A radio commentator called BP’s Oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico the “Chernobyl of the petrochemical industry.” A scientist later declared that we are creating conditions that may ruin the Earth.
Obviously urgent changes in human behaviour are needed. Technology has provided us with means of subduing Earth for often questionable purposes. Many technological innovations are useful, others dangerous to Earth’s ecosystems need severe regulation. Earth sustains us. It is not a mere commodity for development.
The Greek philosopher Plato commented on “techne” (technology). He saw that a heavy reliance on technology would lead to an extreme narrowing of reality and weaken spiritual, logical, and aesthetic concerns; making people a servant of their tools. Thus the “whole person” can become a fragmented individual easily tempted to meaningless pursuits. Since the ability to contemplate deeper meanings is reduced, the temptation to obsess oneself with trivia is increased. As Plato said, people can thereby be lured away from the good and noble. This is the beginning of spiritual ignorance.
The Old Testament revealed ancient awareness of intelligence and divinity in all living things. Consider these verses from the twelfth Chapter of the Book of Job: “…speak to the earth and it shall teach thee” and “the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind, is in the hand of the Lord.”
A modern scientific text, Microcosmos by Dr. Lynn Margulis, reminds us that, “Our own bodies are composed of ten quadrillion animal cells and another one hundred quadrillion bacterial cells.” You will learn from this book that bacteria “invented” fermentation, the wheel (known as the proton rotary motor), sulfur breathing, photosynthesis and nitrogen fixing. In short, higher technology than we now have preceded us by millions of years.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution sagacious and moral observations were made about Earth and also about technology’s possible effect on life.
Sir William Temple (1628-1699 AD), the Archbishop of Canterbury offered this thought: “The existing industrial order leads to recklessness and sacrilege in the treatment of natural resources…it is largely responsible for the problem of the ‘mass man’ who easily develops the herd psychology.” His remarks are applicable today in regard to the consequences which are exemplified by humanity’s possibly lethal addiction to petrochemicals.
Several hundred years before the birth of Christ the Chinese religion-philosophy known as the Tao Te Ching (the Way of Life) provided insights such as the following:
As for those who would take the whole world
To tinker it as they see fit,
I observe that they never succeed:
For the world is a sacred vessel
Not made to be altered by man.
The tinker will spoil it;
Usurpers will lose it.
A belief system called Stoicism emerged about 300 BC. The tenets of Stoicism are historically recognized as underlying many of the beliefs of Christianity. Stoicism helped pave the way for a dogma which stressed the necessity of faith. It called for lives of simplicity, morality and asceticism. It emphasized a concept that is now basically ignored. This was the realization that all things exist within the Divine. Some Stoics embraced a life of retreat and were called anchorites. Others practiced strong self-discipline and were known as ascetics. Some retreated into contemplative life and were known as “monachi” and their retreat was into a “monasterium.” Beneath all this was the basic Stoic concept, that people are a part of God and Nature and must observe, honour, and protect the law of the world.
The universe was spoken of as a living organism of which God is the soul, as well as the source of universal law and the infusing spirit that sustains all. Live according to the benevolence and orderliness of the universe said the Stoics and enjoy “euthymia” which signifies peace and well being. Living according to the divine will brings about a happy inner spirit which comes to resemble the Deity.
In short what religions call the Creation is itself Divine, and Earth merits honourable and even reverent treatment. Human leaders have forged an “economy” addicted to wealth and power which ignores the health of the planet that underwrites the real economy. Unless we once again recognize the holiness of creation and begin to treat it with the respect it deserves we may be drastically shortening our days (daze?) on Earth.