A Comparison of Green Chemistry to the Environmental Ethics of the Abrahamic Religions

By Bennett, George D. | Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, March 2008 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Comparison of Green Chemistry to the Environmental Ethics of the Abrahamic Religions


Bennett, George D., Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith


Green chemistry, or environmentally benign chemistry, is in its second decade as a recognized area of research. It is unique within chemistry because of its normative character. It rests on a set of principles, and the principles rest on certain ethical propositions. The ethical tenets that underlie green chemistry are substantially consistent with the environmental ethics of the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The ethical presuppositions of green chemistry bear the greatest similarity to the ethics of the productivity stewardship model of Christian environmentalism and bear the least similarity to the ethics of preservationist stewardship of Islamic environmentalism.

Summary

The environmental ethics of the Abrahamic religions all incorporate an anthropocentric concept of stewardship of an intrinsically valuable creation. Within this framework, use of nature is permissible, but abuse of nature through pollution, waste, and depletion is prohibited. The environmental ethics diverge over what characteristics creation shares with humanity. They also diverge over the quality and extent of the relationship between economic and environmental health. The ethical propositions of the productivity stewardship model of religious environmentalism bear the greatest resemblance to the ethical assumptions of green chemistry. The environmental ethics of all the religious perspectives examined in this article support those ethical assumptions of green chemistry that deal with pollution prevention and improved safety. The only point of direct conflict is between the position of certain Islamic environmentalists that the world economic system is a sham and the assumptions of green chemistry that deal with economic goals. With the exception of this latter sub-set, followers of the Abrahamic religions can practice green chemistry in good conscience.

**********

Green chemistry, or environmentally benign chemistry, is now in its second decade as a recognized area of research. Its normative character makes it unique within chemistry. It began as a specific form of implementation of a national policy of the United States that focused on source reduction as a pollution prevention strategy. Because green chemistry sprouted from an enacted law, and because laws result from political compromise and agreement among interested parties in order to garner broad support, the ethical tenets that underlie green chemistry reflect ethical beliefs regarding the environment that large portions of the public share. Although not everyone derives environmental ethics from theology, many people in the U.S. who do so derive their ethics from an Abrahamic religion, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Hence, the ethical tenets that underlie green chemistry are substantially consistent with the environmental ethics of the Abrahamic religions. Such theologically derived environmental ethics invoke the idea of stewardship, but they differ as to what degree that stewardship should aim to preserve natural resources for future generations or to put natural resources to productive use now. The ethical presuppositions of green chemistry bear the greatest similarity to the ethics of the productivity stewardship model of religious environmentalism and bear the least similarity to the ethics of preservationist stewardship of Islamic environmentalism.

This article begins with an overview of green chemistry, including its development, its definition, its codification in principles of best practice, and its ethical premises. Following this account is a discussion about the circumstances that led to the enshrinement of these ethical premises in policy. The discussion of professionally derived environmental ethics is followed by a brief overview of the rise of modern environmentalism and a discussion of theologically derived environmental ethics on the basis of a comparison between the preservationist stewardship and productivity stewardship models of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Comparison of Green Chemistry to the Environmental Ethics of the Abrahamic Religions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?