Stewardship of the earth

Tyger, Tyger

By William Blake

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night;

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

You get the idea from the poem that Blake valued the fearsome tiger, and that somehow that “monster of God” said something important about its Creator.

There is a widespread idea that environmentalism, concern for Earth, is anti-religious. Really? Religious people have every reason, backed up by their holy texts, to value and protect the Creation.

Since we live in a culture that is dominated by Judeo-Christian traditions, that’s all I’ll speak to. People from other traditions can make their own arguments. People with no particular religious feelings can do the same.

It is a religious obligation to take care of the people of Earth. How we treat Creation will dictate the quality of life for countless human beings, now and in the future. So, the first reason for environmental concern is simple enlightened self-interest.

Science provides the raw material for decisions. Data, logic, and the process of science are without politics, and cannot say, “Well, you should do this,” or “This practice is bad.” But science CAN say, “If humans do this, then here is what the probable result will be… (followed by a description). Do you want that result?”

Science cannot tell us what we should do, or not do.

We should listen, in order to make good decisions. If the facts show us that something is harming Earth, and the consequences will harm people, then it is a moral obligation to see if we can stop that self-harm.

But that is a pretty selfish, bloodless reason to care about the Creator’s Earth. There are other, explicitly religious, reasons. In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis 1, it reads, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

That does not seem to mean that all that surrounds us is just raw material for humans, with their only value being what we can get from them.

God made the ferocious tiger for God’s own reasons, and the tiger was “good” just by being. Earth has existed for hundreds of millions of years, populated by creatures we will never see, and it was “good” throughout, all the way up to the time we came on the scene.

To treat that “good” Creation with casual thoughtlessness or contempt doesn’t seem like the correct response.

Genesis 2 reads, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” “Stewardship” is the word that people use to describe that role. It is a command to love the Creation.

And by that I don’t mean to get all gushy and emotional about it (though that’s okay). To love something is to wish that thing to prosper, and to work for its well-being, and preserve it. It is not love to knowingly force the extinction of other species, or to corrupt the air, soil and waters of Earth.

The idea of Earth as a garden is right there at the beginning of The Book. We are all gardeners. That fits very well with many people’s religious beliefs.

I don’t speak for God on particular issues, because that would be irreverent and presumptuous, and I could be wrong. But it is very wrong to pretend that God doesn’t care about how we treat Earth. God obviously loves Earth and ALL its inhabitants.