Themes & Theology of Nature & the Environment

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beautiful natureThe human creature portrayed in the first Creation story in Genesis learns very quickly that while s/he may be the purpose and pinnacle of creation, the world -- at least outside of the Garden of Eden -- will yield its fruits only if the land is “worked and guarded.” The first verb of this pair implies exploitation; the second balances it with an admonition to care for the natural realm and preserve its abundant fruitfulness. In this sense, humans are not the owners or even co-owners of the world but its stewards. As such, they are entrusted with its care for the benefit of an owner, whose reason for valuing it we may not know, but whose concern for the welfare of all Creation is explicit.

The preceding paragraphs reflect an environmentally aware reading of the many references to the Creation story in the Bible and later Jewish writings. This outlook, while informed by the knowledge and sensitivities of recent decades, remains true to the spirit of Jewish thinkers throughout the ages. They have frequently depicted human beings in such images as guests at a divine banquet, seeking to portray a subtle interplay of subordination, gratitude, and responsibility. The tradition seeks to inculcate these values in human attitudes and actions toward the fecund earth, its non-human inhabitants, and the cosmos beyond.

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