Sunday, July 01, 2007

Genesis 9:1-3

1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.

3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

Well, of course it is true. Thanks to our creative intellect and our astonishing, manipulative hands, we do have dominion over all the earth's creatures, we do exploit them all as we wish, and we sure as hell have increased in number and filled the earth.

Only now we're starting to worry that maybe this isn't such a great idea after all, as humans are causing the greatest mass extinction since that asteroid 63 million years ago. Whether or not you give a damn about Amazonian tree frogs and Eastern Cottontails, our rapaciousness is now threatening to backfire on us. The depletion of top soil world wide, and of seafood, along with the pressure to substitute bio-fuels for fossil fuels, is bringing and end to the era of cheap food, and threatening an ever increasing proportion of humanity with chronic hunger and even starvation.

The strain in Judeo-Christian tradition of seeing humanity as master of the biosphere, and also somehow apart from it, is in stark contrast to other religious traditions in which nature and non-human creatures are objects of reverence. Many people nowadays will see this Biblical passage as among the most egregious. I certainly do.