Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: ‘Humans have lost their original humanity’

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

In an address Tuesday at the University of the Peloponnese in Tripolis, Greece, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that “a homogenization of humans and peoples is in progress” and underlined that the environmental threat points to “problematic anthropology.” He spoke of an “ecological crisis” and stressed that “the looting of the planet, the burning of the forests and the pollution of the air and water mean that humans have lost their original humanity. People never knew as much as they know today but never before were so catastrophic toward their fellow human beings and nature.”

The patriarch also said that the future cannot be entrusted to “extremist technocrats” who see humans as machines and underlined the need for the mobilization of the young generation.

He completed his visit to the region that was devastated by wildfires with a symbolic gesture by planting two trees, a sycamore and a fir, characterizing as “criminals targeting humanity” all those who deliberately set fires and destroy the “house of God, the natural environment which is our home.”


  1. I would love to read this in English to gauge what is going on but at first glance this whole original humanity theme when tied to the environmental movement sounds very utopian to me. This is certainly cause for serious concern. My guess is that the themes in this speech will be repeated during the Mississppi Symposium and the majority of the EP’s visit to America.

    The real question out there is not a matter of if . . . . but how far left will the EP go during his visit? This few quotes along with past history certainly do not quell any of these concerns.

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I had the same reaction Andrew. I don’t know if I can trust this report, but what caught my eye is the alarmism. If environmentalism doom-saying forms the center of the EP’s message, we’ve got problems. It is quite possible that the reporter misunderstood him however.

  3. Could you clarify your concerns? “Humanity theme,” “utopian,” “left,” “alarmism.” These all seem like some kind of code but not sure what you are expresssing here. Are these political concerns or a theological?

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Alarmism is contained in such phrases as “the looting of the planet” and assertions that “humans have lost their original humanity.” It could be that these words have a different context than what the reporter expressed. On their face however, they arouse emotion and don’t contain any clarifying idea, hence “alarmism.” That’s why we have to wait and see what is really meant by these terms.

  4. Well, Johannes is right. In the 20th century it was overpopulation was going to destroy the world. I believe that human beings make terrible choices but if human stupidy led to the destrucation of the world it would have happen a long time ago. I think the two world wars and the development of nuclear weapons have made politicans and church leaders take stands if we don’t do this, then the end of the world is going to happen. But even if we do stupid things, God has always stopped things from going so far. Take world War II and the fall of the Communists system. Also, take the Justinian Plague while much of tht plague probably was due to a virus that spread from Africa to Ireland and killed millions, God prevented it from destroying anyone in the Eastern Empire and early medieval Western Europe. There is a book in the subject call Justinian’s Flea that the plague was a factor in destroying the old Roman system and led to the development of the medieval system and then the development of our world which is both good and bad.

  5. Even the most basic of common sense is missing from these proclamations. For exampled claiming there is such a thing as “the looting of the planet” is completely nonsensical. There is exactly the same amount of matter (give or take a few asteroids) now on earth as has existed for billions of years. Matter changes to energy and vice-versa. There has been no “looting” of anything just energy transfer from one state to another.

    This point is even more clear when it comes to water. We have the EXACT same amount of water on the earth since the moment of its creation. There is no such thing as humans “wasting” or “using up” water, or the idiotic claims that human usage of water is at “unsustainable” levels. This is pure nonsense and radical environmentalist being repackaged as “worldly wisdom.”

  6. I guess the issue with water is drinkable water and accessibility. So in the case where it is wasted or polluted and then is not available to others can’t we say it is looted?

  7. To speak of ‘the environment’ is anthropologically and Christological incorrect. It is at once arrogating humanity to the measure of all things, denigrating our true role as microcosom by the Grace of the Holy Spirit and denying the Incarnation.

    Dn Charles, the Gospel, not draconian, tyrannical laws and neo-pagan idol worship is the antidote to any and all misuse of the bounty God has given us. The use of such emotional statements as “looting the planet” in a political milleu is merely demogogery and prevents (as the speakers desire) any meaningful discussion. Many modern ‘environmentalists’ would recoil in horror at the use of sober Christian language to address the same problems, particularly if it was ever indicated that they have the same sins. The philosophy behind such statements is materialistic humanism. Please don’t buy into their garbage on the basis of sentimentalism.

