“The natural world is a gift from God, but we are also called to join with God in sustaining and caring for it.” John Sentamu, The Archbishop of York.

Today is Earth Day so I thought I’d post this video to mark the occasion.  It’s a Veritas lecture given by Ecology Professor Kyle Van Houtan entitled: Is God Green? – Jesus, the Church, and Caring for the Earth.

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The other day I read an article from rejectapathy.com that asks: Does the Church need to become more unified in the fight against climate change?  They answer yes and you can read the full piece here.  I was particularly struck by a biblical analogy to our current inaction in responding to climate change and the prevailing attitude that says or implies we don’t need to worry because “at least it won’t happen in my lifetime”.  The analogy is with Hezekiah’s reaction to being told that his children would be taken into exile:

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD: A time is coming when everything in your palace which your ancestors have stored up to this day will be carried off to Babylon; nothing will remain behind, said the LORD. And some of your sons, your own issue, whom you will have fathered, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the King of Babylon.”  Hezekiah declared to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.”  For he thought, “It means that safety is assured for my time.”  2 Kings 20: 16-19 (JPS)

This post is motivated, in part, by a short interview with Eugene Peterson and Peter Harris (co-founder of A Rocha) in Christianity Today, where they discuss “creation care”.  The full interview can be read here.  At one point Peter Harris draws attention to the prophecy in Hosea 4, in particular verse 3:

“Therefore the land will mourn,

and all its inhabitants will perish.

The wild animals, the birds of the sky,

and even the fish in the sea will perish.” (NET Bible)

Here’s what Peter Harris says:

“That’s a prophecy three millennia before we have the words for a marine crisis. Who would have thought that the fish of the sea would die? Until modern times, the fish of the sea seemed like an inexhaustible resource.”

I’d like to back that up with some of the most recent scientific reporting on extinctions.  Firstly mass extinctions can be characterized as times when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short interval.  Palaeontologists have classified 5 of these mass extinctions over the past ~540 million year.  However, data on current extinction rates suggests that the world is being propelled into a sixth mass extinction [1].

In regards to the the fish in the sea … the International Programme on the State of the Ocean is just releasing a report [2] (also BBC article here) which warns in no uncertain terms that if our current trajectory of damage continues “the world’s ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.


References:

[1] Anthony D. Barnosky, Nicholas Matzke, Susumu Tomiya, Guinevere O. U. Wogan, Brian Swartz, Tiago B. Quental, Charles Marshall, Jenny L. McGuire, Emily L. Lindsey, Kaitlin C. Maguire, et al. Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature, 471, 51-57 (2 March 2011) DOI: 10.1038/nature09678

[2] Rogers, A.D. & Laffoley, D.d’A. 2011. International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts. Summary report. IPSO Oxford, 18 pp.