Recently, scientists have discovered underwater creatures which no one knew existed. Explorers have discovered caves with majestic creations of gypsum crystals at least two storeys high—these are not man-made phenomena. For those of us who believe in the God of all creation, these are discoveries which remind us that the more we learn about the earth, the more there is to discover.
We also now know that the planet is suffering because humanity has seen the planet—its land, water, vegetation, and creature kingdom—as an inexhaustible source of usable resources. We have the potential to conserve God’s creation as the earth adapts to the increasing human population, but we do not always have the breadth of vision to see how one action can generate unexpected reactions. In 1962, an American zoologist, Rachel Carson, published a book, Silent Spring. This past year, two articles by John Gibb in the Hamilton Spectator commemorated the publication of that book and the ground-breaking work of Rachel Carson. She presented case after case illustrating how chemicals were causing chain reactions of damage to vegetation and wildlife. Her book caused an uproar.
She was vilified by the chemical companies who painted a disastrous picture of crops overrun by insects and disease, resulting in food shortages. Further studies revealed that Rachel Carson was right. Al Gore and David Suzuki, crusaders for environmental action, credit Carson’s book as beginning the modern environmental movement.
Sixty years later, we are dealing with serious global environmental issues, and yet some people resist the need for changes. As usual the issues are portrayed as the environment versus the economy, but somewhere underneath all the data and rhetoric is the question of justice. For generations, humanity has plundered the earth for its wealth of resources and for the insatiable desire for human comfort. No thought was given to moderation or conservation. Perhaps even worse was the notion that the earth could absorb all our human garbage without choking on the refuse.
We are learning that the earth is a living organism and is fighting back. Rivers overflow into disastrous floods. Fires consume forests that allow the earth to breathe. Polar ice caps melt into the sea as the seas rise.
In biblical times, people lived with the rhythm of the natural world in God’s control—a good crop was God’s blessing, a natural disaster was God’s wrath. Some people still talk in those terms today, but as humanity began to influence the rhythm of earthly existence, God’s role was ignored or dismissed. When there was an unexplainable disaster, the people wondered again if dominion over the earth was really humanity’s prerogative.
Before she wrote Silent Spring, Rachel Carson wrote three inspiring books about the sea. She loved the mystery of the sea and all its interesting creatures, but she also warned about the changes taking place in the waters around us. In 1963 she wrote about a changing climate in an age of rising seas. She intended to write more about what she could foresee, but died in 1964.
Recently the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean, made an urgent plea to all nations at the climate conference. “Climate change is drowning the Pacific Islands. The world’s addiction to oil, gas, and coal threatens to swallow our lands under the warming seas inch by inch… The time has come to make peace with the planet.”
We can no longer ignore that we are part of the created order of life. Recent natural disasters remind us that we are not masters of Planet Earth. The earth is a living organism, God’s living creation, a gift to be treasured and protected. To renew our relationship with God’s creation is to renew our relationship with all God’s people so that we can live in harmony with the earth we call home.