What happens when you don’t put the seat down before you flush

Leaving the toilet seat up isn’t just a common annoyance in households the world over, it’s also unsanitary as it allows a cloud of bacteria from flushing to settle on surfaces in the bathroom.

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist from the University of Arizona, explained to realtor.com that the problems with leaving the seat up have to do with something called the aerosol effect.

“You get a good spray out of the toilet area,” Gerba said. “When droplets come out of the toilet, it looks like the Fourth of July.”

After flushing, the force of the water flooding the toilet bowl can create a spray that splashes out of the bowl and with it a cloud of bacteria that can spread throughout the bathroom.

The spray of bacteria can go as high as 10 inches above the toilet and remain in the air for an hour or more.

According to the Daily Mail, this bacteria can then settle over the sink, bathtub, and walls.

On average, a person flushes around six times a day adding up to 2,190 flushes a year. Unfortunately, given how much bacteria is eliminated through human waste, no matter how much you flush many of those germs stay behind.

Leaving the seat up not only provides an outlet for that bacteria to escape but it also increases the risk of flu and norovirus spreading to others.

“It is a good idea to lower the seat, especially if the bathroom is used by multiple people,” Philip Tierno, a microbiologist previously told Tech Insider.

One study conducted by researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center examined whether the aerosol effect differed based on the type of toilet involved.

The researchers tested aerosol generation from high-efficiency toilets, pressure-assisted high-efficiency toilets and tankless toilets that use a flushometer.

While the results showed that low flow toilets create less of a cloud of bacteria, the aerosol effect is still present.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Adidas has committed to only use recycled plastic by 2024

Adidas is taking another step toward the production of sustainable products, pledging to use only recycled plastic by the year 2024. The company has announced plans to eliminate the use of new plastic, also known as virgin plastic, and the transition is set to begin this year.

Adidas will ditch the use of virgin plastic in nearly every aspect of operations such as in its warehouses, retail stores, and offices. Recycled polyester will be used in clothing, footwear, and accessories.

“We aim to use 100% recycled polyester in every product and on every application where a solution exists by 2024,” Adidas spokeswoman Maria Culp told the Financial Times.

According to CNN, the German company’s commitment to becoming more eco-friendly will save an estimated 40 tons of plastic every year.

Two years ago, Adidas launched a sustainable footwear and clothing line in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans. The products are manufactured in part by using plastic that was cleaned up off of beaches and from coastal communities.

Adidas sold one million pairs of Parley shoes in 2017, and predicts that this number will rise to five million by the end of the year.

In September, McDonald’s will replace plastic straws with paper ones in all of its stores across the UK and Ireland. According to BBC News, 1. 8 million plastic straws are distributed in McDonald’s across the UK every single day.

The Four Seasons, Hilton, and the Hyatt are also getting on board with the idea of using more environmentally-friendly products, pledging to ditch all plastic straws by the end of this year.

“Hilton has committed to removing plastic straws from all of its 650 managed hotels globally, which will save an estimated 35 million straws per year from potentially ending up in the ocean,” said a spokesperson for the company.

In the retail industry, Adidas is one of just a few major companies that has made a commitment to becoming more sustainable.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Pottery was originally developed to be used for fishing

The art of pottery is thousands of years old. Functional pottery refers to the use of clay to make vessels for food and water and is thought to date back to 9,000 or 10,000 BC.

A recent study examined some of earliest known pottery remains originating in Japan and discovered that functional ceramics increased as fishing became a central part of daily life towards the end of the last Ice Age.

Researchers from BioArCh at the University of York studied 800 pottery vessels over three years and found that the pots were used to store and process fish ranging from salmon to shellfish.

The ceramic remains date back to the Late Pleistocene when our early ancestors were still living in glacial conditions up to a post-glacial period which saw an influx of pottery production.  

Pottery continued to be used for fish even after climate warming, which provided new hunting opportunities leading previous studies to conclude that fishing decreased.

“Our results demonstrate that pottery had a strong association with the processing of fish, irrespective of the ecological setting,” said Oliver Craig, leader of the study. “Contrary to expectations, this association remained stable even after the onset of warming, including in more southerly areas, where expanding forests provided new opportunities for hunting and gathering.”

The researchers conducted a series of chemical analyses on the ceramic remains and were able to identify food compounds and animal fats even though the pots had been buried for thousands of years.

Charred surface deposits from the pottery revealed that the vessels were used to process and store a large range of freshwater and marine organisms.

Until this study, researchers could only guess at the role the pots played in early hunter-gatherer daily life.

