The rate at which human activities are destroying nature and putting thousands of species in danger of extinction is worrying. Human beings tend to feel that they are superior to all creatures and that all other creatures were created for him alone. Some have even gone farther to argue that other creatures – animals and plants- have no rights, thus encouraging people to continue manipulating them as much as they can for their own selfish ends. The risk brought by this kind of conception is that human beings develop an attitude that any action they do towards these creatures cannot be labelled as morally wrong, therefore they feel no guilt over their actions. I am not interested in discussing whether these creatures have rights or not, but the fact that we, human beings, have a responsibility towards them, for their own sake and for the good of human life.
Though in the book of Genesis (Gen.1:28-31) human beings are said to have been given dominion over nature by God, this dominion does not intend to destroy nature to meet human needs. In fact it should be taken as a stewardship dominion over his master’s possessions. But unlike in normal stewardship, where one’s position can be revoked and another person be elevated in that position, God has ordained human beings to forever be masters of his creation. A good and faithful steward is the one who seeks to understand the mind of his master and administer in accordance with the interest and the will of his master. Consequently, human beings in enjoying that privilege of dominance should do so with the will of the author of
creation, from whom they get that power. We, human beings, we should
never forget that we are answerable to the master of creation on every activity
we do towards his creation (Mtt.25:14-30). We have a responsibility to fulfil
and accountability will be demanded by our Master. For how can we claim to
participate in God’s work of creation if our activities are leading to
destroying what God has created?
With the advancement in technology, human beings possess the capacity to move everywhere anytime. Equally they are also capable of doing anything, good or evil; destroy or build; protect or obliterate, anywhere, anytime. For this reason, the sustainability of nature highly depends on human beings’ good will to protect it. Therefore, the rich and the poor, old and young, leaders and subjects, all possess the capacity and responsibility to preserve nature. Everyone before deciding to bring forth new life should ask himself/herself whether his/her activities in relation with the environment are favorable for sustaining the lives of his/her child and grandchildren. For how can a parent claim to love her/his child producing a child to suffer, suffering which is caused by his/her own deliberate actions. Truly, it is difficult to determine a case between squatters and the need of forest preservation, poverty and poaching, closing of industries to minimize air pollution and unemployment. As one contemplates on this, it is also profoundly important to consider whether it is justifiable for the current generation to exploit nature and leave the future generation to pay the cost.
Human beings should be conscious that they do not hold absolute dominion over nature. Their dominion is limited fundamentally by the tendency of everything to preserve itself. That they too should continue to exist for the sake of sustaining future generations and, as St. Basil put it, for their own sake. Thus, people should exercise healthy self-interest towards nature, if they are to preserve God’s good creation.
“God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things… to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. In the past we have exercised the high dominion of (humankind) with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that they live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life. Amen.” (St. BASIL THE GREAT)