Domination or Cooperation?

Date: Fri, 04 Dec 1998
From: maria stadtmueller
Subject: population
X-URL: /overpopulation.html

You are looking only at the effect of overpopulation on humans--their available space, available resources. Meanwhile, ever-incroaching human populations worldwide are forcing animals and plants into extinction. There may not be "food shortages" yet, but increased use of habitat for food production causes not only climatic change (by depleting tree canopies, by sending large amounts of topsoil into the atmosphere through plowing and cultivation) but extinction of species who need range in order to survive.

We're all connnected, regardless of species, but I'm afraid you and the Catholic Church are still operating under the idea of domination rather than cooperation.


Dear Maria,

Thank you for your e-mail and the opportunity to address the question of "domination rather than cooperation." Like pro-choice this makes a great slogan, but what does it mean?

We had an interesting case here in Washington which tests the meaning of those words. In 1996 the Makah Indians announced that according to their treaty rights, they would hunt five California Gray Whales. This brought a hugh outcry from envirnomentalists. They tried to convince the Makahs that it was not only a bad idea, but wrong. Failing that they sought legal injunctions against them. When that did not work, they offered some economic benefits if they called off the hunt. Finally they threatened to stop them by force.

Without taking sides, it is clear that what we have is an attempt by one group of people to change the ideas and actions of another group. In short to exercise some sort of superiority whether intellectual, moral, economic, political or brute strength. From the point of view of the Makahs, it would certainly look more like an attempt to dominate rather than cooperate.

I am sure the Makahs would prefer to cooperate with enviromentalists, but they were clear that they had certain rights which must be respected before that is possible. That of course is the issue behind all of this. What are "rights" and where do they come from? I know people want to confer equal rights on higher mammals (maybe even on all animals). But it would always be us doing it from a superior position. Not even the enviromentalists suggested consulting the gray whales. Were they not simply assuming the knew what was best for the whales?


Fr. Phil Bloom

P.S. The Christian position is not domination but stewardship. This is based on the understanding that God has entrusted the earth to man to care for it (Gen 1:28f.) and that the value of one single human being, not matter how tiny or miserable, is greater than all the animals, plants, mountains, etc. put together. (Please see the correspondence with Sommers for more on that topic.)

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