“Thanks to the exceptional preservation of traces of animal fat, we now know that pottery changed from a rare and special object to an everyday tool for preparing fish,” said Alex Lucquin, the study’s lead author. “I think that our study not only reveals the subsistence of the ancient Jomon people of Japan but also its resilience to a dramatic change in climate.”

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The results shed new light on how our hunter-gatherer ancestors prepared and stored food and show how the role of pottery changed from art to function.

“We suggest this marks a significant change in the role of pottery of hunter-gatherers, corresponding massively increased volume of production, greater variation in forms and sizes and the onset of shellfish exploitation,” said Craig.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Image Credit: Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

Rising sea levels could disrupt global communications

In as little as 15 years, thousands of fiber optic cables buried beneath large coastal cities like Seattle could soon be submerged under rising sea levels, threatening the internet and global communication.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Oregon recently conducted a study, the first of its kind, that assessed how the internet would be impacted by climate change.

A complex network of fiber optic cables, the physical internet, carries data to and from your computer in the blink of an eye.

While marine cables transport data between continents, the major coastal hubs where many of our communications converge contain buried but not waterproof cables.

As the threat of rising sea levels increases, it could spell disaster for these crucial fiber optic cables built without consideration to climate change 20 to 25 years ago.

What’s more, the researchers led by Paul Barford, a professor of computer science and physical internet expert, found that thousands of miles of cables will likely be submerged much sooner than previously thought.

“Most of the damage that’s going to be done in the next 100 years will be done sooner than later,” said Barford, “That surprised us. The expectation was that we’d have 50 years to plan for it. We don’t have 50 years.”

For the study, the researchers combined data from the Internet Atlas which is a global map of the physical internet infrastructure with sea-level rise projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The results show that by 2033, 4,000 miles of buried cables will be underwater and a little over a thousand traffic hubs could be surrounded by water. New York, Miami, and Seattle along with other major coastal cities are most at risk.

Not only could rising sea levels cost millions of dollars in damage and displace hundreds of thousands of residents, this new study shows that it could potentially disrupt global communications.

Major networks like CenturyLink, Inteliquent and AT&T have a higher risk of being affected by rising sea levels according to the researchers.

The researchers also examined mitigation strategies to prevent cables from being submerged but the effectiveness of these strategies is difficult to predict because there are so many unknown factors that need to be considered.

“The first instinct will be to harden the infrastructure,” said Barford. “But keeping the sea at bay is hard. We can probably buy a little time, but in the long run it’s just not going to be effective. This is a wake-up call. We need to be thinking about how to address this issue.”

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

British officials call for new clean air act before Brexit

Officials in Britain are warning that the country could end up with an ineffective system for enforcing environmental standards after exiting the European Union, or “Brexit.” According to BBC News, a group that includes 74 Members of Parliament (MPs) wants a new Clean Air Act established.

The MPs suggest that promises made by Environment Secretary Michael Gove are not good enough without new legislation. The collective concerns of the assembly have been highlighted in a letter organized by British politician Geraint Davies, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution.

“Mr Gove talks the talk very impressively. But assurances are worth nothing until they are enacted,” Davies told BBC News. “If there’s no deal, then the UK will be on a cliff edge in March. The government failed to meet existing standards, but it will no longer be able to be taken to court. It could easily pass the buck to local councils to transfer responsibility to them for tackling illegal air pollution.”

Concern over air pollution, in particular, was emphasized by Davies as he spoke to BBC News.

“VW were fined heavily in the USA,” said Davies. “But here, Michael Gove is saying it’s better for them to invest the money designing better engines. That doesn’t wash with us.”

Secretary Gove has not yet responded to the letter, but a spokesperson for his office said in a statement: “The government has launched a consultation on our proposals to establish a new, independent, statutory body to hold government to account on environmental standards once we have left the European Union, and on a new policy statement on environmental principles to apply following EU Exit.”

Erik Solheim is the executive director of the UN’s Environment Program. He told the Observer that it is “incredibly important that the UK keeps the environmental standards it has had under the European Union.”

John Sauven is the executive director of Greenpeace UK.

“Michael Gove promised a green Brexit, but as things stand his toothless watchdog would leave us with a weaker enforcement agency than Trump’s America,” Sauven told The Guardian.

“This intervention from the UN environment chief is a sign of growing concern and shows the world is watching. Nobody voted for a dirty Brexit that leaves our beaches, water and air quality worse off.”

