Thomas Kadmon, ICR
image from OMPE
On World Wildlife Day, thoughts may turn, for some, to issues like biodiversity.
The many and varied life forms on the planet are a good in themselves, quite apart from what they may offer us. It was somewhere said: "Allah delights in wondrous diversity". Diversity is good in our agriculture too - getting away from monocultures, especially the patented, genetically modified monocultures that make the Monsantos of the world a motza in royalties, proprietary herbicides and the rest. Diversity of agricultural life forms is inextricably linked to healthy human relationship with the land; and to the support of thriving peasant communities. Plant biodiversity also saves animal species from extinction, as witness the threat to the Borneo orangutans when their forests were supplanted by palm oil plantations.
Maintaining the billions of microorganisms in rich, organic soils is likewise an ecological value that fosters certain economic values. If soil is impoverished and then intensely laden with chemical fertilisers, there is obviously a different ecology, bound up with a different economy - one that has engulfed the world. It has been called "industrial capitalism". Such an economy tends to lead to fast food, fast living and lots of waste; that is, a throwaway, consumerist society. It also produces a culture that tends towards atheistic hedonism. So our relationship with the earth and its life forms is absolutely to do with the quality of our religiosity! Laudato Si' makes perfect sense when it says "we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.
There is a cultural dimension to diversity which must be valued as well.
If we rise up from the level of microbes, plants and animals, we can see that diversity also applies to human beings and human perspectives. The dark side of cancel culture is precisely this inability to deal rationally with the diversity of human opinion. If a society muffles to extinction the voices on the margins, its very ability to survive long-term is compromised. Meanwhile people's rights are trammeled and totalitarianism beckons. Similarly, cultures must be respected. Analogous to the single, oppressive genetically modified crop pushing out other natural varieties are what activists have called "monocultures of the mind". If you have ever rued American Pop Culture sweeping the globe, you will know what this means. But, to be fair to America, it could be any hegemonic culture. It could be China in its region, and potentially globally. It could be a coalition of powers.
Whatever you think of Putin's and Russia's role in the current conflict, it is a matter of survival, let alone peace, to understand that they have a keen sense of their own culture, and do not want the American empire and NATO to push their values and priorities down the Russian throat. China, Iran, Turkey, India, Brazil and other countries do not want to condemn Russia, and won't be bullied into doing so. The so-called BRICS block of nations are collectively dissatisfied with the one-size-fits-all, "rules-based" liberal world order. They recognise it as a geopolitical monoculture which poses a threat to traditional, historical civilisations analogous to the threat posed to the natural world by loss of biodiversity.
The ecological crisis is not susceptible to a technocratic fix. Humans must face their own propensity to violence - towards one another and towards the planet.
There was a wrong turning at the beginning of the human race. Sin entered, and with it, violence; exemplified when Cain murdered his brother Abel. The suppression of biological and cultural diversity stems from this deep-seated human violence. Without sufficient people renouncing the habits ingrained in a system of violence and exploitation, merely clamouring for a change of laws, and waging battle over politicised numbers and targets cannot heal the planet. Laudato Si states: "Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction." Yes, radical lifestyle change is called for, but don't be fooled: Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Agribusiness love to deflect attention from their psychopathic behaviour by making you feel that your personal lifestlye habits are destroying the environment.
Therefore we next need to understand the (theological) roots of the hubristic, violent mindset that imagines it can own the blueprint of life and control the natural world for its own greedy ends, while enforcing the narrative of a one-size-fits-all global monoculture.