    Holy Tradition from Genesis onward is full of a genuine and profound understanding of our inter-relationship with God and the rest of creation. Pat. Bartholomew is being Esau in this case. You can bet your booties that if he were preaching the Christian truth the ‘environmentalists’ would have NOTHING to do with him.

  8. Dn Charles (#7): On the question of water “access,” you might be interested in “Is Water a Human Right?” a thought provoking article from New Atlantis.


    Both Thirst and Flow call attention to some of the environmental problems connected to water resources in different locations around the world. Both documentaries treat these subjects superficially and with an alarmist tone, ignoring or dismissing on ideological grounds policies that would lead to better management and more sustainable use of water.

    Thirst explicitly rejects the proposition that privately-managed water supply is efficient and promotes conservation. The book tied to the movie claims that “profit-making enterprises want you to use more water, not less, in order to maximize profit for their shareholders.” In a policy vacuum, that statement might seem sensible: it is true, after all, that companies generally seek to maximize their profits, and selling more of something will bring in more revenue. But we are not in a policy vacuum; we are in a system in which the supply of water is dominated by government-run or government-subsidized entities that charge below-market prices. Water users—whether households, farms, or industries—tend to use it less efficiently than they would if they paid its true cost. If we switched to a system in which water and sewerage were supplied by companies charging competitive market prices, users would likely reduce their consumption. The dynamic pricing of water also encourages the adoption of conservation technologies, like household meters, which allow people to better understand the relationship of their water usage to the wider question of water scarcity.

  9. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note 7. Dn. Charles writes:

    I guess the issue with water is drinkable water and accessibility. So in the case where it is wasted or polluted and then is not available to others can’t we say it is looted?

    Sure, but you can say a hundred other things about drinkable water and accessibility as well. Words have meaning, and when used promiscuously (and “looted” in this context is used that way), they function not to clarify ideas but to show allegiance to political and cultural trends (see: Orwell, Politics and the English Language).

    Of course, we don’t know the context of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s words. All we have is the reporter’s interpretation of them. Looking at the statement of the Rev. Canon Sally Bingham of the Episcopal Church (Fuels from Hell) who presumably is a spokesperson for the Mississippi River Symposium however, the Ecumenical Patriarch has to think long and hard about how his words will be perceived. There is a danger he will be seen as the “Spiritual Leader of the Environmental Left” instead of the “Spiritual Leader of Orthodox Christianity” (which he rightfully is) if Rev. Sally’s ideas dominate the Symposium.

  10. Lest there be any doubt: Changing the economic system does NOTHING to change people’s sinful behavior especially when the change in system is to an oppressive, tyrannical and anti-human form that denys both man and God, e.g. Marxism. The flaws of capitalism are the flaws of human sin, not intrinsic to the ideas themselves. ‘Environmentalists’, marxists, statists, collectivists and utopians always deny the unique person and seek refuge in the undifferentiated whole, without God.

    Marxism or any type of worldly collectivism and Christianity have NOTHING IN COMMMON! One cannot be a marxist and a Christian. One cannot be pagan and a Christian. One cannot beleive that God is distant–leaving the world to us and be a Christian. One cannot be a utilitarian (the greatest good for the greatest number) and be a Christian. One cannot sacrifice people to the will of the state to ‘save the planet'(or any other reason) and be a Christian. One cannot put faith in any worldly philosophy above Jesus Christ and Him crucified and be a Christian.

    However, if these unGodly, even demonic/nihlist philosophies are not to win the day, we must take our calling to follow Jesus Christ far more seriously. We must hold ourselves and our leaders to a much more stict standard in thought, word and deed. We must not, through laziness, sentimentalism or any other reason give way to the way of the world. If we do, then repentance must follow. We must talk with our brothers and sisters with love and respect about these challenges while seeking always for the truth the Church embodies and not our own will.

  11. John,

    In the 1970’s there was a drought in northern California. The city of San Francisco put on a big conservation campaign. It was wildly successful over a two to three year run. It was so sucessful that the city’s water company went broke because so little water was being used. The campaign mostly consisted of fewer showers, fewer flushes and no lawn watering. I’m not sure what the commerical users did.