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Mortality rates from heart failure are higher among women

Researchers at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute have found that women have higher rates of death from heart failure than men. The study also revealed that hospitalization rates are declining among men, while women are being hospitalized for heart failure more often.

“This is the first of a series of studies to examine the sex differences in heart failure incidence, outcomes, care delivery and access in Ontario,” said study co-author Dr. Louise Sun.

While recent research has suggested that heart failure rates have declined overall, the differences among genders was unclear. To investigate these differences, the research team examined data on more than 90,000 patients who were diagnosed with heart failure in Ontario between 2009 and 2014.

The analysis showed that 47 percent of all cases were among women who tended to be older and frail, had multiple chronic illnesses, and had lower incomes.

As far as new heart failure cases, the numbers were the lowest in 2011 and 2012 and then began to rise the following year. Within one year after diagnosis, 16.8 percent of female patients died from heart failure compared with 14.9 percent of male patients.

Over the five-year study period, hospitalization rates for women with heart failure surpassed rates for men. In 2013, 98 women per 1000 were hospitalized compared with 91 per 1000 men.

“We found that mortality from heart failure remains high, especially in women; that hospital admissions for heart failure decreased in men but increased in women; and that women and men had different associated comorbidities,” wrote the study authors.

“Further studies should focus on sex differences in health-seeking behavior, medical therapy and response to therapy to improve outcomes in women.”

The study is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Millennial women more often feel depressed during pregnancy

More millennial women are reporting feeling depressed during pregnancy, and new research shows it may be due to the pace of modern life.

Younger women are 51 percent more likely to experience mental health challenges while pregnancy than previous generations did, researchers from the University of Bristol found, especially depression and anxiety.

The scientists believe the change may be linked to the increased pressures of modern life and new technologies like social media.

“First, as compared with the 1990s, the proportion of mothers working has increased substantially, and inflexible work arrangements and work pressure are associated with greater depressive symptoms in mothers,” the scientists wrote in their study, published in JAMA Network Open. “Difficulties balancing work and home may be increasing, and this may be reflected by the increase of women reporting ‘things are getting too much’ compared with their mother’s generation.”

The number of women who work during and after pregnancy has risen substantially since the 1990s, they noted. Many Millennials report difficulty balancing their work and home lives, and that pressure may be harder on women preparing for a new child.

The study first tracked more than 2,300 women during their pregnancies from 1990 to 1992, recording their general mental health. Between 2012 and 2016, the researchers followed up with 180 of their daughters as they experienced pregnancies of their own.

They found that about 17 percent of the first group of women suffered from anxiety or feeling depressed during pregnancy, while a full quarter of their daughters did.

The change mirrored a similar rise in rates of depression and anxiety among women who aren’t pregnant.

“Chronic stress, sleep deprivation, eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, and the fast pace of modern life may be contributing to an increasing prevalence of depression among young people generally,” the researchers wrote. “The impact of such changes may be amplified when a woman becomes pregnant.”

Among the second generation of women studied, those whose own mothers had experienced depression during pregnancy were more than three times more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression themselves, the researchers found.

By Kyla Cathey, Earth.com staff writer

Study finds spike in cardiovascular disease in India

Cardiovascular disease is taking a growing toll on India, especially among young adults and rural populations, a new national study has found.

Ischemic heart disease, which develops as arteries in the heart grow narrow, has increased rapidly among Indians from 30 to 69, with rural areas outpacing cities between 2000 to 2015, the researchers discovered. In northeastern India, rates of premature stroke deaths also rose to about three times the national average – though much of the country saw a decrease.

Dr. Prabhat Jha, who runs the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, led the first-of-its-kind study of Indian health.

“The finding that cardiac disease rose nationally in India and that stroke rose in some states was surprising,” Jha said. “This study also unearthed an important fact for prevention of death due to cardiovascular disease. Most deaths were among people with previously known cardiac disease, and at least half were not taking any regular medications.”

Up until this study, most scientific research into cardiovascular disease in India has taken the form of small, local studies or modeling based on imprecise research. But cardiovascular disease is one of the major causes of death globally, especially ischemic heart disease and stroke.

The researchers launched the study of India’s cardiovascular disease and death rates as part of the Million Death Study, a global effort to examine causes of premature death.

Census takers with special medical training traveled throughout India, asking people about family members’ deaths and conducting “verbal autopsies” to determine the most likely causes.

“Making progress in fighting the leading cause of death in India is necessary for making progress at the global level,” Jha said. “We demonstrated the unexpected patterns of heart attack and stroke deaths. Both conditions need research and action if the world is going to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of reducing cardiovascular mortality by 2030.”

