Protecting the environment has become a key consideration in almost all that we do; for it is put forth as a self-evident fact that being good to the Earth is the only way to ensure that our children and grandchildren will inherit a world that provides equal or greater opportunities and resources than that in which we now live. But who decides what is right and what is wrong in this regard? For a sizable segment of earth’s population, such answers are found in the Bible.
Comprised of writings dating back thousands of years, this sacred book serves as an ethical compass for people of numerous faiths. It records historical events that reach back to the world’s beginnings, and contains prophetic writings that foretell the world’s future. But does the Bible cast any light on society’s stewardship role with respect to the environment and the other forms of life with which we share the planet?
This question must be seriously considered; for if it does, that light would be incredibly important, as it would have to be acknowledged as coming from God Himself. And who is better qualified to settle differences among earth’s many life forms than He who created and placed them here?
When life forms are few and far between, as they were in the beginning and when they scattered in all directions upon exiting the ark of Noah, there is little occasion for conflict to arise among them. But as animal and man responded to the instructions of God to breed abundantly and replenish the earth, opportunities for interaction increased, creating problems.
In our day, this conflict is most vexing; for humanity has become so numerous, so widespread, and so voracious in its appetite for the resources of the world, that many of God’s plant and animal creations stand on the verge of being driven from the scene, which does not appear to be consistent with the Divine Will as revealed in the Bible.
So what is man to do? Why, the right thing, of course, which is basically to strive to do all in his power to maintain the planet’s biodiversity, while not interfering with the simultaneous unfolding of God’s designs for humanity. But how is it to be done? That is the question over which all honest men and women agonize. Nearly everyone agrees on the goal; it is the getting there that divides us.
Two Views of a Populous Earth
As a prime example of the difficulties we face in this regard, consider the rising carbon dioxide content of earth’s atmosphere, which is nearly universally acknowledged to be a direct consequence of humanity’s ever-increasing usage of fossil fuels. Some people believe that this rise in CO2 will intensify the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect, leading to a warming of the globe that will be so rapid that many plants (and some of the animals that are dependent upon them) will not be able to migrate fast enough to remain within the climatic regimes to which they are currently accustomed, with the end result that they will ultimately face extinction.
They also anticipate changes in weather patterns that may be disruptive of agriculture and that may seriously impact our ability to feed an ever-growing world population. Others, however, foresee little or no increase in global temperatures as a result of the upward trend in the air’s CO2 content. Rather, they see a great “greening of the earth” produced by the aerial fertilization effect of atmospheric CO2 enrichment, which they believe will support the production of increased amounts of food and forage, enabling the planet to sustain even greater populations of people and animals than it does today.
Which view is correct? Or are they both wrong together? Or both partly right? If the first assessment is sound, more atmospheric CO2 is a biospheric poison; if the second is valid, it is the elixir of life. One conclusion demands that we put the brakes on energy-intensive development; the other says full speed ahead. The policy implications of the two world views are diametrically opposed to each other; and the fate of the earth hangs in the balance.
Thus is this problem the preeminent environmental dilemma of our day. And as it involves the potential extinction of species, and could interfere with God’s never-revoked command for humanity to be fruitful and multiply (not just maintain the status quo), we may well have a Biblically-mandated duty to attempt to resolve it. But what a task for mere mortals and their finite minds! Are we really qualified to tinker with the designs and handiwork of Deity? Even if our intentions are good, the results could be otherwise—even self-destructive—as they were for Uzzah of old, who put forth his hand to steady the ark of God and was smitten of the Lord that he died (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
Where is Wisdom?
When Solomon was established on the throne of his father, David, the Lord appeared to him in a dream by night, saying “Ask what I shall give thee” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon’s request was for “an understanding heart” that he might “discern between good and bad” (1 Kings 3:9). This desire pleased the Lord. “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much,” so that “he was wiser than all men” (1 kings 4:29-30).
Clearly, wisdom is the gift of God (1 Corinthians 12:8); and it is an attribute of which we are in desperate need. Fortunately for us, it is also there for the asking: “If any of you lack wisdom,” the Bible says, “let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). “But,” as it continues, “let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).
