By Tom Turnipseed
23 July, 2005
Ecocide means destroying our ecosystem
by actions of the human species. Human activity like war and the profligate
use of our ecosystems resources is ecocidal.
of life is a stark example of ecocide. War is a crime against God and
nature. Usually motivated by greed and the desire for the spoils of
empire, war is often glorified as Gods will. Leaders of both sides
in our present never-ending war on terror call on God to help wage war
and bring victory over evil enemies, asking God to bless
the violation of his sixth Commandment to us, Thou Shalt Not Kill.
Though Islam and
Christianity are both derived from the same God of the prophet Abraham,
religious fundamentalist leaders on both sides declare the terror war
to be holy and heroic. They justify the killing by invoking the Almighty
to sanction the violence and grant them the victory.
The Christian tradition
of God as the warrior began in A.D. 312 with the Roman Emperor Constantine.
After a major victory in battle against legions of his brother-in-law,
Constantine said he had prayed for divine help before the engagement
and then had a vision of a cross in the sky above his soldiers as they
marched into the fray. This mystical event led to his Christian conversion.
declared the religion of the Roman Empire by Constantine, and the image
of Christ as the Prince of Peace became conveniently interchangeable
with Christ as the warrior God. Previously, the Roman Empire had persecuted
the Christians because they were pacifists, taught not to serve in the
military or use violence against others.
It had been unlawful
for a Christian to be a soldier in the Roman army, but Constantine's
conversion abruptly allied Christianity with Romes military and
by A.D. 416 it was compulsory for all Roman soldiers to be Christians.
Constantine's army carried a cross as a standard that was a spear with
a bar across it, exchanging the symbol of Jesus' death as an innocent
victim of oppression for a symbolic weapon of the oppressor. The church
took up the sword, and Christian participation in many wars and crusades
since has been done in the name of God. The nonviolent image of Christ
the peacemaker was transformed into the martial God.
The church of the
one who drove the moneychangers out of the temple also became the church
of great power and wealth. Jesus social action against materialism
and the marketplace in the house of the Lord led directly to the conspiracy
to crucify him. However, churches now have amassed vast amounts of property
and wealth. Individual congregants, preachers and politicians who boast
that God has blessed them to have more than others seem to have forgotten
that a homeless Jesus had nowhere to lay his head. Constantines
conversion led to the churchs acceptance of state control of religion;
the dominance of the wealthy and powerful; the veneration of war and
the use of violence for the glory of God.
The Arabic word
jihad is often translated as "holy war". According to Islamic
scholars, the first use of the term holy war" was by Europeans
in the Crusades to refer to the war against the Muslims. These scholars
point out that in the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed,
jihads primary meaning is an effort for the benefit of the community
and self improvement. Jihad is a religious duty. Military action is
only one means of jihad, and is very rare.
In the First Crusade
the forces representing the Catholic Church of Western Europe captured
Jerusalem in 1099 and slaughtered the population establishing Christian
rule there. In 1187, a Muslim jihad led by Saladin recaptured the holy
city of Jerusalem. Many Muslims blame crusaders for todays hostile
Western invasions, occupations and deaths of the faithful and the loss
of the holy city of Jerusalem.
The concept of jihad
has been hijacked by many political and religious groups over the ages
in a bid to justify various forms of violence against the established
Islamic order. Scholars say this misuse of jihad contradicts Islamic
teaching and most calls for violent jihad are not sanctioned by Islam.
Some hard line Muslims
would take back the leadership of the world from the materialists of
the modern, decadent West. The present call for jihad by Islamic fundamentalists
against the United States and its allies in our occupations of Iraq
and Afghanistan is based on their struggle against the materialism and
imperialism of our continuing foreign policy focus on the tremendous
oil reserves of the Middle East.
The worship of materialism
is ecocidal. Our economy is fueled by oil and other fossil fuels like
coal. Burning fossil fuels creates excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
and is a principal cause of global warming, contributing to more
extreme weather, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns,
ecological and agricultural dislocations and the increased spread of
human disease." according to the leading climatologists in the
US and UK. Despite overwhelming scientific and political support throughout
the world for the Kyoto accords, designed to reduce such emissions,
ecocidal U. S. policymakers refuse to support them.
World wide weather
is becoming more extreme and the habitat of all forms of life is being
destroyed by our ecocidal species. An article outlining the impact of
this destruction, published in 2004 in the science journal Nature, was
co-authored by 18 eminent scientists. These researchers, working independently
in six bio-diversity rich regions around the world from Australia to
South Africa, all have concluded that global warming will doom a million
species by 2050.
As it is with war,
it is ecocidal to raise global temperatures with human-induced carbon
dioxide and other greenhouse gases that will send so many of Earth's
land-dwelling plants and animals to extinction. For top-of-the-food-chain
humans, ecocide could finally include our own extinction.
Tom Turnipseed is
an attorney, writer and political activist in Columbia, South Carolina.
For more information, go to www.turnipseed.net