    We tend to think of our own use of water as being pretty inelastic, but it is not.

    • Michael: Reminds me of the days I sat through extremely boring city council hearings on water filtration systems and waste water treatment plants. Boring, but important. You can assert that we all have a right to clean drinking water, but that doesn’t answer the question of how we will pay for that. Again, we’ve become used to abundant, clean water as part and parcel of living in a prosperous, developed economy. But all of these systems must be paid for through taxation or user charges (your water bill … municipal water is metered usually). And of course the interest on bonds issued to pay for these utilities has to be paid for — often through taxation.

      • John, we do pay for it one way or another. Is it reasonable to expect to take a shower every day, to flush 30 to 40 gallons of potable water down the toilet per person every day and for homes to irrigate lawns that while pretty and really nice to walk on are not as imporatant as feeding people? I suppose Chris will think I am displaying ‘leftist’ thinking again, but there you go. I think it is entirely appropriate to ask questions about our use of natural resources to see if a different pattern of use would allow for more widespread use and benefit. Certainly, private industry should be as much a part of that as possible. However when a materialist industrial/capital model is applied to the land and other natural resources without suffiecent understanding of ways to renew, conserve and manage those resources, it gets ugly pretty quickly.

        The San Francisco success was entirely voluntary. After the first year or so, the sacrifice became a normal part of living and no big deal. When the crisis passed I’m sure the old consumption patterns returned. I tend to think real information dispursed widely and non-demogogically will tend to illicit a response that helps everyone. Government tinkering and outright control as is happening in California and Oregon right now, creates problems.

        Historically there are five things that have sustained civilizations and allowed them to grow: 1. A relatively homogenius faith; 2. Adequate water; 3. Good waste management; 4. Good food supply; 5. Good defense against outsiders.

        We no longer have #1 in the United States and unless the Muslims take over (which could happen demographically), not likely to have.

        Water is a particularly volatile issue and we ignore its use and availability at our peril. The alarmists however easily forget the real strides we have made in this country in cleaning up our water. Nevertheless new challenges will are present all the time. Inflexible, ideological decisions will only exacerbate problems.

  12. Chris, there is the draining of aquafers however such as the Oglala Aquafer that runs through western Kansas up into Nebraska and South Dakota (I think). It is being used for irrigation at a rate that far exceeds the rate at which it is being replenished. When it goes, the economy of western Kansas as it is currently founded will disappear, so will the towns and the people (that’s pretty much everything west of Wichita, KS). That’s a real problem that is being largely ignored. It would be better except that the city of Denver, through the state of Colorado, continues (despite court orders to the contrary) to illegally impound water from the Arkansas river so that Kansas doesn’t get what we should. That’s ‘only’ 500,000 to 750,000 people but a whole lot of wheat that feeds millions of people around the globe and here at home. Global warming might help aleviate that situation.

    Denver also contiues to try for most of the water in Colorado from time to time to be re-directed to it way from the rural areas of its own state.

    Of course there was the incredible proposal in the 1970’s for a coal slurry pipeline from Texas to Oregon that would have used vast amounts of potable water along the way.

    We are not real bright in our use of water. Your statement while it may be true is overly broad and does not really contribute to the discussion.

  13. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    #13. Maybe they could learn from Greece. Greece has very little rain and they irrigate using the drip method. America irrigates by splashing water all over the place, where much of it evaporates (25%?) or runs off. Greece has maintained acres of olive tree orchards this way through centuries. I hear (I’m no expert) Israel has developed some sustainable drip technology too.

    • You are right of course, better irrigation methods need to be tried as well as varieties of crops that use less water, but irrigating trees is different than irrigating grass crops such as wheat.

      My real point is that while we have a lot of water that doesn’t mean that it is all useable all the time. Water rights, or lack there off, get people killed.

    • Funny you should mention Israel. That nation’s usage of water has resulted in significant pollution of every river passing through that tiny country. Remember the bicycle racers who fell off a bridge there soem decades ago and inhaled polluted water, which led to their deaths?
      Not a very admirable example of stewardship of the land in Israel.

