Monday, March 17, 2008

The Eleventh Commandment

I have recently become convinced that protection of the environment is the most important issue confronting us in the 21st century…more important than the war in Iraq, more important than the sagging global economy, and even more important than world poverty. All these other problems will work themselves out one way or another, but the damage to threatened ecosystems around the world is potentially irreversible. Just today the New York Times reported that the king salmon that run in the Sacramento River have all but disappeared. Although this will be a hardship for the salmon fishing industry in California, it is a disaster for the entire Sacramento River watershed. One California official called the collapse of salmon stocks “unprecedented.” Interestingly, this is the same term that experts have used to describe many of the other ecological problems that we have witnessed in recent years—the severity of hurricanes, regional droughts and forest fires, the bleaching of coral reefs around the world, and the melting of Arctic glaciers. All are unprecedented in their scope and magnitude. And, if we don’t start taking decisive action now to correct these problems, we may very well be dooming ourselves as a species (I know; I’m becoming hysterical again).

The solution to our environmental problems—if there is a solution at this point—is to completely transform our relationship to the natural world. We need to begin taking care of the environment in the same way that we take care of our bank accounts (actually we need to do even better than that when one considers that American savings accounts are all but depleted). We need to begin recognizing—as the Vatican recently did—that ecological callousness is as much of a “deadly sin” as greed or envy. We also need to feel as guilty about wasting water or electricity, using chemical fertilizers on our lawns, buying stuff we don’t need, or throwing recyclable bottles into the garbage as we do about breaking any of the traditional Ten Commandments.

In fact, I would argue that we need to add an eleventh commandment to the list:

"I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not piss me off by destroying my beautiful planet."



  1. You have a real way with words, you know that? There's a touch of the poet in you...

  2. Although the idea of society's need to become more environmentally aware has come into the forefront recently, I don't think enough is being done to make the public aware of just how catastrophic our actions have proven to be. If a dramatic change needs to be made, then it is necessary for the public to be constantly reminded of how and what to do to live a more eco-friendly life.


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