For a cleaner, more prosperous world, ACC mobilizes conservatives around environmental issues, fostering collaboration in the pursuit of environmental conservation.

Who We Are

When Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, prominent climate groups such as the Sunrise Movement and Fridays For Future could be found among the many pro-abortion protestors outside the Supreme Court. That’s not abnormal for them—progressive environmental organizations have a long history of anti-natalism. The idea that more humans on the planet inevitably leads to environmental catastrophe was first promulgated in the eighteenth century by Thomas Malthus, who infamously predicted that society would soon collapse due to overpopulation. Senator Bernie Sanders once argued that population control should be part of our strategy to tackle climate change.  

This approach to environmental issues alienates Christians. In our secular society dominated by feel-good spirituality, modern environmentalism has taken on a religious dimension of its own. Climate activism is often soaked with themes of sin and redemption. Rapacious human consumption is the original sin, while ecological collapse and species extinction are the apocalyptic end days. Humans are the problem and only a return to nature can save us. For many people, especially my Gen Z peers, this narrative is highly appealing—precisely because it provides a new, God-shaped sense of meaning. Facts and science become subservient to ideology and emotion.

Yet, it’s clear that modern climate activism has been misled by a fundamental misconception of the proper environmentalist mindset. In Green Philosophy, the British philosopher Roger Scruton sets the record straight: “The goal is to pass on to future generations, and meanwhile to maintain and enhance, the order of which we are the temporary trustees.” Fundamentally, our commitment to protecting the environment around us stems not from a self-indulgent Gaianism that pits humans versus nature, but from a direct duty to our children and grandchildren.

Another British thinker, Edmund Burke, summarizes this sentiment somewhat more abstractly: Society is a partnership “between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” In this most simple of statements, he captures the very essence of the pro-life ethic. Our understanding of society and human interaction is not merely horizontal, defined by our relationship with those currently around us. It is also fundamentally vertical. We honor our forefathers by accepting—with gratitude and reverence—the world and traditions they have entrusted us with and committing ourselves to passing on this inheritance to our descendants. The implicit premise is that stewardship of the gifts we have received is only relevant insofar as it honors the sanctity of future life. 

This mandate for stewardship obviously includes the natural world around us. Indeed, care for the environment saturates our religious and ethical inheritance. In Genesis 1:26, God commands us to exercise stewardship over all of creation. Later, Noah secures a spot for all species on his ark, thereby ensuring the continuation of creation for future generations. The rest of the Old Testament is replete with natural imagery, from “the trees of the forest [that] sing for joy” (Ps. 96:12) to “the wild animals [that] honor [him]” (Isa. 43:20), while the New Testament emphasizes the reconciliation of all creation to God (see Col. 1:19–20). 

In his pro-life treatise The Gospel of Life, Pope St. John Paul II emphasizes that “man has a specific responsibility toward the environment . . .  for the present but also for future generations.” More recently, Pope Francis published Laudato Si’, his call to Catholics to take climate change and environmental protection seriously. As he argues, stewardship of God’s creation is axiomatic to our ethical awareness as Christians. We must protect the environment in order to protect life and allow humanity to flourish.

Unfortunately, Christians have failed to truly heed these calls and stand up for our own, pro-human environmental ethic. We’ve allowed the religious alarmism of radical climate ideology to wreak serious consequences on society. One in five children in Britain, for example, experiences “climate nightmares” at night. Four in ten young women report being hesitant to have children due to climate change. Some environmentalists, echoing Sanders’ comments, go as far as arguing that abortion is a key tool in the fight against climate change. Yet, the evidence points in the other direction. In their recent book Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet, my friend Marian Tupy and his colleague Gale Pooley present data showing that population growth is actually correlated with greater resource abundance. The simple reason is that the human brain, designed in God’s image, is infinitely creative and resourceful. More humans equals more brains, and therefore greater capacity for problem-solving and innovation. God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), similarly to his mandate for stewardship, offers us a harmonious – rather than an exploitative – relationship with nature.

If only the modern climate movement took this view of humanity. What a strange paradigm to live in, to encourage ending present unborn life for the sake of the survival of future unborn life. The anti-natalism of zealous climate activism collapses under the weight of its self-contradiction. Christians need to push back against climate ideology that supports life in some cases but not in others. We need to commit ourselves to a proper re-ordering of what it means to be an environmentalist and how it is inseparable from our moral obligation to steward all of creation. One of the most powerful tools to achieve this is education. As a lifelong Christian and environmentalist myself, I propose three main ways to engage the next generation on these issues in a faith-filled, serious, and effective manner.

First, we should take time to meditate on the relationship between God and his creation. We must re-acquaint ourselves and our children with what Scripture tells us about the natural world that surrounds us and how God expects us to relate to it. Christian environmentalists have called this concept “creation care,” or the idea that God not only created the world and everything in it but also gave mankind exclusive responsibility over it. Creation care can be broken down into several principles that are worth pondering, discussing, and praying about as a family and community: 

God Created the Earth

John 1:3

“All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.”

Every Living Thing Is Part of God’s Creation

Isaiah 43:20–21

“The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.”

God Uses the Earth to Teach Us

Job 12:7–10

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being.” 

We Are Asked to Take Care of Creation

Genesis 1:26

“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’” 

Second, go outside. Being in nature, whether it’s the beach in California, the mountains of Colorado, or the woods of Vermont, not only reinvigorates our soul but also gives us a deeper appreciation for God’s creation. In the modern world, too many children are stuck indoors behind computer screens, which separates us—both physically and spiritually—from our natural inheritance. Spending time in nature allows us to meditate on the beauty of creation, leaving us in awe not just of the world around us but also of the One who created it. Take your children on a hike, or take them camping, or go play on the beach. Inspire in them a spirit of outdoorsy adventure, and don’t forget to remind them that there is a Creator who loves both them and the natural world they are playing in. Teach them that when the environment thrives, they thrive too, and that humans should live in harmony with nature, not in opposition to it. The benefits aren’t just spiritual, either. Studies show that spending more time outdoors reduces stress, anxiety, and risk of diseases like cancer. God created a wonderful, marvelous, mysterious world—so why not spend more time in it?

Third, we can take concrete steps to clean up our local communities. A faith-filled and personal understanding of our relationship with the natural world empowers us to put biblical stewardship into action. My church in Washington, DC, for example, frequently organizes river and park clean-ups, where members of the congregation come together to pick up litter in their local green spaces. The idea is that by exercising our mandate to take care of creation, we not only feel a sense of accomplishment but also develop a deeper understanding of the negative impact our actions can and do have on nature. This offers an opportunity to teach children about the merits of recycling, reducing waste, and stewarding our resources responsibly.

Taking time as a community or family to contemplate why activities like this are for the common good grants us agency, especially giving children a sense of meaning and taking matters into their own hands. The hopelessness and pessimism of modern climate activism can be counteracted with community-oriented and measurable steps to improve the environment around us, as research at Yale University indicates. For parents interested in exploring this further, Keep America Beautiful is a nation-wide campaign that connects people with these kinds of activities in their local communities.

Ultimately, these are just a few ways Christians can reorient the environmental conversation back to the principles we know to be true. We agree with climate activists’ passion for protecting the planet, yet we must stand against policy or ideology that denigrates human life and pits us against the natural world we inhabit. Fundamentally, the Christian environmental ethic can be summed up like this: we love and care for the environment because we recognize the sanctity of life—past, present, and future.

This piece originally appeared in the print version of Bishop Barron’s Magazine, Evangelization & Culture.