While older evangelicals tend to emphasize the problems of gay marriage, many younger evangelicals concentrate more on poverty-fighting and environmental issues - and that's fine. But what happens when evangelicals understand that helping the poor and aggressively fighting global warming are at loggerheads?
I first became aware of the divide between concern for the poor and radical environmentalism in Austin a decade ago. The city went all out to protect a species of cave spiders but scrimped on police protection in poorer sections - and one result was that a deaf woman died in a gang shooting near my home. Sure, in theory we can protect both cave spiders and humans, but in reality needs and wants compete for a limited pool of money.
That's the way it is at the intersection of poverty-fighting and environmental concerns. One of the many justifications Al Gore offers for the $150 billion annual price tag of the Kyoto accords is that global warming will increase the number of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. But Danish economist Bjørn Lomborg and others say that global warming will increase the number of people at risk for malaria by only three percent - and that with an annual expenditure of only $3 billion on health and economic measures, malaria infections could be cut by 50% over the next eight years.
Lomborg's global priority list emphasizes reducing the incidence of disease, malnutrition, poor sanitation and bad water. He argues in Cool It (Knopf, 2007) that the high economic costs of emissions-cutting proposals will deliver meager global benefits compared to what such funds could accomplish elsewhere. Some might argue that money saved by not going to Kyoto extremes would not go to help the poor, but our goal then should be work harder politically and charitably, not to accede to waste.
"Creation care" is important. God calls us to be stewards and gardeners, caring for oxen in the ditch and relishing lilies. But the Bible also teaches that human beings, created in God's image, are the most valuable resource on earth.