Many of us function under the assumption that our role as stewards of God’s creation is to to leave things as we’ve found them. Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. would disagree.
A significant error of environmentalists is the assumption that the purpose of man on this earth is to keep it in the same condition that it was when man first appeared. Behind this theory is a subtle denial of the whole issue of the resurrection of the body. Man’s ultimate end is not this earth but God. The earth and its development by man are themselves the arena in which the drama of each person’s relation to God could be and is worked out. It is also true that this “working out” concerns one’s neighbor and man’s relation to fellow man.
Further, Fr. Schall wants to make it clear that certain types of environmentalism put the environment ahead of people, and that hurts the poor. We find the basis for this in the book of Genesis in
…the admonition that man was to increase, multiply, and subdue the earth. The implication was that precisely by providing for man’s needs and purposes, the earth would be a better place. The purposes of both matter and man were directly connected. It would be a misuse of matter if it no longer could serve man’s ends. The earth was not simply given for it to sit there unused and uncultivated. It was rather to be a garden, the work of human hands. It was intended to support the purpose for which man existed. It was not itself the purpose of creation.
Fr. Schall questions whether some programs designed to help the poor actually put them under “state control”, regulating their lives to the point where they cannot escape poverty.