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Are Mormons really green

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I just read with interest the essay on Mormonism and environmental ethics (HCN, 12/22/03: Being Green in the Land of the Saints). It’s always a learning experience to read about how individuals cash out their own views within the framework of a larger entity, in this case Mormonism, and the positions held by various founders and leaders. But it seems extremely narrow to write about an "environmental ethic" without considering the fate of animals.

While surely there are notable exceptions, some of the historical events that were sanctioned by the Mormon Church leave much to be desired. Brigham Young supported the killing and extirpation of "wasters and destroyers," including wolves, foxes, wolverines and bears, and there also are well-documented accounts of the heinous slaughter of prairie dogs that were sanctioned by the Church.

In my view, dismissing animals from a discussion of environmental ethics is perhaps more egregious and self-serving than putting issues about population control aside. Indeed, while there are many wonderful individual Mormons who hold admirable positions on environmental issues, as a whole, I don’t see how Mormonism can be rated highly for promoting and enforcing a comprehensive environmental ethic that respects animals for the amazing beings who they are, individuals who are very important — some might say essential — for maintaining the integrity of innumerable precious landscapes and ecosystems.

Marc Bekoff
Boulder, Colorado

The writer is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado.

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