Last month, the Texas Academy of Science named ecology professor Eric Pianka of the University of Texas its “Distinguished Texas Scientist” for 2006. The selection would have been literally unremarkable but for some things Pianka said.
In response to the award, Pianka delivered what he called his “doomsday talk,” a litany of humanity’s offences against the environment. He told the audience that humanity has “grown fat, apathetic, and miserable,” and wrecked the environment in the process.
Now, this kind of anti-human screed is pretty common in environmental circles. You will probably hear things like this said tomorrow during the “Earth Day” observance.
What is not so common is Pianka’s solution to the problem of environmental degradation: a 90 percent reduction in human population.
According to Pianka, the deaths of 5.8 billion people are needed to keep Earth from turning into a “fat, human biomass.” As he told his audience, “Every one of you who gets to survive has to bury nine.”
And Pianka has a candidate for the job: the Ebola virus. Whereas, according to Pianka, war, famine, and AIDS are too slow and too survivable, Ebola combines the speed and lethality necessary to do the job.
What did his audience think of Pianka’ remarks? According to one witness, he received “loud, vigorous, and enthusiastic applause.” They laughed when, during the Q&A, he “joked” that “the bird flu’s good, too” for achieving the desired lethality.
While Pianka’s audience might have loved what he had to say, outside the meeting things were very different. A spokeswoman for Texas governor Rick Perry called Pianka’s remarks “abhorrent.” That’s to say the least.
Pianka insisted, of course, that his remarks had been “taken out of context.” His real goal was simply to “warn the public that population growth must slow down.”
Okay. Even if Pianka was “merely” engaging in obscene hyperbole, we are still left with the underlying premise that makes such statements possible. According to the radical environmentalist worldview, human beings are a kind invasive species like the kudzu vine. Only, in this case, the habitat being wrecked is the entire planet. For Pianka and his sympathizers, longer lives and higher standards of living for people are bad news for the planet.
This misanthropic view is not unique to Pianka. While few environmentalists would go this far, many agree that fewer and poorer people is important to the survival of the planet. The planet must be protected and, if at all possible, restored to its pristine state. So you blow up loggers, rather than cut down trees.
Fortunately for both people and the environment, there’s an alternative: It’s the Christian idea of man as a steward. And in this view, man has a unique status within creation, but that status carries responsibilities.
Unlike an invasive species like kudzu or zebra mussels, man is aware when his actions needlessly harm another species or a particular habitat. And because he is created in the image of God, he is motivated to protect the environment and to restore the damage he might have done.
This moral duty to seek the welfare of all creation is a far superior basis for environmental awareness than the misanthropy of people like Pianka. Keep this in mind on this “Earth Day”: Which worldview would you rather live under?