Nature is rather big. Can't it fend for itself? If it needs defense, who's attacking it?
Nature is not only big, but grand. Sadly, it is under attack from two opposing sides, which we might conveniently call the "Left" and the "Right." (And yes, I realize I'm about to engage in the intemperate use of caricatures, but such generalizations have a grain of important cultural truth.)
The Left is typically deeply concerned about the natural environment but often considers human nature to be an invasive if not evil presence in an otherwise paradisal garden, and is either indifferent or even hostile to 'traditional' morality. The Right is typically deeply concerned about human nature and morality, but is either indifferent or even hostile to concern for the natural environment. So, while the Left is obsessed with pollution of the natural environment, the Right is obsessed with pollution of the moral environment. The unpleasant and obfuscating result is that each refuses to see the other’s legitimate claims to truth because the other side seems to be tied inextricably to evident error.
This is a lose-lose situation, a cultural standoff that ensures that no progress is made in protecting either nature or human nature.
That's why I wrote In Defense of Nature: The Catholic Unity of Environmental, Economic, and Moral Ecology. My argument is very simple, at least in outline, containing four seemingly logical steps, to wit:
1. Just as there is an order of nature, which is good, wonderful, and beautiful, that we should both respect and protect, so also there is an order of human nature, which is good, wonderful, and beautiful, and we should respect and protect that too.
2. When we violate the order of nature in some way, we generally call that “pollution,” meaning by this that we have, by our actions, damaged nature—whether it is the air, the water, or some particular species
3. If human nature is indeed, as its name suggests, part of nature, then we should be able to call violations of the order of human nature, “moral pollution,” and for the very same reason, meaning by moral pollution, that we have in some way by our actions damaged human nature—whether it is our body, our sexual nature, some other aspect of our moral nature, or our capacity to freely choose what is good.
4. Therefore, our understanding of ecology should be expanded to include respect for and protection of both nature and human nature; we need to be equally concerned about environmental ecology and moral ecology, and whatever connections we find between them.
Hopefully, In Defense of Nature will help turn the cultural antagonism of Left and Right, into fruitful dialogue and cooperation. At least we can get the conversation started.