Out of Touch With Nature

Should We Celebrate Life and Our Universe Or Subdue, Dominate and Destroy the Natural World?

Wild and domestic animals, sensing the peril of the sinister tsunami approaching from within the Indian Ocean, fled to the safety of higher ground. Compared with human losses which have climbed to an estimated 272,000 dead and missing, relatively few animals have been reported dead. A recent article by Maryann Mott in National Geographic News reported eyewitness accounts that elephants screamed and ran for higher ground, dogs refused to go outdoors, flamingos abandoned their low-lying breeding areas, and zoo animals rushed into their shelters and could not be enticed to come back out. Because the animals were in tune with the forces of nature, they sensed danger as it approached.

Over sixty humans perished while visiting at Sri Lanka's Patanangala Beach, a part of the Yala National Park wildlife reserve but park personnel said that there were "no wildlife fatalities other than two water buffalos that died. No other animal carcasses were found where numerous species of animals reside including leopards, elephants and 130 species of birds. In southern Sri Lanka a man said his two dogs who were usually excited to go on their daily run with him on the beach refused to go and probably saved his life."

Animals can sense impending danger by detecting subtle or abrupt shifts in the environment, according to Alan Rabinowitz, director for science and exploration at the Wildlife Conservation Society at New York's Bronx Zoo. Rabinowitz said, "Earthquakes bring vibrational changes on land and in water while storms cause electromagnetic changes in the atmosphere...Some animals have an acute sense of hearing and smell that allow them to determine something coming towards them long before humans might know that something is there." Rabinowitz believes that humans once had this "sixth sense" but lost the ability when it was no longer needed or used.

Perhaps humans should attempt to regain a sense of reality about our being part of the natural world. Rather than follow the fearsome bible-thumping and preternatural sermonizing of religious zealots whose God tells them we must exercise human "dominion" over nature and other species of animals and plants, we should develop religions and ethical codes that respect our co-inhabitants of planet earth. If we top-of-the-food-chain humans are to survive in our inextricably intertwined web of life on earth, we must free ourselves from some of the images of the God described in the bible. In Genesis 1:26 God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps over the earth." God then told Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it." Could the writer, or writers of such a prescription for human folly have been creating a God in their own image that was out of touch with nature and the universe? Sounds like marching orders to conquer, dominate and control the entire ecosystem by force.

In Genesis 9: 1-4, God is very explicit in speaking to Noah and his family: "The fear and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered."

The God I know surely would have us protect and be good stewards of life and the natural world.

President Bush openly justifies many of his policies through values based on his relationship with his particular God. Certainly the birds, beasts, cattle, fish and reptiles in Iraq are in fear and dread of the terrible destruction wrought upon them and their habitat by the pre-emptive war Mr. Bush is waging to have dominion over their habitat and the oil that lies beneath it.

With only 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. consumes 26 percent of the world's electricity, while more that 2 billion people in the world have no electricity. Primarily through the use of fossil fuels, the U.S. accounts for 23 percent of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide, making us the largest single emitter. Such carbon dioxide -- added to the atmosphere by human activity -- is a principal cause of global warming, which contributes to "more extreme weather, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, ecological and agricultural dislocations and the increased spread of human disease" according to leading climatologists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the UK Meteorological Office. Despite overwhelming scientific and political support throughout the world for the Kyoto accords which are designed to reduce such emissions, Mr. Bush refuses to support US participation.

World-wide weather is becoming more extreme and the habitat of all forms of life is being destroyed by humans like Mr. Bush who tell us they are doing God's will by opposing birth control and waging war to sustain the excesses of empire. As God said, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it."

Is it time for a reassessment of such religious dogma that disconnects us from our own ecosystem? Hope for the emergence of such a nature oriented religion was expressed by Carl Sagan in "Pale Blue Dot" (Random House 1994), "A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge."

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