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Conservation is God’s work

October 13, 2008

Caring for God’s gift of biodiversity

Conservation of the Earth, its animals, plants and resources isn’t only the right thing to do, but it’s how God intends for men and women to tend to His creation. That will be the gist of a lecture – The Difference Nature Makes: What We Can Learn about Christian Ethics from Earth’s Biological Diversity – which will be given on Tuesday night by Kevin O’Brien, assistant professor of religion. The lecture is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Nordquist Lecture Hall. Human beings share the planet with millions of species – in fact more are being discovered each day, O’Brien notes.

“If we believe that all this was created by God,” O’Brien said. “Then when scientists studying this world say it is in trouble, we should pay attention to that.”

In fact, it’s not enough to just shake one’s head when you hear about the plight of the polar bear, or some other threatened species, O’Brien said.

“You hear about their habitat being destroyed, and the ice caps melting and I’m going to point out that Christians have a very good reason to care,” he said. “God made polar bears, and what God created is very good. It’s not enough to say that they are in trouble. We need to do the hard work to understand what is happening and figure out what can be done to help them. We can’t just say ‘We care.’”

Since we are the dominant species on the planet, it is our responsibility to take of the animals, environments and plants in our care, he said.

In researching the talk, O’Brien said that he was surprised to learn that scientists don’t know how many species are on the planet. Estimates range from 4 million to 30 million. One reason the number is hard to pin down is that so many things live in so many places.

A single gram of soil can contain 30,000 protozoa, 50,000 algae, 4,000 distinct species of bacteria and 400,000 fungi.

“Being Christians, we should be blown away by that,” he said.

O’Brien received his Ph.D. from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA, and attended Union Theological Seminary in New York for his masters. He received his bachelors of arts degree from Earlham Collage in Indiana.

He will publish the article “Thinking Globally and Thinking Locally: Ecology, Subsidiary and Multiscalar Environmentalism” in the Journal for the Study of Religion in 2008. He has spoken extensively on environmentalism and spirituality, including a lecture in May titled “Can Sacramentalism Save Biodiversity?” that was presented at the American Academy of Religion-Society of Biblical Literature at George Fox University in Oregon.