SOCIETY should adopt the traditional Anglican middle way when considering how best to protect the earth, the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said in his Theos lecture last week.
As the Institute of Directors, in London, he sketched out two competing responses to the destruction of the environment: one sought to retreat, and for humanity to have a lighter footprint on earth, use fewer resources, and rein in growth and consumption; the other placed its faith in human creativity and progress, and called for an acceleration in innovation and technology to build a way out of the crisis.
“The wisest way forward rests in harnessing the best of both. But, as someone who worships in an Anglican church, I would say that,” Mr Gove said, to laughter. “The via media I think we should follow is not a splitting down the middle of these arguments, but a radical fusion.”
He continued: “Christians’ role as a protector of God’s handiwork is a vocation. If, as Christians, we believe that creation is a gift we must preserve, then we must also believe the creativity with which we have been endowed is a gift that we must use to the full.”
He first sketched out the scale of the problem: huge declines in animal populations and biodiversity, an increasingly damaged climate, and ever faster growth in consumption of natural resources.
“I’m profoundly conscious that the way we have been growing — in population terms and economically — has imposed costs and strains on our planet that require us to have more than just a blind faith that we can carry on as before and all will be well. I fear we are near a tipping-point.”
Society must consider the insight of the religious, he said. “I believe there’s a deep reservoir of wisdom and guidance policymakers can draw on from our religious traditions and faith leaders.” The Christian ethic of stewardship could help them to navigate the challenge of continuing to progress without permanently scarring the earth, he suggested. Other faiths spoke with “striking unanimity” on the environment also.
He quoted at length Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’ (News, 18 June 2015), and echoed the arguments of some theologians, that damaging the environment constituted a breach of the Seventh Commandment by stealing resources from future generations.