April 16, 2019

Earth Day 2019 Reflection: "The Earth is God's"

Earth Day 2019 falls on Easter Monday when Christians across the planet are celebrating the mystery of redemption brought about by the crucified and resurrected Christ. On this 49th Earth Day, the human community is being urged to “protect our species.” My initial response to this Earth Day theme was to wonder why the focus was on “our” species, on homo sapiens, the one surviving species of the genus homo. It may well be worth focussing on ourselves and our propensity for self-destruction, but should we not rather be focussing on the other-than-human Earth community and on what “our species” has done to the rest of earth’s creatures? This was my question. My musings as well as my question were, of course, based on a false premise.

Another question arises for me: Why speak of the other-than-human as “our species”? It might be argued that the close relationship of humans with all the creatures of the earth legitimates the possessive pronoun “our”. All Earth beings are indeed “our” relatives and those from whom humans evolved are our closest relatives. That said, the undeniable interrelationship of humans with other creatures of the earth does not validate any sense of human ownership or proprietorship over the other-than-human. When we use the possessive pronoun of “our” domestic animals, we must never forget that they are only ours in the sense that we have a close relationship with them. They are never truly ours. In this context, we simply cannot use the possessive pronoun “our” in any proprietorial sense. Rather, we are invited to stand in awe at the integrity and the wonderful diversity of all plant and animal life and to eschew anything that would diminish that integrity or diversity.

We are invited to be co-custodians of Earth’s bounty and of Earth’s diverse inhabitants. In other words, we are invited to recognise that the Earth cares for us and that we must care for the Earth and for all its inhabitants. We are also called to acknowledge that “our species”, homo sapiens, is largely responsible for the current rapid rate of other-than-human species decline and even extinction. Acknowledging collective and personal culpability might be a first step towards changing our behaviour and working intentionally to arrest Earth’s degradation...

Read the complete article (A4) Read the complete article (US Letter)

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