Totalitarian Ecology Print
By James V. Schall, S. J.   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012

On November 28, Benedict XVI gave a short talk to an environmental education group called Fondazione Sorella Natura. Obviously, this phrase “Sister Nature” comes from St. Francis of Assisi, who is, as the pope pointed out, patron both of Italy and of ecology.

The pope is a German. He likes to see things well taken care of. He cites St. Francis who told his monks that when they planted a vegetable garden, they were to plant in it also many flowers. As I have often said, we need beauty more than we need bread. The earth should be filled with parks and gardens.

In his Angelus for December 4, the Holy Father urged that we have a “moderate life-style.” In the pope’s earlier talk, we find much about the beauty of nature, of the heavens and the earth. In every created being, “we see the impression of the great heavenly Artist.”

But Benedict may suspect a major problem here: “While the Church admires the most important scientific research and discoveries, she has never ceased to remember that in respecting the Creator’s impression on the whole of creation, we understand better our true and deep human identity.”

He then hints at Genesis. The world is not made for the world but for man within the world. Ecology, in its deepest ideological roots, is really an effort to reverse this priority of man to nature for political purposes. Environment thus is not for man, but man is for environment. He is subject to it.

This reversal, ever so slight at first sight, is the foundation of “totalitarian ecology.” The purpose of the world is not man, who is an accident. Rather, it is to keep itself going for as long as possible with numbers that, on supposedly “scientific” grounds, are “sustainable.”

Modern ideologies have generally been derived from a theoretic effort to make the world better, perfect. In their development, they identify some “cause” of evil – some class, race, nation, religion, or group. If we eliminate this “cause,” everything will be fine. This elimination thus appears as logical and reasonable.

Today, and this is new, what are targeted for elimination are human beings themselves, at least many of them. Here is the dark side of ecology that is seldom addressed for what it maintains.

Benedict deals gently with this issue: “Today, more than ever, it appears clear to us that respect for environment cannot fail to recognize the value and inviolability of the human person in every phase of life and in every condition.” Environment is not to be given as a reason to control human beings: “Respect for the human being and respect for nature are one and the same, but they will both be able to develop and to reach their full dimension if we respect the Creator and his creature in the human being and in nature.”

            Whether nanny or Nanny State: you take your medicine

The satirical publication The Onion “reported” that a conference in Washington on January 26, 2012, reached the following “scientific” conclusion: “Representing multiple fields of study, including ecology, agriculture, biology, and economics, the researchers told reporters that facts are facts: Humanity has far exceeded its sustainable population size, so either one in three humans can chose how they want to die themselves, or there can be some sort of government mandated liquidation program.” And this elimination has to happen “soon.”

That conference was a fictional spoof, of course, but not that far from what would have to happen in reality to achieve what the totalitarian ecologists would like. And how easily the medicine goes down, as the satirists noted, with just a spoonful of “scientific” sugar.

Such theses, of course, are warmed over “population bomb” scares from the 1970s when we were assured that the world would run out of resources – several decades ago. The effect of such analysis is that it undermines human efforts to innovate, to take steps to care for their kind, to use their brains – the only real wealth in existence – to deal with their human priorities.

In other words, the real battle in the world is with those ideologies, including scientific ones, that close off efforts to develop our kind and its needs. They have turned away from the civilizational attitude and theology that make human enterprise possible.

But what strikes me as remarkable is that, in the name of “science,” we calmly propose reducing human numbers as the way to keep the world going down the ages as itself the only real good of humanity. We used to be horrified with ideologies that wanted to eliminate bourgeois, Jews, blacks, or what have you, to cure our problems. Now it is a part of humanity in general that must go, either voluntarily or with force.

And it is blandly called a “fact.” What it is, in fact, is a totalitarian ideology that seeks control of the state to carry out precisely this necessary “elimination,” as it is piously called.

James V. Schall, S.J., a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent book is The Mind That Is Catholic.

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