Genesis 1, the Creation story, is about all that God provides for our sustenance, well-being and enjoyment: water, daylight and darkness, vegetation, trees bearing fruit, and every living creature. God’s creativity and generosity is boundless as God brings order out of chaos. Humankind is created, and God instructs them to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth, subdue it, and to have dominion over all creation.
Two matters in the creation story grab our attention. One is the recognition that God has created order out of chaos. First, there was nothing; no sense of order or structure, at least in a way that was inhabitable. We can only imagine what it might have been before God unleashed God’s creative potential. Out of that chaos, God created order — giving humanity resources to use to its benefit.
Second is the recognition that God gave humanity dominion over creation. Dominion is not about domination, exploitation and the heedless use of resources without consideration for long-term consequences. Biblically, dominion is closest to the concept of stewardship, the management of resources that are available to us.
Dominion consists of conserving natural resources, combating environmental pollution, protecting biodiversity and in this era working to support alternatives to carbon-based energy sources because of the reality of climate change.
Dominion is also about utilizing resources for the benefit of humanity. We have taken on this responsibility with amazing ingenuity and creativity; through the development and use of science and technology, humankind has indeed subdued creation. Possibilities have become endless. What has been accomplished since the beginning of creation is amazing to consider. Food science, construction, infrastructure, and the digital revolution are all examples of how God has provided for humanity through our exercise of dominion.
The negative side is that with science, we have discovered we are now facing a crisis in our use of these resources, creating damage in the creation over which God has given us dominion. We have entered another state of chaos because of global warming caused largely by our continuing dependence upon carbon-based energy resources. We are approaching a point in which the world is going to become increasingly hard to inhabit in many places.
A glimpse at some data tells an ominous story. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that July was the hottest month globally ever recorded. In late June, France recorded its highest temperature ever at 114.6 degrees. When President Taft created Glacier National Park in 1910, it had an estimated 150 glaciers. Since then, the number has decreased to fewer than 30, and most of those remaining have shrunk by two-thirds. The U.S. Geological Survey predicts that within 30 years, most of the park’s glaciers will disappear.
According to Michalea King, graduate student at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at The Ohio State University, “The intense melt season in Greenland resulted from persistent atmospheric conditions that brought very warm temperatures over the ice sheet. In addition to beginning unusually early, this year’s melt season also consisted of several large events. The most recent melt broke the temperature record at Summit Station, the highest point in Greenland, and produced enough melt over several days to cover an area the size of Ohio with nearly two feet of water.”
Environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli and colleagues reviewed abstracts of 12,000 climate science journal articles. Their conclusion is a 97% consensus that humans are primarily responsible for recent global warming. Yet only 1-in-5 Americans realize that over 90 percent of climate scientists have concluded human-caused global warming is happening.
Our God-given dominion over creation has taken a whole new turn. We are challenged now to take up the cause of avoiding chaos by working against climate change through education and advocacy.
Rev. Ward Cornett III, a retired Lutheran clergy, is program coordinator with the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.