Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tales from the Lorax

Long ago, it was told to us that the care for the land was intimately connected to the care for the other. How we treat another human can not be divorced with how we treat the environment. Saving the land is saving the poor; ending war is protecting nature itself. We see this in the call to the Year of Jubilee, in which the Israelites were called to depend on God by letting the land lie fallow every 7th year. Incidentally, this allowed the land to rejuvenate, and provided a fuller crop in subsequent years- a practice we now know as sound farming. This was a time connected with a restoration of justice, and a return to equity- a practice we now know as socialism. In other places the prophets command to not

add house to house
and join field to field
until there is no more room
and you alone are left in the land.

There was an awareness that greed can become unbounded, and lead to devastation. In a culture that was intensely corporate, so unlike our modern American individualistic society, the concept of being left alone was horrible indeed. It would come about because some had desired "modernity", cities and human construction, taking over nature, and acquiring more and more for themselves at the expense of the masses of the poor. And this was because, as far as we know, the Year of Jubilee was never applied, save perhaps once, under King Josiah. God's people ignored his teachings on equality, poverty, and the environment. And when people refused to give up their land, those with wealth and power would take by force what was not freely given, as predicted by the prophet Samuel.

Years later, another prophet, and more than a prophet, a leader in the Early Church, James, again tied in the concern for the poor with war and strife, as he pointed out that fighting comes from coveting, in turn coming from desiring with wrong motives- just before he has perhaps the strongest condemnation of the rich to be found in the Bible, whom he argues inherently gain their wealth on the backs of the oppressed, through exploitation and murder.

Now we find studies to back up these basic principles. Conservation International has recently found that most of the world's hotspots directly correlate with the areas of the greatest war and killing. Hotspots are places with extreme biodiversity and extreme endangerment- they have a disproportionate number of unique species, that are disproportionately likely to soon go extinct. 81% of major human conflicts in the last fifty years took place in these hotspots.

An intriguing corollary to this is the suggestion that perhaps we innately prefer the areas with greater diversity, hearkening back to something in our ancient, more natural roots before cities, and thus tend to fight over what we don't have, but all want. There may be an evolutionary mandate to desire these spots, but there is a Biblical warning for why we fight over them. Contrary to groups like the Quiverfull Movement, recently highlighted on NPR, the Biblical mandate is not simply to always have more children. For another aspect of I Isaiah's warning on adding land to land until there is no room left is that we can produce too much for the land to sustain- as has happened in the areas where species are most threatened, and the areas of greatest warfare on the planet. When this happens, we desire more for us, and our offspring, and those in our group, be that nationalism or religious bigotry. The easiest way to achieve this is by manipulating others to give us more, as James warns of. When that doesn't work, force of arms is often very convenient.

And the result of all this is always foremost the death of others: the troops of one's own country, the enemy, and the innocent civilians. This is always by far the greatest tragedy of war. But we now see, what we should have always seen, that warfare and murder also leads to the deaths of countless other species of animals and plants. And since we don't exist in a biological vacuum, but are intimately connected with the rest of the planet for our very emotional and physical survival, the continuation of war could lead directly to our own extermination as a species.
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

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