“…Energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth, as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a phony ideal. I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do – that man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth, but we’re not here to serve the Earth…The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down.”
Man is the objective? Really?
This is exactly what I’m talking about. This dualism, as though we’re separate from the earth, is a poison, and is a gross misunderstanding of nature and our place in it. This is what archaic religious thinking does – it distorts one’s view of reality and prevents them properly assessing a situation.
The first fallacy, which runs throughout the quote, is that Man is “here” to “do” something. The fallacy of a defined purpose. Santorum takes on the the biblical ideal that a supernatural being put us on earth for some overriding purpose, part of which includes being “stewards” of the earth. That is a particular conceit that elevates man beyond his nature as a highly intelligent animal. He becomes a special, separate sort of creature, rather than being inextricably bound to the fate of his environment.
This leads to the second fallacy – a fallacy of superiority. Rather than being an integral and inseparable part of nature, he is superior. In that superiority he is then somehow authorized to “use” the earth and its resources as he sees fit. His needs are elevated above the needs of the rest of nature, because everything is here for his use. When the question is before Santorum to decide whether to do what’s most beneficial for the environment as a whole, or what is, perhaps in the short term, more beneficial to man, he will choose man. After all, we’re not here to serve the environment.
The third fallacy is slightly more subtle, but is the most heinous part of this destructive attitude – that the definition of mankind’s use of resources includes the industrial consumption of resources to enrich corporations and their shareholders. After all, we’re not talking about the use of water for sharecropping farms and communes. We’re talking about energy. We’re talking about the consumption of non-renewable resources. Nobody cares if Ricky builds a 100 acre sun farm and uses the power to charge up a small cadre of robots programmed to tell him how clever he is when activated by a motion sensor every time he walks by. He’s defending the right of corporations to be free to drill wherever the hell they want. We’re here to steward, we’re superior and authorized to use the resources to benefit us as opposed to the rest of nature, nature’s here to serve us, and us = big energy corporations that want to run giant oil pipelines through your neighborhood.
The long term ramifications of these beliefs don’t matter. Why?
Because Jesus is coming back. He’ll have a kingdom on earth, then the earth will be replaced with a new one. We’re not dependent on this planet and the health of its environment. We’re not part of the cycle of nature. We’re separate. We get to use all this stuff for ourselves until Jesus gets back. How wasteful would it be to not suck the last drop of oil out of the earth the day before he gets back? That’s called lost opportunity, folks.
This dominionist sort of philosophy is a drag on human evolution. It is a massive hindrance to the betterment of mankind and to the preservation of a healthy ecosphere so that we can preserve our kind and nature for as long as possible. This world is finite. It isn’t forever. There are no guarantees. Nobody is coming back to rescue us when we screw it up. The sooner these people get that through their thick skulls, the sooner we can get to work on the reality of climate change and environmental care.
- Senator Santorum’s Planet – James Wood, The New Yorker
- James Wood on Santorum’s Earth – Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True
- Rick Santorum’s Fantasy About Stewards of the Earth – Scarecrow, Fire Dog Lake