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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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God is a Tree Hugger

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 13, 2011

When I published a piece recently in the New York Times about how rapidly species are going extinct, my religiously inclined sister–my own sister!–replied, “Who’s to say they shouldn’t have gone extinct?”

God came to mind.

Maybe it’s pandering, but here is a selection of passages from the Bible that clearly argue for a conservationist ethos:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)

“You must keep my decrees and my laws…. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” (Leviticus 18:26, 28)

“The land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and garner their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord…. The land is to have a year of rest.” (Leviticus 25:2-5; cf. Exodus 23:10-11)

“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land.” (Leviticus 25:23-24)

“If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.” (Leviticus 26:3-4)

“You shall not pollute the land in which you live…. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites.” (Numbers 35:33-34)

“If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you?” (Deuteronomy 20:19)

And when we defile the land, God is surely pissed:

“I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.” (Jeremiah 2:7)

“How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished.” (Jeremiah 12:4)

“It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares.” (Jeremiah 12:11)

“Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:17-18)

“There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying.” (Hosea 4:1-3)

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22)

And the destruction we are bringing down on ourselves is going to be almighty bad:

“He turned rivers into a desert, flowing springs into thirsty ground, and fruitful land into a saltwaste, because of the wickedness of those who lived there.” (Psalm 107:33-34)

“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The LORD almighty has declared in my hearing: ‘Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a homer of seed only an ephah of grain.'” (Isaiah 5:8-10)

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth; its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.” (Isaiah 24:4-6)

“You have polluted the land with your whoring and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come.” (Jeremiah 3:2-3)

“The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Revelation 11:18)

If I may conclude with a little of what Bible scholars call exegesis, here’s the moral:  You may argue all you want about how the Earth and its species originated, but first take care of this extraordinary world we have been given.  Bible-thumpers should be Tree-huggers.

One Response to “God is a Tree Hugger”

  1. Amen!

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