Using Religion Thought to Assess Environmental Thought

I take confession every week. Not in a church, and not to priest, but rather quasi-healthy food spots all over Berkeley.  It’s a confession that I share with only the man or woman who asks me “Is that for here or to go”.

Forgive me earth, for I have sinned. It has been 4 days since my last plastic to-go container. 

I am a wasteful creature who doesn’t even think about where the things I throw away, go away to. I love driving my Subaru. Shame. I enjoy showers. Shame. I don’ SHAME. And it’s not just me. No. All humans are sinners. All humans go against nature.


Maybe we get to choose what environmental perspective we assume.

The rhetoric around environmentalism has a lot of the same fundamentalist qualities that I see in religious extremes. As I was hinting to just now, environmental dialogue subscribes to this religious parallel of environmental damage as sinning. Environmentalism takes on this omniscient point of view, by definition removing itself from human experience and assuming a god-like viewpoint. It is top down. Judging the humans for their sinfulness. Observing humans from outside the human experience. Continuing the parallel, nature takes on the role of heaven in this religious narrative, something that humans cannot achieve while they are alive, but have a duty to aspire to during their time on earth.

The problem ( according to Gabe, an admittedly flawed human) is that in the realm of environmental problems, we should be striving to achieve tangible improvements! To do so requires that we relieve ourselves of the burdensome role of perma-sinners, accept the idea that we aren’t perfect, and move the hell on! By dropping the omniscient enviro-god maybe we can frame the our earthly problem from an empathetic first person perspective. Such a viewpoint allows us to accept our imperfection, and more accurately deal with personal, political, and economic roadblocks.

Since people started talking about climate change, the rhetoric has been mostly of a single perspective. That is- environmentalism tells us not to do bad things (not to sin) Thou shalt not drive cars. Thou shalt not grow monoculture. Thou shalt not eat meat (though that one is real–future article to come). It is so engrained in the common dialogue, it almost doesn’t make sense that it is a choice that we make– But it is.

When things are black and white, good and bad it makes it easy to subscribe to a viewpoint. Choosing is easy. But substantive positive change will only come when we start fleshing out the gray stuff. Instead of picking the organic or conventional food system, we should be figuring out which organic practices allow for reduced pestcid


Fundamentalist Catholics believe humans are inherently sinful creatures in the same way that fundamentalist environmentalists believe humans are inherently damaging to nature.

instead, maybe acknowledge that we are imperfect but have a motivation to be better

Maybe a better path is an environmental perspective from an empathetic first person point of view

  • takes into account the inherently personal nature of the environmental dilemma
  • does not paralyze us with uselessness