Since mid September Vickie and I live on Sanibel, an environmental paradise. And yet:
The increasing frequency and ferocity of hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires and other natural disasters should convince all of us that we are not taking care of our environment as we should.
In religious terms we are not living up to God’s charge to humanity at the time of creation. The Bible (Gen. 1: 26) teaches: “And God said, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill up the earth and (my translation which differs from the traditional, “subdue it,” is) and take responsibility for it.”
A wonderful Jewish legend illustrates our dilemma:
Once there was a goat that roamed the earth with horns so long they could reach the sky. When the goat’s horns tickled the stars, they would sing a most beautiful melody that brought joy and contentment to all the earth.
One day a man was walking through the forest wondering what he might give his wife as a present for her upcoming birthday. He happened upon the goat and thought, “If I cut off just a small piece of one the goat’s horns I can fashion the most beautiful jewelry box for my wife.”
The goat was a friendly sort, and at the man’s polite request, he lowered his head, and allowed the man to cut off “just a small piece” of one of his horns.”
The jewelry box the man made was beautiful. In fact it was so beautiful that soon everyone wanted one just like it. One after the other people found the goat and cut off “just a small piece” of one of its horns.
The result: Many people had beautiful jewelry boxes, but the stars no longer sing their beautiful melody.
The message of the story is clear. We must do more to preserve our environment from further destruction. Our legislators on state and national levels must hear our concern about the ways big oil, big agriculture and other industries ravage our eco system.
We should also examine ways we as individuals can act in more environmentally responsible ways. God’s instructions at the time of creation are all the more urgent today.
A famous Midrash (Jewish legend) teaches that God addressed humanity at the time of creation: “You are responsible for my earth. But remember, this is the only earth you will get so take very good care of it.”
If we accept the challenge, people the world over can enjoy an environment as beautiful and healthy as the one we savor and strive to preserve on Sanibel.