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Union University Department of Political Science

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Evans Discusses Green Politics and Christianity

Nov 5, 2009

This past Monday, Dr. Sean Evans gave a lecture on "Green Politics and Christianity" for the Town and Gown Lecture Series on Christians and the Environment. In his lecture, Dr. Evans discussed how the combination of global warming, globalization, and overpopulation leads to five problems.

        First, the rise of China, India, and the developing world are increasing the demand for scare energy resources. The world is at or near "peak oil" which is when the oil producing countries are maxing out their production. Add this to the addition of 2 billion more people wanting to live like Americans creates greater energy demand. Second, these changes create new security threats to the US and international system. The rise of oil rich nations leads to non-responsive nations that can buy off opposition at home, finances the reversal of democratic trends in Russia, Venezuela, and elsewhere, and funds both sides of the war on terror (US tax dollars to fight terrorist and oil money that funds terrorists). Moreover, overpopulation creates a large group of young people in developing nations who do not have their needs met which may make extremism more attractive while conflicts over water are probably the next major source of conflict. Fourth, disruptive climate change may lead to more extreme weather, hotter climates resulting in more pests that survive freezes and threaten crops, a higher pH level of the ocean threatening coral reefs which are key to acquatic sea life, and higher water levels. Fifth, energy povery means those without reliable energy to run industry, connect to the wider world, and thus stay competitive will continue to fall farther and farther behind.

        As Christians, Dr. Evans suggested several values guide the policy solution. First, there is a need for a global solution because actions of one nation are not enough. Second, Christians should be stewards who adminster our affairs and possessions as if they are God's. This has environmental, economic, and human development aspects. Third, and related to stewardship, is sustainability which is promoting change that neither damages the environment nor uses up finite resources. Fourth, stewardship also promote equity or justice between generations and rich and poor. Intergenerational equity demands that each generation has the right to inherit the same diversity in natural, cultural, and financial resources of each previous generation and to equitable access to the  use and benefits of these resources. It also demands that each person have the same risk of environmental damage as everyone else. Fifth, we should pursue policies that promote US and international security. Sixth, we should promote economic growth as it is the key to human development and helping the poor escape povery. Seventh, we should promote policies that promote air and water quality to promote health. Finally, we need to preserve and adapt our way of life as much as possible because radical change is not politically possible.

       Dr. Evans recommended an "all of the above" solution to the energy problem. First, we need to continue to produce fossil fuels like oil because they are used so heavily in industry. This means drilling in ANWR and off shore is probably necessary. We can try clean coal and natural gas but clean coal may not be technically possible and natural gas, though it emits less than oil and coal, still emits quite a bit of carbon dioxide. Second, we need more nuclear power because renewable energies are not cost efficient yet. This may mean government funding of nuclear reactors because the start up costs are huge but once up, nuclear reactors produce cheap, clean energy. However, we need policies that prevent nuclear weapon proliferation worldwide. Third, we need to promote more renewable energy. Since renewable energy costs are much more expensive than fossil fuels, we need to create demand for renewable energy so industry will use the economies of scale and innovation to reduce its costs. The easiest way may be a renewable energy mandate that requires utilities to use a certain percentage of renewable energy by a date certain. This provides the financial incentives for others to create the technology to make it more affordable. We can then use our advantage in green technology to sell it to the developing world creating more jobs in the US. Fourth, we need to upgrade our electric grid which is antequated, piece meal, and not set up for cross-continent energy transfers and alternative energy. This could lead to smart homes where computers control energy use and see that appliances uses energy when it costs less. Fifth, we need to conserve more with higher energy standards for homes, appliances, cars, etc. 

        To conserve ecosystems, the government  needs to do several things. First, it needs to set aside certain areas that are off limits to development and exploitation. Second, local ares need diverse eco systems need to work to insure that they can use the area without destroying. This may lead to smart farming where equipment measures the need for fertilizer and puts just the right amoung to prevent run off that threatens streams and other wildlife. Third, we need to develop better land use policies to use the developed land better. Fourth, we need incentives for industry to protect natural habitats with things like ecotourism. Finally, we need to improve the education system so Americans develop knowledge skills over manufacturing jobs that are disappearing.

       For population growth, economic development is key. Poor families need more children to make money to support them or work the land. Modernization means more kids make you poorer as you have to support them. This lead to better population control methods than family planning which prevent ethical dilemmas concerning, abortion, eugenics, etc.