I have a friend in Quebec who wrote to Canada’s top environmental guru, David Suzuki, asking him to consider how the “moral environment” impacts on the “material environment,” a point that is missing from Suzuki’s voluminous statements about the environment.
He received a terse response in which the celebrated doctor stated that he had neither time nor interest to pursue the matter.
It is not uncommon for environmentalists to accord primacy to the environment and assign a secondary role to human beings. In his book, Earth in the Balance, Al Gore states, “We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.”
His readers, however, must ask how we can build a civilization without recognizing the primacy of civility.
Moreover, does the environment have its own interests apart from its serviceability to life, especially human life? It is no easy task to rescue something that is all-pervasive and envelops us.
My friend would undoubtedly suggest that the notion of the environment should be rescued from certain overzealous environmentalists and returned to an organic framework that integrates the moral and the material. Only then would our responsibility for our environment make sense.
The truth of the matter is that the evidence for a link between the moral and the environmental is both available and undeniable.
Let us consider one rather startling example: In 2005, The Denver Post reported a study that biologists John Woodling and David Norris carried out on trout in Colorado’s Boulder Creek.
The normal male-female ratio of these fish is 1 to 1. Woodling and Norris discovered that of the 123 that they randomly caught on four fishing expeditions (March and October 2002, September 2003, June 2004), there were 101 female, 12 male and 10 of such an unusual hybrid of male and female that researchers could not decide how they should be identified. Of 20 trout caught on May 7, 2002, in the South Platte River, 16 were female and 4 were identified as this curious “intersex.”
How did this striking imbalance in the sex ratios come about? The two biologists traced the cause to the female hormone estrogen that they found in samples from Boulder Creek. The estrogen, they concluded, brought about this “unnatural feminization.”
Further, they traced the presence of estrogen to human sources, primarily birth-control pills Norplant and Depo-Provera, and birth-control patches that contain estrogen. The amount of estrogen from contraceptive sources put into a woman’s blood stream to suppress ovulation is up to 400 times her natural level.
These hormones do not metabolize. They are released through urine and find their way to the local water treatment plant. Such plants are not equipped to deal with them and as a result, the estrogen is released into surrounding rivers and streams.
Woodling told the Post, “It’s the first thing that I’ve seen as a scientist that really scared me.” “It’s one thing to kill a river,” he went on to say. “It’s another thing to kill nature.”
What Woodling and Norris discovered, of course, is “an inconvenient truth.” Environmentalists have been reluctant to acknowledge its validity. Other studies, however, done in Switzerland, for example, have provided additional confirmation of the problem.
The biological tandem is adamant that the primary cause of the gross imbalance of the trout — and one that jeopardizes their future in Boulder Creek — is the use of estrogen contained in contraceptives that are widely utilized in the Denver and Boulder area.
Most radical environmentalists are pro-abortion and favor population control. Therefore, they are reluctant to oppose the use of contraception, even where there is scientific evidence that it creates environmental hazards.
Colin Mason, writing for the Population Research Institute Review (September-October 2007), writes: “Laissez-faire contraceptive use has given us increased promiscuity, higher rates of abortion and dramatic health risks. Now it is becoming clear that it is slowly poisoning the environment around us as well.”
My friend’s point is well taken: We are not true environmentalists until we incorporate the moral dimension into the equation.
This may be an inconvenient truth, but it remains uncompromisable. Those who would be custodians of the garden must first be guardians of the home.
Donald DeMarco is adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.