Years ago, a friend and I stood on a mountain crest located on the Cumberland Plateau. Before us were broad grassy meadows, created from land that had been strip-mined. Although major damage had been done to the land, reclamation was producing positive results. The meadows were pleasing to the eye and the animal we saw near the edge of the meadow greatly enhanced the view.
When the first Europeans arrived on the North American continent, they found a land with abundant natural resources. Unfortunately, all of these major resources were badly used and abused. Most, if not all, of the flora and fauna were grossly mismanaged. Why did it happen this way? Because the overall motivation was one of selfishness and greed! God’s way of “give”— loving your neighbor as yourself—was not practiced. Instead, the human way of “get”—of self-interest regardless of the cost—was followed.
From the beginning, God instructed mankind in the proper care of His environment. In Genesis 2:15, we read, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” Sadly, mankind ignored the instructions from God. As a result, the land, plant and animal life, and mankind itself, have all suffered.
Can people take care of their environment? Can they be good stewards of the land and other resources? Yes, they can, if they practice the way of love toward God and love toward neighbor and reject the harmful way of indulgent self-interest.
Environmental damage can be undone or at least repaired in part. The scene I described at the beginning is evidence. The animal my friend and I saw at the edge of the meadow was an elk. They had been hunted to extinction in this area over 150 years ago. Recently, elk have been reintroduced to the area and appear to be doing well. The reclaimed land provides a suitable habitat. Until the twentieth century, the American chestnut was a predominant tree. It was an outstanding resource widely used as a durable building material, and the nuts were excellent food for both humans and animals. Regrettably, blight destroyed nearly every American chestnut tree between 1900 and 1950. Currently, there is an ongoing effort to restore this native tree in portions of its former range. However, the progress is slow and may not be successful. The blight probably originated with trees imported from the Orient. Although unintentional, the introduction of this blight produced long-lasting consequences. The lesson is that society must be more aware of our obligation to protect our environment. Neglecting our responsibilities will bring future disasters. In general, mankind has always shown the proclivity to abuse, misuse, and pollute the environment, with little thought for the present, much less the future. However, a change is coming. When Christ returns, He will destroy those that destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18). Then, He will begin restoring it. In Acts 3:19–21 we read about a restoring of all things after Christ’s return. Then, waste places and deserts will become like the Garden of Eden (Isaiah 51:3). Finally, human beings will listen to their Creator, and do what they should have done from the beginning: tend and keep the garden. When this is done, it will be a blessing to mankind and all creation.