Faith, therefore, is the key to obtaining wisdom. Yet even here the scriptures remind us that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead” (James 2:17). So what are the works that lead to the faith that produces the wisdom to solve a particular problem?
Consider, again, the great King Solomon. There came two women to him, each claiming to be the mother of a child over whom they contended. His first act when confronted with the dilemma was to weigh the available evidence, which in this case comprised the conflicting stories of the two parties.
Then, when that evidence was insufficient to resolve the conflict, he devised an ingenious gambit to acquire additional insight. He threatened to divide the infant in two and give each woman half, whereupon the child’s true mother attempted to save the baby’s life by offering it to the other woman; and in so doing she revealed herself to Solomon to be the real parent. “And all Israel heard of the judgement which the King had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him” (1 Kings 3:16-28).
It is evident from this account that the wisest of all men did not magically produce answers to problems by plucking them out of thin air. Rather, he assembled all of the pertinent evidence; and, if that evidence was found to be insufficient to resolve the issue, he conducted experiments that produced new evidence. And by such means Solomon gained knowledge of all things: “of trees … of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth” (1 Kings 4:33-34).
Clearly, wisdom does not just happen. It is the result of long and arduous apprenticeship, of meticulous measurement and observation, of blood, sweat and tears. Thus was Joseph thirteen years in servitude in the land of Egypt, learning invaluable lessons in the trenches of life, before God, by Pharaoh, raised him up and set him over all the land. And why was Joseph thus honored and empowered? Because he saw order where others saw chaos. When all the magicians and the wise men of Egypt could not interpret the dreams of a troubled sovereign, Joseph perceived their message. And as with Solomon, it was said of Joseph, there was “none so discreet and wise” (Genesis 41:39).
Returning to our own day, the monumental complexity of the issue of potential CO2 -induced global change demands that same wisdom. Indeed, as in the days of old the leaders of the nations rush to and fro, even now, searching for it among their magicians and wise men.
Clearly, wisdom will only be found by looking up and getting down: by looking up to God, the Framer of the earth and Creator of all that is found therein, and by getting down to the absolutely unavoidable tasks of observing, measuring, analyzing, measuring some more, reanalyzing, and finally (we can only pray) seeing the light. For as Isaiah rhetorically asks with respect to the days in which we now live (29:17), “Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?”
Truly, the problem will be solved, for the Lord has declared it; and the end result will be a considerably more productive world than that in which we currently reside. For as Isaiah also declares of the Lord’s (not man’s) actions on behalf of the planet, “he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord” (Isaiah 51:3). What remains to be determined, then, is our role in the process.
Will we be part of the solution, or is our best wisdom but a “turning of things upside down?” How we answer this question is of vital importance for each one of us; for surely, the Lord will one day judge us and hold us accountable for our actions with respect to this issue. Part II tomorrow will address these issues.
Craig Idso (Ph. D) is the founder and former President of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and currently serves as Chairman of the Center’s board of directors. Dr. Idso received his B.S. in Geography from Arizona State University, his M.S. in Agronomy from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and his Ph.D. in Geography from Arizona State University, where he studied as one of a small group of University Graduate Scholars.
Dr. Idso has been involved in the global warming debate for many years and has published peer-reviewed scientific articles on issues related to data quality, the growing season, the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2, world food supplies, coral reefs, and urban CO2 concentrations, the latter of which he investigated via a National Science Foundation grant as a faculty researcher in the Office of Climatology at Arizona State University. Since 1998, he has been the editor and a chief contributor to the online magazine CO2 Science.
Dr Idso is the author of several books, the most recent of which, The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment, details 55 ways in which the modern rise in atmospheric CO2 is benefiting earth’s biosphere. Dr. Idso has also produced three video documentaries, Carbon Dioxide and the Climate Crisis: Reality or Illusion?, Carbon Dioxide and the Climate Crisis: Avoiding Plant and Animal Extinctions, and Carbon Dioxide and the Climate Crisis: Doing the Right Thing, and he has lectured in Meteorology at Arizona State University and in Physical Geography at Mesa and Chandler-Gilbert Community Colleges.