Saturday, August 22, 2015

Humans as "Super-Predators"? There's a Commandment for that!

A couple of University of Victoria researchers are about to publish a study on humans as "super-predators".  It's an extension of something people have talked about for a long time: over-fishing, over-hunting and over-using our resources in all ways.

The study acknowledges that, on the one hand, hunting at a rate greater than that of lower animals -- who tend only to take only what they need for themselves or their immediate group -- is necessary, because not everybody hunts or fishes. But we tend to over-do it, and that's led to extinctions and threatening of species, not to mention deforestation and its effects, for the sake of creating more pasture land for livestock. Throw climate change into the mix, and it's a recipe for catastrophe.

Just in case we didn't have anything more to worry about.

In my book, A Very Convenient Truth, or, Jesus Warned Us There'd Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About the Planet and Get With His Program!, I point out that humans were actually placed on earth to "have dominion ... replenish the earth and subdue it." Over-use of any resource, including the animals who were given to us for food, leads to environmental trauma.

What's interesting, though, is that the authors of the study refer to human behaviour as "unnatural", as if humans are supposed to be just like animals. But we're not: we're different: in fact, Scripture tells us, we are created on a higher level so that we can care for and nurture creation, and enjoy it at the same time.

(Indeed, I'd suggest that the way any animal or human behaves is not natural but creational: according to the way God made us all; but that's for another time.)

But because we tend to over-do things and respond to animal instincts, God gave us His Commandments to point us in the right direction. You'll find those instructions throughout the Old Testament (particularly in Leviticus), including the proper use of land and the way to kill for food. Those instructions usually require faith -- the knowledge that God will reward our obedience by providing for us what we need*. Stepping away from that obedience leaves us without His protection, and while we might get a short-term fix for our needs, we lose out in the long run. Indeed, we see the results every day, as the UVic researchers have pointed out.

The authors of the study suggest that humans could learn a lot from lower animals when it comes to killing animals for food, but we have to remember that a lot of people who eat meat are not the ones who kill it. So where's the happy medium between necessity and overkill?

The Word of God, as I say, provides the instructions we need. Remember that the Word was given to us long before there was any idea that over-fishing or over-hunting would ever be an issue. Yet God saw it coming, and gave us His Commandments to save us from that.

But while the answer to this super-predator situation implied by the UVic researchers appears to involve nothing more drastic than a complete re-set of the thinking and behaviour of our entire species, the beauty of our relationship with God is that He has provided us with an "out" -- one that does not rely on someone else taking the lead. In Christ, each of us, individually, can repent for the sin of failing to follow those Commandments, turn back to Him and re-start with a clean slate. Indeed (and here's the basis for my book), He promised long before Jesus came that if people repent and turn back to Him, "I will heal the land".

*I should point out that what God knows that we need is significantly different from what we think we need: it's usually more, so that when our "cup runneth over", it spilleth onto others. "Blessed to be a blessing," and all that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"Just too big for humanity?" You better believe it!

“It’s easy to be cynical, and to say climate change is a kind of challenge just too big for humanity to solve. I’m absolutely convinced that’s wrong.”
-- US President Barack Obama

I don't know about you, but I've never really thought that the cynics' response to climate change was to say it was "too big" to handle. As I've seen it, cynics question whether climate change is actually happening, or that if it is, it's caused by human beings. But as he rolled out his climate change action plan, the President made his dramatic statement. It's a dynamic statement, to be sure, ranking with Franklin Roosevelt's "the one thing we have to fear is fear itself". But while FDR's aphorism still rings true today, to say that climate change is too big for humanity to solve is not only un-cynical, it's Biblical.

As I point out in my book, A Very Convenient Truth, or, Jesus Told Us There'd Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About the Planet and Get With His Program!, we're seeing events today that were foretold 2,000 years ago and more. Some of them could be attributed to climate change and some not. The whole end-times plan of God is to bring change of all sorts, so it's worthwhile to hit "pause" and see if we really want to be fighting these changes, or whether that will put us on the wrong side of God.

There's no question we've been messing up the planet, big-time. Regardless of what the climate-change deniers say, we've been placed in Creation to be its lords; to care for it, nurture it, and "replenish the earth and subdue it." The environmental troubles we're experiencing now come from our using the earth beyond our ability to replenish it.

The trouble is, we've been doing that to God's Creation for thousands upon thousands of years, and the President's plan presumes to un-do that in 15 years I'm afraid it's true: this is beyond humanity's ability to solve -- on our own. We need to turn to God for help, wisdom -- and a whole lot more. 

In reading through the President's speech and the accompanying background material from the White House Press Office, I see claims about numbers of lives saved, jobs created, money not spent on health care, but those are all debatable. What's more, the alternative energy it proposes is natural gas: have a look at the two excellent HBO documentaries, "Gasland" and "Gasland 2", and decide whether that's an appropriate alternative.

Even more unsettling is that Press Office Backgrounder includes a number of "Progress" reports, but all of these are reports on laws passed and regulations instituted over the years. To my mind, that's policy, not progress; "progress" should mean tangible benefits, results from the efforts taken to date -- particularly since the first Earth Day in 1970 -- that indicate that those efforts are bearing fruit. 

Two more things to keep in mind here. One is that, while FDR said, "the one thing we have to fear is fear itself", climate change policy is about nothing but fear: fear of rising ocean levels; fear of drought; fear of violent storms; fear about possible extinction of species. Fear is not of God; a policy based in fear is not going to have God's blessing.

That's why, when Jesus tells about these very events and even says "these are the beginning of sorrows", He quickly adds that, "he who endures to the end shall be saved." (Matthew 10:22) That's why Psalm 91 says, "only with your eyes will you look and see the reward of the wicked" (Psalm 91:8). We're warned about these things not so that we'll be terrified and try to fight the events -- we're warned so that we'll be prepared and know that God is at work and so long as we stay close to Him, we'll know what to do about it. 

Yes, climate change is cause for concern: it is a wakeup call for us to clean up our environmental act, but not out of some desire to halt or reverse that process, but out of obedience to and love for God. He gave us this wonderful Creation and He gave us an assignment to be its caretakers. He also gave us specific instructions on how to take care of it -- we are not left to figure things out for ourselves.

But more than that, climate change is one of many signs that God is on the move and we need to turn to Him, read His Word and find out what we are to do about it. That's something anyone can do, without pointing fingers, judging your neighbor, waiting for governments and corporations to come onside or (you gotta love this one) spending a whole lot of money.

The Word of God is anything but Doomspeak. It's all about hope and definite promises. Take note, for example, of the number of times the word "shall" appears in connection with the results of our following God's will. But (and here I go again with this one!) what could be more compelling than the promise the Lord gives King Solomon in 2 Chronicles:

If I shut up Heaven that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the earth, or if I send pestilence among My people; if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal their land. (2 Chron. 7:13-14)

A better climate change policy would be very hard to find.