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Tertullian and Earth Day

April 22, 2010

In the early days of the Christian church, Tertullian wrote:

“Everything has been visited, everything known, everything exploited. Now pleasant estates obliterate the famous wilderness areas of the past. Plowed fields have replaced forests, domesticated animals have dispersed wildlife. Beaches are plowed, mountains smoothed and swamps drained. There are as many cities as, in former years, there were dwellings. Islands do not frighten, nor cliffs deter. Everywhere there are buildings, everywhere people, everywhere communities, everywhere life….Proof [of this crowding] is the density of human beings. We weigh upon the world; its resources hardly suffice to support us. As our needs grow larger, so do our protests, that already nature does not sustain us. In truth, plague, famine, wars and earthquakes must be regarded as a blessing to civilization, since they prune away the luxuriant growth of the human race.”

What Tertullian failed to see in that quote is that people are not the problem–they are the most important resource on earth. It is people, creatively solving problems, who figure out how to use stuff in resourceful ways. With people, sand can become glass, silicon-based processors for computers, concrete, or a sandcastle; without people you have the Sahara Desert. Without people, none of the “resources” of the earth would be anything but stuff in the ground.

Want to save the planet? Protect and preserve the flourishing of human life. Happy Earth Day!

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