It seems silly now, but when I moved to Louisiana from the northwest, I screamed at every single bug that crossed my path. Mostly because I had never seen them, nor knew what could be good in their presence in my house. I credit my uncle for teaching me that not all bugs need to be screamed at. There is beauty in who they are and what they do for us. While I will not become a phlebotomist, my sense of wonder restrained my fear enough to investigate my surroundings.
And I became grateful for life and the ability to see, and my husband’s creativity in finding them a new home. The experience helped lead me into a study of creation care, environmentalism and sustainability.
I think one way to understand environmentalism and creation care is to examine our view of nature and what that means.
According to the sage, Ramban,
nature is nothing more than a miracle to which we are accustomed because it happens regularly
Genesis 1:28 says:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.
This deliberate placement here on earth brings much responsibility. For each other and for nature. Because nature is created for us, not by mother earth or Gaia, but God, who commands us to care for it wisely. And not to worship it.
I agree with Rabbi Becher when he says…
So, the human being has been giving stewardship over the world, to utilize it appropriately and not to destroy it. We may agree with environmentalists in actions and methods, but for very different reasons. We are mandated by the Creator to preserve nature, not as an end in and of itself, but as the means to achieve human perfection.
“Achieving human perfection” is simply about doing our best here on earth with what we have been given. And that means caring for the earth as if it were our own – because it is. Nature is a gift. Not to be worshipped, but as confirmation that we are connected to God himself. A reminder to be grateful and in awe – to remain in wonder. I like the way anthropologist Dr. Mary Catherine Bateson describes this place:
Wonder can take you into science. It can take you into art. Other human beings are amazing and beautiful. The natural world around us; the more we study it, the more fascinating and intricate and elegant it turns out to be.
Wonder can take us into worship. Worship of the Creator, not the creation. It’s a wonderful place to be.