNOT countenance the defense of the secular anthropos, for the simple reason that the secular anthropos is one that rejects the primacy of God in the social order. The Christian must be aware that there are other anthropologies out there, and that there is a theological anthropology, one in which a person is made in the Imago Dei, in the image of a trinitarian God.
This anthropology still posits man as the pinnacle of creation, but unlike the secular anthropos, this theological anthropos’ centrality within creation is still qualified by its subordination to a Creator. In contrast to the self-loving secular anthropos, the theological anthropos, modeled on the relationship of love in the Trinity, will not indulge in the distorted love of self and engage in mindless consumption on the premise that such consumption constitutes a need. And in contrast to the secular anthropos’ kingship of domination, the theological anthropos’ recognises the ultimate kingship of God, who as a sign of that kingship gave authority to man over the earth as a steward, a stewardship that must be accounted for one day.
It is this theological anthropocentrism that posits in turn a new mode of being green, one that is necessary if the Christian were to avoid a real risk of environmental catastrophe on the one hand without being beholden on the other to the extreme anthropophobic tendencies of the green movement in its current form.

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