The study has been published in The Lancet Global Health.

By Kyla Cathey, Earth.com staff writer

Calculating how much money cooking at home will save you

Meal delivery services like Blue Apron and Hellofresh have been all the rage, where you get the convenience of having all the groceries you need to make stellar meals delivered to your door.

While meal kit services are often cheaper and healthier than regular delivery, how much money are you really saving and would it still be cheaper to just buy the ingredients and make your food at home?

These questions were recently tackled by Forbes Magazine which analyzed data from Wellio to break down the cost differences between delivery, meal kits, and cooking at home.

The results show that you could save substantially by cooking at home compared to the other options.

While this is not necessarily surprising as home cooking is often touted as a budget-friendly option, how the data was reviewed and broken up to show the exact cost per serving could help inform better consumer decisions.

Wellio is a platform that takes recipes and converts them into lists of ingredients that can be found at local stores.

With this data, the researchers were able to calculate the price per serving of 86 recipes and also compare those costs to meal kits and restaurant delivery.

To calculate the cost of restaurant delivery, the research incorporated online menu prices from several different popular national food chains such as Applebees and P.F. Chang’s and added a five dollar delivery fee to the total cost of a meal.

Meal kit services were calculated by averaging the cost of a meal and adding a $2.50 delivery fee per meal. Meal Kits like Blue Apron typically offer packages with a certain number of meals for a pre-selected number of people per week.

After reviewing the data and calculating the costs per meal and servings, the Forbes analysis concluded that it is nearly five times more expensive to get restaurant delivery versus cooking at home and meal kits are about three times more expensive than cooking at home.

This was particularly true for meals that were heavily centered on proteins like beef, pork, and chicken. Cost per serving for home cooking ranged from a little over a dollar for chicken tacos to four and a half dollars for beef wellington.

The average cost of delivery was between 20 and 30 dollars and meal kits were about $13.00 per person.

Cooking at home is the clear winner and not only is it budget friendly, but home cooking can be much healthier because you have more control of the ingredients.

The data break-down presents a convincing argument for why cooking at home, although it may not save you time, seriously cuts costs.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Bigger picture thinking really does make for better decisions

According to a new study from Ohio State University, putting some distance between yourself and a decision can help you make the most beneficial choice for everyone involved. The right decision will sometimes benefit you more than others, which may seem selfish, yet it can maximize the reward for others as well.

“The most efficient decision is the one that is going to maximize the total pie – and that is true whether more goes to you or more goes to someone else,” said study lead author Paul Stillman. “Sometimes it makes the most sense to seem a bit selfish if that is going to maximize overall benefits.”

For example, a software engineer may choose to spend time developing new software over fixing a friend’s computer. It may seem selfish that the engineer is leaving his friend with a broken computer while earning money instead, but this choice creates more value for himself and the people who will use his software in the future.

Through a series of experiments, the researchers found that people usually made the most efficient decision when they looked at the whole situation and not just the details, which is often referred to as looking at the forest and not just the trees.

This perspective of looking at the bigger picture is what psychologists call “high-level construal” and involves creating psychological distance from the decision.

“High-level construal allows you to step back and see the consequences of your decision and to see more clearly the best way to allocate resources,” explained Stillman.

For their investigation, the researchers had 106 students complete a task that prompted them to think in a big-picture way or in a more immediate, present-day way.

One group was tasked with creating a list of long-term goals that could help them improve their health – which made them look at the bigger picture – while the other group was tasked with making a list of daily health goals.

Next, both groups of participants played an economic game in which they had to make nine decisions about how to share money between themselves and four other people.

The game revealed that individuals who had been looking at the bigger picture in the previous task were much more likely to make decisions that would maximize the total value, whether the choices benefited themselves or others the most. Several other experiments confirmed these findings.

According to Stillman, the results of this study show a way to maximize the net gain for everyone, while minimizing waste and inefficiencies.

“When you create some psychological distance from your decision, you tend to see things more in line with long-term goals, and you can see beyond the immediate considerations of the here and now,” said Stillman.

The research is published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

Many sexual harassers fear appearing incompetent, study finds

The MeToo movement has spurred a national conversation about the abuse of power, misogyny, and the reality that thousands if not millions of people around the world have their own unspoken MeToo story. It has also brought with it dozens of powerful men accused of sexual harassment in the workplace.

One question that psychologists, social scientists, and researchers are asking is what motivates sexual harassment and are there certain factors that influence sexual harassment in some powerful people and not others?

