On the table beside my bed is a book by Elizabeth Kolbert titled: “The Sixth Extinction.” It is not a religious book, not theological, not Spiritual Formation. Rather it more education bordering on scientific expose’ written by a journalist who has both curiosity and heart.
There were only two copies of this book at my favorite corner bookstore, Quail Ridge. This book is not likely to be a runaway hit. There are some who would call it “liberal rant.” There are others of us who would call it prophetic… a wake-up call for the world.
Kolbert’s thesis is first that the world since its creation has experienced five great extinctions, the last being the extinction of the dinosaurs. Secondly, that we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction, in which the long-term survival of humanity is in question. There is a quote from Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford ecologist, in the last chapter that pretty well sums up Kolbert’s theory: “In the pushing the other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.”
It might be easy to dismiss the whole conversation about extinctions except for the fact that extinction is staring us in the face. Northern birds are seeking habitat in southern states. Whitey owls in the south are a new reality. The moose population in the Northwest is dwindling and disappearing into nothingness. There are species in zoos around the world who can only exist in captivity.
The world around us is changing quickly. God’s creation will adapt to habitat disruptions and extreme conditions, it always has. Over the centuries have come and gone many wonders of the long ago. We are part of that wonder. Yet we behave as if we have stepped outside our place in the story as if we are static, a forever people, above and in control of the world. Me thinks we have forgotten our place.
The inertia of change may be unstoppable at this point, I don’t know. Here is what I do know: When Genesis was written and a people wrote about the responsibility to care for creation as stewards, they did not mistake “dominion” for domination. They did not see themselves as self-made and in control of all things that moved upon the earth. Rather they saw themselves as a people utterly dependent on God, and inter-dependent with other people and all creation. They saw themselves as part of a whole, co-creators and tenders of God’s work.
The story records human triumph and human failure, rises and falls through the pages and ages. Still, darkness covers us as we persist in pushing one another around, ignoring blatant signs, choosing war and verbal bombasity, holding up flags and mantras of me-and-my-way. Next will come the fiddles and the cake of blindness.
Our faith calls us to a new vision, a new way that is God’s way. Can we be part of a solution? Do we have the faith? The guts? Amen.