Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

What is the World For?


A couple of arguments I’ve heard in the last few weeks have combined with a book I was reading to produce some Deep Thoughts about, of all things, nature.

Now, being the hardcore city girl I am, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about nature. I enjoy the occasional camping trip or weekend at the cabin, and I like hiking as long as it’s not too strenous and there aren’t too many hills, but in general, I like nature to stay out there, in its place.

But what is its place?

The discovery of what at first appeared to be a gigantic coyote on the Bonavista Peninsula stirred up a lot of interest in coyotes, who made their way to these shores only in the last 10-15 years and keep nudging closer and closer to our population centres. This led to a lot of interesting conversations, including one at work where I heard a co-worker declare categorically that we should hunt them down and kill every last one of them. When someone mentioned that this was pretty much what we’d done to our native wolf population, she seemed to think that was a job well done and the coyote would benefit from the same treatment.

Then there was the report about the moose. Apparently, just as we’re all becoming more uptight about moose-vehicle accidents, the number of moose in the province is actually declining. Since one of the main reactions to the overabundance of moose on the highways is to issue more hunting licenses in the hopes of killing more of them, a lot of people were unwilling to believe that the moose population could actual be on the decline. And if it is, isn’t that a good thing? Safer roads for us all!

I guess it was hearing these news stories and the conversations around them in the context of reading Alister McGrath’s book The Re-enchantment of Nature that made me reflect on the way we approach nature. Don’t get me wrong, I am terrified of a moose accident on the highway, and leery of hiking or camping in areas where there have been coyote attacks. Obviously, concerns for human safety are genuine and have to be addressed. But some people don’t seem to pause at all to think about the fact that all these problems occur because we encroach on the territory of animals who, but for our interference, would have had the wild pretty much to themselves. Our right to build highways and subdivisions is never questioned; the assumption is that the world exists for our benefit and convenience, and any animal that gets in our way needs to be cleared out.

It’s an assumption with  deadly implications, and, as McGrath would no doubt point out, it’s an assumption with very shaky foundations if we take seriously the Genesis 1 imperative: that humans are put on the earth to care for God’s creation and to be stewards of it. If we are the caretakers of the earth, rather than its masters, does it really exist only for our use and convenience? And if not, how do we co-exist with the moose, the caribou, the coyote and the wolf?


4 thoughts on “What is the World For?

  1. I really enjoyed your entry Trudy. You put so eloquently my very thoughts on the subject. Thanks for taking the time to write about it!

  2. Deep questions, indeed. Are you asking us to answer them?

    I certainly can’t talk about this to my husband, who has gotten very upset when building projects he’s been involved in have been interrupted by spotted owls, bald eagles or salmon streams.

    I agree that Genesis gives us a responsibility, not a right. And I think we also need to hear all of the first command God gave to Adam and Eve: be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, which we seem to have obeyed pretty well. The earth has been replenished, so we need to slow down!

    Of course, I also have a son who has become Catholic and believes earnestly that (regardless of the human actions involved) every baby is a God-given gift. Which, of course, it is – but doesn’t God expect us to use moderation?

    Maybe the best answer is a middle-of-the-road course, rather than following one extreme or the other.

    • Middle of the road is usually the safest place, Carrol … well, unless there’s a moose wandering down it! I can appreciate the view of people like your husband but I do think all too often we only see the immediate situation (the building project, the moose-vehicle accident, whatever) and fail to look at the “bigger picture.”

      As for all babies being gifts from God, certainly true, but I think God would like to see us doing a better job of the one’s he’s already put here …

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