One Washington Post piece discussed the work of psychologist John Pryor from the University of Illinois who created the “Likelihood to Sexually Harass” scale.

Pryor and his colleagues discovered that environmental factors, a lack a empathy, and a firm belief in traditional gender roles were distinctive characteristics shared by many harassers.

Psychologist David Ley told CNBC that the status and privilege afforded positions of power can create a false sense of invincibility in men which can lead to acts of harassment and intimidation.

“There are intense issues of entitlement and power and control that have gone unchecked that lead to situations where men feel it’s perfectly fine to engage in these kind of behaviors,” Ley told CNBC.

Now, a recent study found that men in power sexually harass others because of insecurities about being judged as incompetent.

“Fearing that others will perceive you as incompetent is a better predictor of sexual harassment than your self-perceived incompetence,” Leah Halper, the study’s lead author told the Daily Mail.

Researchers from Ohio University and the Ohio State University conducted the study which was published in the journal Sex Roles.

The researchers expanded on the theory that men are more likely to sexually harass someone if their social standing is at risk.

For the study, three different studies were conducted with both college students and adults and some included both men and women.

Participants were asked about the likelihood of engaging in sexual harassment and in one study 273 men were told to imagine themselves in a position of power over a female employee.

Would the men consider taking sexual favors in return for a promotion or job offer was one question the participants were asked.

The studies also assessed the participants’ levels of self-esteem and narcissism and the results showed that more than anything else, fear of being judged as incompetent was a major motivator for harassment.

“The findings also suggest that men do not necessarily sexually harass women because they seek sexual gratification, but rather because their insecurity about being perceived as incompetent prompts them to want to undermine a woman’s position in the social hierarchy,” Kimberly Rios, the study’s co-author, told the Daily Mail.

By Kay Vandette, Earth.com Staff Writer

Religion has often shaped how humans view the environment

Throughout the history of humankind, religion has played a number of roles in society.  The first religions were probably profoundly different than the popular religions of today.  It’s hard to know when exactly religion first developed in humanity, but there is some archaeological evidence of early belief systems.

It’s fair to say that ritual is a part but not the entirety of religion.  In 2006, Scientific American reported on a strange discovery in the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana, a place locally known as Mountain of the Gods.  In a cave there is a rock carved to look like a serpent. In the debris on the cave floor, thousands of spear heads were found, apparently made from stone far and wide.  

It seems like the spears and the snake carving were used in some sort of ritual, perhaps the spear heads were sacrificed.  It’s quite hard to know how the cave in Botswana fits into the history of religion but it could be evidence of human spirituality’s deepest roots.  Snakes are still important in the mythology of Botswana’s San people and the rituals in the cave date back 70,000 years. Humans are estimated to have first left Africa only 120,000 years ago.

When considering the cave in the Tsodilo Hills of Botswana, I am reminded of the more famous Lascaux cave paintings in France.  Lascaux’s paintings are very young in comparison to the snake carving in Botswana, only 20,000 years old. Despite the age difference, they are both clearly ritualistic and the two sites share similarities.  Lascaux contains about 2,000 different images painted on cave surfaces, of those images, 900 are animals. In 1948, Pablo Picasso visited Lascaux and was said to have remarked that man hasn’t learned anything since then.  There are many interpretations of Lascaux but the cave paintings have an eerie realism that clearly connects them to real animals. The paintings of animals in the cave have been interpreted as a way of invoking success in hunting the animals.  

The invocation of animals in early religious practices tell us something important.  Animals were clearly of great importance to humans from the very outset. Animals were sources of food, sources of clothing, tents, water bags and most necessities for human life.  Those things not provided by animals were supplied by plants, stones, clay, etc. The point here is that early humans were desperately dependent on direct contact with the natural environment for their survival and they were very much aware of it.  

It’s only natural that our first stirrings of spiritual awareness would be directed towards the world that sustains our very lives.  The religions of modern hunter gatherers often focus on spiritual elements of the natural world as well. Jaguars are held in high regard by Native Americans in central and South America.  Polar bears were symbolically important in ancient Inuit religion. Plants in several regions of the world are important for their medicinal, hallucinogenic and ritualistic properties. Animals and plants are but part of a larger spiritual landscape that many hunter gatherer societies embrace.  In his book, Arctic Dreams, Barry Lopez elucidates this notion:

“A Lakota woman named Elaine Jahner once wrote that what lies at the heart of the religion of hunting peoples is the notion that a spiritual landscape exists within the physical landscape.  To put it another way, occasionally one sees something fleeting in the land, a moment when line, color, and movement intensify and something sacred is revealed, leading one to believe that there is another realm of reality corresponding to the physical one but different.”  

