I would not say I am an expert on creation care, nor could I count myself among the most passionate about this area of theology. But this week I have found myself thinking about creation and how it has been impacted by COVID-19. It is not easy to quantify the impact this disease will have on creation around us, but I find research into the topic fascinating. I’ve found myself asking how a substantial shift in human behavior is going to impact the natural world and how that relates back to us the caretakers of creation.
The first articles I saw were on seismic studies and how our life slowing down has led to a somewhat predicable lessening of seismic activity (here). Honestly, I saw this article as a curiosity and not terribly important in and of itself. But as so often happens seeing this article made me more alert for others, and others have come.
One I found through a podcast, that was unexpected and thought-provoking was one by Dr.s Michael J. Chamberlain & Bret A. Collier examining the impact on wild turkeys (here). They showed how hunting will most likely increase in some areas of the country and decrease in others. These fluctuations will likely dramatically impact wild turkey populations. Put simply, some areas will likely see their natural turkey populations dramatically decrease. As Christians this is concerning (not that I have any moral issue with hunting). What I find alarming is that in a scant 4-6 weeks of a change in lifestyle we can have a devastating impact on a population. Now there are government agencies which will help monitor and improve turkey numbers so they should recover after next year; however, this gives me pause as I think about how easy it is for humans to have a startling impact on the world around us.
Several outlets from The Guardian to Forbes are talking about links between Coronavirus and climate change. These articles highlight how much cleaner air and water have become in such a short time.. Such reports stir a mixture of thoughts and feelings in me. I am someone who enjoys being outdoors, I try to teach my kids to clean up the landscape when we’re outside. So in this element I am happy that the air and water are cleaner for myself, my family, and the rest of creation. I also recognize that it is currently unrealistic for this reality to continue long into the future, our society would have difficulty maintaining itself under current conditions.
But all of this has caused me to think that we as humans can and are having a tremendous impact on creation. And I take it very seriously that our first task is to maintain creation as God’s Temple (see Genesis 1:28). Monday I spent a couple hours outside cleaning up my yard and preparing my garden. I took time to simply sit and look up into a cloudless blue sky. Something about that crisp spring day made me think of the world being especially clean. I thought this is what God expects, I am transforming my small space into a productive area, helping to maintain what I can. In that moment I was truly living out the human calling to take care of creation.
This is a time when we are forced to sit and ponder. I hope that at some point you begin to ponder how you can improve this world. Ponder how we can clean this world and make it more like the Temple God desires. Take a half hour to sit beside a river or in a forest and ask, “What would God like to see” and “Can we make this better”. These are simple questions and in asking them we become more aware of our intimate connection to nature (a connection I fear we are loosing). If we do not stay in come way connected to nature we will feel free to trample over creation instead of working through and with creation to honor God. It will not be easy and drastic changes, like those we have been forced into, are unlikely to continue. And yet, here we are in a position to see just what impact changes in our lifestyles can have on the world around us. Humans may or may not be the cause of many of nature’s problems, I’m certainly not the one to know, but perhaps we can be the solution.
A further resource I learned a lot from but could not work into the flow is the Biologos podcast The Language of God. I have also learned much from the founder of that organization and NIH director Francis Collins on the nature of the coronavirus. I am also looking forward to later today when that organization will hold a live event with eviromental scientist Rick Lindroth.