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Genesis, Mother Nature and Environmental Stewardship
by Robert Koehler
OK, mankind, it's time to grow up, and I see a good way to start: Change the wording of Genesis 1:26.
Change one word.
Last week, I quoted that Bible verse in a column about the increasing velocity of climate change: "And God said . . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air," etc. Dominion! Nature belongs to us, to suck dry and toss away. And thus we moved out of the circle of life and became its conquerors, an attitude at the core of the Agricultural Revolution and the rise of civilization. The momentum of this attitude is still driving us. We don't know how to stop, even though most people now grasp that we're wrecking the environmental commons that sustains life.
Addressing the verse and the idea of "dominion,"
If in one of the most defining religious-political texts of the human species we'd been charged with stewardship of the natural world, not some sort of adolescent, consequence-free control over it, what sort of spiritual understanding would have evolved over the millennia? What sort of technology? What would our civilizations look like if we believed in the depths of our beings that they were not distinct from but part of nature? What if, instead of organizing ourselves around the concept that we have enemies to subdue -- "survival of the fittest" -- we explored the complexity of our connectedness to one another and the whole of creation, even when the connections were barely visible?
What I am coming to learn, as I ask such questions, is that this understanding is already vibrantly present in the collective human consciousness, drowned out as it may be by the special interests that run our world. These interests, which serve war and money, have belittled complex understanding as "paganism" and colonized, enslaved and slaughtered its primary keepers: the tribal and indigenous people of the world.
Listen to the words of
". . . (Children) had to learn to see themselves not as separate, individual beings but as active participants in webs of complex interdependencies with the animals, the plants, the earth and the waters."
Indeed, Ross and many others have pointed out that indigenous science has always known what Western science has only recently relearned: that the universe is energy and dynamic flux, that there's no such thing as objectivity and separation.
"Like Western science, indigenous science relies upon direct observation for forecasting and generating predictions," according to the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network. ". . . Unlike Western science, the data from indigenous science are not used to control the forces of nature; instead, tell us the ways and the means of accommodating nature."
Among other critical distinctions, according to the website: "All of nature is considered to be intelligent and alive, thus an active research partner."
I note these ideas not to throw rocks around in some "debate" about who's right, but to open up the national and global conversation about who we are. We can let these ideas sit in our imaginations. What might stewardship of nature mean if we regarded the relationship as a partnership? What might a celebration of
"We need to re-myth culture, to re-sanctify nature before it's too late,"
"Earth-based spirituality is to be found in all cultures, including many rich traditions from
We also need to put our lives on the line, or at least honor those who do. One of the many responses I got to last week's column was from environmental activist
In September, she and other members of the Michiana Coalition Against Tar Sands, or MICATS, temporarily blocked
Available at Amazon.com: Returning to the Teachings
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Article: Copyright © 2014, Tribune Media Services Inc.
"Genesis, Mother Nature and Environmental Stewardship "