      A general point: I notice there is a marked resistance to the idea that we humans are altering the environment in deleterious ways. The topic seems to be connected to notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’. I cannot see what is ‘leftist’ about a CONSERVATIVE approach to natural resources. Why is the bugbear of ‘big government’ invoked at every mention that we people, as co-creators made in God’s image, have a BIG JOB to do here in this world, part of which is not turning it into a living hell. The fact that the poor are the ones who mostly live in this hell-on-earth of polluted, degraded landscapes, should not escape our notice. Is it the fact that class/income has some relation to this issue, and that the rich basically are protected by their wealth from some of the effects of a degraded environment?

      I think this all points to unacknowledged guilt. What Patr. Bartholomew seems to me to be saying is that we have a duty toward creation to fulfill, that we will not escape God’s judgment if we persist in a way of life which is suicidal for us as creatures dependent on the resources of our world.

      We were created to tend the garden that is this world, not to rape it. And to deny the rape which goes on these days is simply spiritual suicide.

      • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

        A general point: I notice there is a marked resistance to the idea that we humans are altering the environment in deleterious ways.

        Fr. John, could you point to some specifics?

  14. The answers here seem to indicate that this is more a political issue than a theological one. Am I reading this dialogue right?
    Its not an issue about caring for the environment, our water resources as an example, but how we go about doing this politically?

  15. Well, land control California and Oregon may have in common but they are pretty much different. Oregon demographics look like California in 1970. In fact, the land control laws have prevented Oregon which has a lot less immirgants that have low job skills and former education to still be behind California in income. As a mention before Portland Oregon is a big failure with a population which is mainly non-hispanic white and following behind cities such as Anaheim Ca. Anaheim has a lot of hispanic immirgants and some asians that are low in both job skills and education. And Portland Oregon doesn’t suffer from having low educational levels like white states such as Kentucky or West Virginia. Granted, non-hispanic white income is very high in California compared to Oregon but Ca has a lot more hispanics and some asian groups that on average have lower incomes than whites since they have less job skills and formal education.

  16. These snippets from the EP’s speech make no sense to me.

    To understand what the EP is talking about it would be helpful to see (1) the full text of his remarks and (2) a document from the Ecumenical Patriarchate stating what the teaching of the Orthodox Church concerning how we should relate to our physical environment.

    Does anyone have a link to the full text of his speech?

    Can someone link me to the official Orthodox teaching on what our relationship to the earth (animals, vegetables, and minerals) should be (environmental ethics, stewardship of creation, or whatever the OC calls it)?



  17. Fr. John, I for one, don’t have any resistence to the idea that we can and do degrade the rest of creation as we degrade ourselves with sin. That does not mean that I agree with specific solutions proposed by secular politicians, neo-pagan Gaia worshippers and nihilists. I am also quite disappointed that Pat. Batholomew seems to be in agreement with these folks in ways that compromise the Christian understanding of humanity and our inter-relationship with the Holy Trinity.

    Our individual and collective sins do degrade the rest of creation but it does not follow that we can solve the problems that sin creates by massive, wasteful, downright wrong-headed political policies that mostly involve beggaring the United States and other productive economies in the name of fairness and justice.

    Your implied understanding that somehow the ‘rich’ create the “degraded, polluted landscapes” in the ‘poor’ countries is farcical. It smacks of a kind of neo-mercantilism that is just wrong.

    Why are people poor? What is the best way to alleviate their poverty?

    By and large the poorest countries are the ones with tyrannical governements who rule from a tyrannical utopian ideological precept of some kind such as Islam or Communism.

    Like it or not, industrial capitalism coupled with representative government and fair trade has done more to alleviate poverty by creating wealth and opporutnity than all of the rest of the methods tried put together. It certainly has its problems that contribute to the destruction the creation that is under our authority, but the root of that is once again sin and the concomitant separation from God. BIG JOBS do not necessarily require BIG GOVERNMENT to solve them, in fact often such a solution is worse than the problem. Jesus did not come as a conquerer King in resplendent robes with an army of angels. He was born in cattle stall and went to the Cross.

    If the Patriarch would preach the Gospel instead of politics based on non-Christian and even anti-Christian philosophy, that would help!

    The message of Stewardship from Orthodox pulpits is limited to one thing–GIVE MONEY!!!. That’s not Biblical stewardship at all.

