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April 20, 2014

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Cornwall Stewardship Agenda

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Executive Summary

God calls us to steward creation, but presently much environmental advocacy and activism contradict sound theology and sound science. In response to this, a diverse task force representing a wide range of the theological, scientific and economic disciplines has been brought together to craft the Cornwall Stewardship Agenda. This agenda is designed to flesh out the broad principles of the 2000 Cornwall Declaration on Environmental Stewardship (endorsed by over 1,500 clergy, religious leaders, and other people of faith), and answer the practical question of what public policy principles religious leaders and policymakers should support in their desire to achieve Biblically balanced stewardship.

The Cornwall Agenda will address a variety of stewardship issues, the first of which are “poverty and development” and “climate and energy.” This Introduction lays the philosophical groundwork for the rest of the document. In summary:

  • Mankind has a divinely ordained responsibility to exercise faithful stewardship. Because we and our neighbors are created in God’s image, Scripturally sound stewardship honors God’s emphasis on meeting human needs (particularly those of the poor), cultivating human creativity and helping people flourish. Therefore, environmental policies should harness human creative potential by expanding political and economic freedom, instead of imposing draconian restrictions or seeking to reduce the “human burden” on the natural world. Suppressing human liberty and productivity in the name of environmental protection is antithetical to the principles of stewardship and counterproductive to the environment.
  • When addressing environmental problems, we should respond first to firmly established risks in ways that are cost-effective and have proven benefit. Prudent stewardship will avoid siren calls to action on speculative problems that are based on politicized science or media-driven hype, focusing instead on well-understood and well-argued evidence. In the world of policy priorities, arguments that millions may die in the next century (due, for example, to poorly-understood and wildly exaggerated claims about climate change) must yield primacy of place to well-understood problems (like unsafe drinking water, dirty fuels like wood and dung, and malarial mosquitoes) that cause some 4-5 million deaths annually and that could be solved for a fraction of the proposed cost.
  • Because of its emphasis on human productivity and the priority of people in God’s created order, supporters of the Cornwall Agenda are frequently mischaracterized as not caring at all about environmental stewardship. Many seek to create an artificial paradigm in which a person either embraces the idea that there are too many people on the planet causing all manner of environmental devastation (including catastrophic man-made global warming), or he is written off as simply unconcerned about “creation care.” That paradigm, however, is false: Cornwall supporters believe the best way to care for both people AND the planet is through policies that allow increasing numbers of people around the world to fulfill their role as stewards of God’s good creation.

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