Guest Opinion: An Earth Day message
Today we will welcome Earth Day, a time to review our biblical obligation to care for the earth and its natural resources. Beginning with verse 26 in Genesis, humans are placed upon the earth, told to be fruitful and multiply, and to replenish th...
Today we will welcome Earth Day, a time to review our biblical obligation to care for the earth and its natural resources.
Beginning with verse 26 in Genesis, humans are placed upon the earth, told to be fruitful and multiply, and to replenish the earth. Humans receive dominion over the fish of the sea, and presumably the sea in which the fish live; over the fowl of the air and the atmosphere in which the fowl live; and over every living thing that moves upon the earth which humans must replenish.
Humans are provided with the means to carry out this obligation. Our bodies, while not the strongest of all God's creatures, are by far the most flexible, and our brains are without peer. But in eastern coal mines, we blast Appalachian mountaintops off into valleys, blocking miles of streams.
In the Midwest, we plow up dry area grasslands to grow crops by taking too much water from underground aquifers. In the arid West, we dam rivers so that people and crops can live in deserts. The land becomes more saline, and the rivers no longer reach the sea.
Before the Europeans, Minnesota was a natural resource treasure, with forests of virgin white pine, and large deposits of rich iron ore. Our fertile glacial soils were nourished by the ample waters of our lakes, streams, and aquifers.
Then our forests were clear cut, their lumber exported to the world. Most of the iron ore has gone everywhere, leaving behind those empty pits. We need to protect our remaining soil and the waters which nourish it.
All over the earth, abuse of nature continues. A billion people in less developed nations are hungry, while the wealthier make a place at the food table for a billion cars and trucks by converting food to fuel. Producing that food requires extensive use of fertilizers and pesticides, sending chemicals into groundwater and rivers, and nourishing algae laden dead zones in rivers and seas.
The consequence for these acts will not be sudden, as in the great flood of Bible history. Instead, rivers will gradually silt up the dams, overtop and remove them, resuming their destined routes to the sea. Soils and groundwater, impacted by industrial single cropping, will no longer nourish our billions. A warming atmosphere, polluted by overuse of carbon fuels, will wreak its own havoc.
There is still time-but not much time-to take seriously the responsibility for the earth that comes with our dominion.
Rolf Westgard, St. Paul, is a professional member, Geological Society of America. He is guest faculty on energy subjects for the University of Minnesota Lifelong Learning program.