In classic ancient religions that many people are familiar with, there are still echoes of origins in nature based worship.  Gods like Zeus and Thor are connected to lightning, other deities have the ability to change into animal forms attributed to them.  Seasons and certain crops are attributed to deities in later, polytheistic religions. There is an element of anthropomorphizing in polytheistic religions like those of the Ancient Greeks and Norse.  Religions seem to be moving away from literal, direct contact to the natural world towards a more symbolic contact through worship of human-like gods and goddesses.

One of the main ideas of why religion developed in the first place is based on fear.  If you lived in the world 20,000 or 70,000 years ago, things were remarkably different from today.  Today, the illusion that humans control the world is everywhere. People once lived in caves, under cliff ledges; in whatever natural shelter they could.  Agriculture is the norm now, 20,000 years ago agriculture as we know it didn’t exist. Some of the earliest evidence suggests rye fields were first cultivated 13,000 years ago.  Ultimately, early religions reflected the realities of early humanity; humans were at the whim of nature and religion was an attempt at mediating the forces of nature. If you worry about rain and you don’t have irrigation, you may make a rain dance or pray to a gain goddess.  

Many early religions reflect the idea of a compact made between humans and nature.  In many plains Native American tribes, Bison are said to give themselves willingly to feed people and are accorded respect.  

In his book, The Tiger, John Vaillant wrote about indigenous beliefs held in the Taiga of Russia that mediated an agreement between tigers and humans.  If someone was attacked or killed by a tiger it was widely held that the person transgressed a norm and the tiger was punishing the transgressor.  Sometimes punishment was for poaching a tiger or not leaving an offering of meat from a deer hunt for instance.

If we have a small insight into how older religions operated, the question now becomes, what’s changed?  Agriculture, permanent dwellings and less interaction with a wilder nature have radically changed human’s thoughts, behavior and indeed their religion.  Most of the books holy to the majority religions today were written by agriculturalists and pastoralists. Far from making pacts with tigers or asking bison for their lives, the Bible demands humans to subdue nature:

“God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein [there is] life, [I have given] every green herb for meat.”

With the Judeo-Christian tradition, we see a more human centered view of the universe and a more human-shaped god. The Bible explicitly says that humans were created in God’s image, which in turn makes us god-like and animals and plants less than god-like.  

I believe the development of agriculture and other methods of ‘controlling’ nature allowed us to believe in a god more like us and less like the creatures that previously threatened our lives or sustained us.  I remember talking to a deeply religious man who told me that humans were incapable of destroying Earth because that would only happen according to God’s will when Jesus returned. The problem isn’t so much that this is an explicitly common view among Christians, it isn’t.  

According to Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Climate Change in the American Christian Mind, 69% of Catholics agree that climate change is happening, as well as 62% of non-evangelical Protestants.  The numbers aren’t so good for evangelical Protestants, 51% of which think climate change is happening, 27% don’t believe in climate change and 23% simply claim to not know.  

The problem is in the fact that the whole religion is focused mainly on humans.  In the Judeo-Christian construct of beliefs, it’s widely held that plants and animals are subservient to humans instead of being part of a greater whole abiding by the same set of rules as humans.  Ideas like manifest destiny are connected to Christian belief. In 1845, an anonymous article was published in the Democratic Review,

“The fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions…”

This was the coining of the term manifest destiny.  Look at the quote and compare it to the earlier one from the Bible.  The idea of multiplying, of subjugating the earth to the will of man is implied just as it’s explicitly stated in the Bible.  This is also part of the unique American brand of Christianity, an idea that not only are humans special but so are (white, male) Americans.  This idea spread to the branch of Christianity perhaps most firmly rooted on American soil, Mormonism.

Today, the idea that God has given the world to us as a gift isn’t as popular as it once was.  According to a report in US News, those affiliating themselves with no religion in the US jumped 7% from 2007 to 2014.  The problem is that many of the same habits stick around even after the explicit belief is gone.  There is a lingering tendency among atheists and agnostics to feel humans control the whole planet and that we can fix any problem we create.  It’s only natural to feel we’re superior in some ways, we celebrate most those things that are uniquely human but this is our bias not reality.  If we want to save the planet we must first learn to truly revere it.

By Zach Fitzner, Earth.com Contributing Writer