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?