“And God blessed them, and 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.” (Gen. 1:28)
For me, the above Bible passage is difficult to understand, in view of what has happened on planet earth since God gave the above directives. Mankind appears to have, over the ages, interpreted such words as “subdue” and “dominion” to mean that the earth and all that is on it exists for humans and that humans can do whatever they want with all of it. I recall a conversation last summer with a Christian man who lives on the bank of the Spokane River. He said, “You see that river out there? That exists for me, to enjoy, to do with it what I want to.” (He is also a confirmed hunter, who has plenty of money and seems to just like to kill innocent wildlife, which he feels is his right also.)
Well, what a horrendous, cosmic mess we have now! Humans have exploited, trashed, raped, and destroyed until, due to global warming, we are in danger of losing planet earth as a habitable place for ourselves as well as for all other species! We have been fruitful and multiplied until humans are running other species right off the globe! Especially in developed countries such as the United States, humans are so obsessed with having more and more of everything that trash is an unbelievable problem, and many people are actually addicted to shopping for many items they don’t even need.
I resolve the enigma of why God gave such responsibility to an obviously irresponsible species (us) by believing that God meant us to be stewards of the earth and its inhabitants, and to develop, thereby, as conscientious citizens of His Kingdom on earth. Stewards are not owners. Stewards take care of the property for the owner, in this case God. I take this viewpoint because God is reportedly a just, loving, merciful God, who cares deeply about the well-being of all His creation, not just people. It is incompatible with the character of a totally loving God to have mandated an uncontrolled free-for-all against the wonder of His creation.
I propose that we adopt an attitude, a certain identity. We need to walk around, throughout our days, with the idea “percolating” inside, that we are stewards and friends of the earth. Our friendship with creation is an intrinsic, core part of who we are. We deeply respect nature, as did the American Indians, and do all we can to fit our lives into all of nature, harming as little as possible, and helping wherever we can. We are not separate, or above, the rest of nature. We are part of nature, of the same “stuff,” and connected to all around us. The spiritually healthiest seem very connected to the natural world, and often use it as a refuge. Remember how Jesus would go into the wilderness for long periods of time, to commune with the Father? John the Baptist was from the wilderness. We are here to help bring God’s Kingdom to the earth. “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Therefore, with our friend/steward identity always in the background of our consciousness, we need to arrange our lives accordingly. When Jesus was alive on earth, the massive environmental problems we face now did not exist. But, given his instructions as to what kind of persons we are to be, we can certainly reason out what to do now, given our present circumstances. Basically, we need to love, respect, and cherish the planet He created for us to live on, and to aid in its betterment, as well as the betterment of all creatures.
True friends take action, pronto! There are many, many specific suggestions circulating “out there” now, as to how we can be helping factors.
1. Recycle everything recyclable.
2. Bring used grocery bags from home instead of taking new ones at the check-out counter. (I’m still working on trying to remember this one!)
3. Take vacations closer to home that are environmentally-friendly.
4. Use mass transportation when possible, or carpool, and combine trips.
5. Turn your thermostat a little bit up in hot weather, and a little bit down in cold weather.
6. When you go for coffee somewhere, take your own cup from home so you don’t have to waste styrofoam or paper cups. I know a lady whose daughter made her a round, fabric cup holder that hangs from her wrist just for the purpose of carrying ceramic mugs when she is out.
7. Don’t buy things you don’t really need. Everything takes polluting energy to produce, and everything ends up as trash eventually.
8. Instead of buying new, buy something used if possible, and make sure your useable discards become available to someone else to finish wearing out. Use things until really worn out.
9. When you need a different vehicle, buy a more energy-efficient one.
10. Don’t mow your lawn very often. Mowers send a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere.
11. Don’t use spray on trees or lawn if you can possibly avoid it.
12. Buy local produce and prepare it for eating at home. Avoid foods, or other articles with a lot of packaging. Don’t buy junk food. Don’t support unnecessary, harmful food industries.
13. Try to get rid of junk mail as much as possible – ask to be taken off mailing lists.
14. If possible, plant gardens, and have foliage on your property, to help clean the air and to provide havens for wildlife.
15. Protect your own dirt from pollution. I’m very protective of my three acres of dirt, myself, and don’t like anyone taking any of it off. I like to keep it clean and trash-free. We roto-till all kitchen, yard, and animal wastes in, to naturally decompose, but not very often, so as not to disturb the soil organisms and earthworms anymore than necessary.
16. Don’t redecorate until really necessary. I don’t know that a “pristine” house has that much of a relationship with happiness, anyway. Count the cost - not only in $ but to the environment.
17. Support ecologically-friendly agriculture. For example, I like to buy organic, decaffeinated, fair-trade coffee, where the farmer gets a fair price for his work, and where the land benefits.
18. Try to stay healthy to avoid taking prescription medications. All those chemical concoctions end up in sewage sooner or later, and go out into the environment in massive amounts, polluting the land and the waterways.
19. Try to purchase items that are well-constructed, and designed to hold up over time, rather than throw-away items.
20. Take care of your trees and other foliage. They are so precious! They help us and the animals so much! Living green plants clean CO2 and other pollution out of the air.
21. Live in a dwelling that is no larger than you really need. Large buildings, of course, use up greatly more building materials and take greatly more energy to live in for their whole usable lifetimes.
22. Don’t engage in environmentally very harmful hobbies or thrill-seeking, such as snowmobiles, jet skis, all terrain vehicles, and motorcycles. Keep motors away from nature and wildlife.
Well, the items in the above list are some examples. Actually, there are so many, many ways we can operate to be really good citizens and friends of our environment. A lot of them don’t take much money or any extra time, they just take a little thought, a little habit-changing, and a certain attitude which considers the consequences of our actions, for better or worse. The environmental crisis is now very critical.
Governments, industries, and individuals ALL need to do their part to help restore our planet and atmosphere to healthy, sustainable states, if it is still possible. Knowing about the dire situation is not pleasant for any of us, but we need to be well informed so we know what to do.
Now is not the time to live with our heads in the sands, playing ostriches! When we really take care of the earth, we show God that we appreciate what he has done for us by placing us upon a beautiful, livable planet.
Dr. Joyce at email@example.com