Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Environment

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society December 2nd, 2007
25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, NY 11201-2483.

Dear Watchtower Society:

Recently I had a chance to ask a member of your church (briefly) about where Jehovah's Witnesses stand on environmental issues. Please don’t quote me on her exact response, but she didn’t seem particularly concerned, and she said something to the effect of “Jehovah will take care of all the problems”.

I will admit that I was quite disturbed by this answer. I am familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses and the work that your members do, and the literature that you distribute. The reason for this letter is to ask how the Watchtower Society can reconcile a “sit back, watch and wait” attitude, considering the dire crisis facing our planet? It is clear that you believe your main commission is to make disciples, but a fair question in this day and age is, what are you doing for the earth that supports us all?

Last year over 5,000 species went extinct; 5,000 went extinct the year before that. The Earth is losing a shocking amount of crucial rain forest by the minute; these forests are critical and absolutely necessary for the survival of this planet. Certainly you are familiar with the climate change concerns that are facing all of us right now. Sadly, most of these problems are related to mankind’s mismanagement of this planet.

Clearly you believe the Bible is the word of truth, as do people of many faiths. The very first, and arguably the only direct command the Creator personally gave mankind was to “subdue the earth and all the creatures in it” (Gen: 1). If you believe God lovingly created the creatures of the Earth and blessed them, then you know that he commissioned the first humans to take care of his creation. It does not require a biologist to realize that humans have failed, and are currently failing this command - miserably.

If you are a religious organization that values God’s creation, then surely you must be putting ecological and environmental issues at the forefront of your work right now! With all due respect, I see your members driving (mostly SUVs, sad to say) into neighborhoods, distributing your magazines to all those interested, and to many who are not. I have seen your Watchtowers and other Jehovah's Witness literature piled in laundry mats and waiting rooms, and unfortunately I often see the same publications in the trash cans at these places. Your literature distribution must be in the hundreds of millions every month; would this be a correct assumption? This represents an extremely large number of trees sacrificed for your work every month, not to mention the enormous resources used to publish these. Please consider the exhaust (carbon!) emitted by millions of your members, all driving in the name of Jehovah. There must be many other examples which make up Jehovah's Witnesses’ “carbon footprint” and other environmental impacts.

While you perhaps justify your actions by concluding that your work is so important that the sacrifice is totally warranted, it is clear from the scriptures and from common sense that this position is dangerous and mistaken. The Creator did not say “Don’t worry about subduing the earth and the creatures in it because I’ll fix everything at a later date”. Taking care of the earth was the first and arguably most important command given humans by God. This planet is our home, many believe given to us by our Creator. If any human appropriately respects the creation which we all use and enjoy, then that person will heed the command to take care of the Earth. In my humble opinion, this is the most important charge we humans have today.

Jehovah's Witnesses are not “on the outside looking in”; you all are very much a part of this planet. Making disciples is an honorable and fine task, but if you truly understand and appreciate the big picture, then you no doubt realize that caring for the Earth is absolutely critical, and time is of the essence!

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

C. Podhaski