  18. This is true Micheal that certain religions or politcal movements lead to poverty. And look at Ireland which was the fastest growing ecnomony in Western Europe. This is proof that other Catholic Countries and Orthodox Countries can compete against Protestant Countries if they put their mind to it. The poverty of some Eastern European Countries or Latin American Countries or the Phillipines are not set in stone. Take Greece, still behind most of Western Europe but less poverty than nearby Turkey. Also, take the Czech Republic which has a mixture of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants it has the highest per capita income of Eastern Europe. And before the communists took over it was in the top 10 economies in the world. Michael Novak and Rodney Stark both discuss the merchant Roman Catholic states of Genoa, Venice, and state that they were the medieval models for the development of Captialism. Many Orthodox dislike Venice of course because of the fourth crusade. But wealth development prior to the Protestant Reformation.

  19. George Michalopulos :

    Fr John, I agree with you in your overall critique that we are called to be stewards as opposed to dominionists. However, I feel that I must humbly disagree on certain key areas:

    1) although water pollution has increased in Israel, its usage is manifestly superior to that of its neighbors, at least in the application of irrigation. The “green line” that divides Palestine between Israel and the West Bank was not a metaphor, but actual topography. This includes forest reclaimation.

    Palestine and the Balkans in general became deforested because of almost a 1000 years of Seljuk/Ottoman Turkish rule. In order to tax landholders, the Turks used trees as markers and taxed trees as well. In such a situation, the only rational thing to do was cut down the trees. This unfortunately exacerbated erosion and caused desertification.

    2) The reluctance of +Bartholomew to address the problem of individual sin (homosexuality, fornication, abortion) however is of more grievous concern. People can always reclaim land and reverse ecological disasters, but the inability of individual men and women to recognize their sinful natures will lead to greater ecological disasters down the road.

    If I may be so bold to offer an example: the massive use of hormones by women and adolescent girls (such as oral contraceptives) has resulted in the flushing of millions of gallons of these hormons into the seas and rivers which in turn has caused mutations in several different species of fish. As fish are at the bottom of the food chain, this cannot ultimately be good for man himself. I believe that the majority of the earth’s population rely on fish for their protein.

    You most certainly have a point when you indicate that it seems that this divide which exists in regards to environmentalism and the EP’s espousal of it is political. Speaking for myself, there is a distaste for some of the venues that he is going to speak at. Speaking as a Rightist myself (conservative with heavy libertarian leanings), I choose not to characterize this divide as political however. Rather I feel that those of us who have committed ourselves to traditional Christianity tend to take a more conservative approach to the human condition as well. What Thomas Sowell calls the “constrained vision.” They tend to feed each other. For example, I believe that the Church should engage society and alleviate its ills to the extent that such ills can be alleviated. I consider it a near-blasphemy for the State to take on the role of the Church (which it has in America since the time of Lincoln, who created the first land-grant universities). How would the State like it if the Church operated a police force or an army for that matter? It is not the province of the Church to regular water supplies, provide electricity, or build roads.

    Anyway, I’ve said enough. Please forgive me for any offense.

  20. I agree with George it doesn’t have to be a right versus left issue. Some traditional religious are going to be conservative whether culturely or politcally. George isn’t reactionary like a few Orthodox are who want to recreate Byzantium or the Russian Empire.
    In the United States where Protestants are the biggest group and Catholics the second largest group, conservativism is rather strange. Take Mike Huckabee for President, Mike likes a very contempoary religious service. In fact, the cultural Conservatives in the United States mainly the Evangelicals like modern music and modern worship service. There are more fundmentalist Evangelicals that like 1950’s to 18Th Century Hymns and deplore the rock music. Mainly of the Protestants leaving the modern worship services that go either to the Roman Catholics or Orthodox see a contradiction in being very conservative but being non-traditonal in their religous services.
    On other hand, the high church Protestants that like a more traditional religous service are very liberal on social and poltical issues. However, there are many in those Churches that disagree with their leadership. Also, the Orthodox and Roman Catholics have a lot of liberals more politcally than on culture issues. Probably, the Roman Catholics have more pro-choice among their members than the Orthodox.

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