World in a Mess

I've never been good at Bible Study - you know, having a plan, following a theme, filling in the blanks etc. My previous strategy has been to simply read it cover-to-cover, a double-page or so at a time. And I've gotten through it quickly, twice. But lately my Biblical reading habits have fallen even further into disarray. I've gotten to the stage where I simply open it up, page around a bit and read something.

Until Sunday night. A random reading found me wondering what God has to say about the environment, and how we handle living with nature. Beyond the obvious "dominion over all the earth" thing in Genesis (which is often grossly taken out of proportion to enable humans to crush the rest of the living things on the planet - and the non-living things too, while they're at it), I wanted to see if I could pick up some verses with environmental guidelines in them.

First up, Isaiah 24.
Isaiah 24:4-6 (NIV)
The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers,
the exalted of the earth languish.
[5] The earth is defiled by its people;
they have disobeyed the laws,
violated the statutes
and broken the everlasting covenant.
[6] Therefore a curse consumes the earth;
its people must bear their guilt.
Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up,
and very few are left.
One of our local news programmes had a good look at the state of rivers around this area - a follow-up on an investigation done 6 months ago, after which the government vowed action. Well, the rivers are worse off than they were before. Not a single government official would even touch that water with a ten-foot pole! If you head over to the place the river enters the sea, and look at it with Google Earth, you can see a long slick of pollution for miles up the coast.

It's all good and well for caring groups to go "clean up the Lourens River" now and then - but it doesn't hit at the heart of the matter, that people have simply stopped caring about the damage they cause. Raw sewage, plastic bags and bottles, the odd decomposing dog all make it into the water systems. Gives a new meaning to "scum of the earth"!
Leviticus 18:28 (NIV)
And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Yes, we're defiling the earth. So why do we throw up our hands in horror when "natural" disaster strikes? Why are we surprised that ancient glaciers are melting, that fresh water is running out, that food is contaminated or genetically altered and rendered less nutritious? Why are we horrified at famine and drought - when our waste-paper habits denude huge areas of natural forest every day?

Or why aren't we...?

From Isaiah I trawled through a couple of the "Law" books after Genesis and came across some interesting instructions in Leviticus, like this one:
Leviticus 19:19 (NIV)
" 'Keep my decrees.
" 'Do not mate different kinds of animals.
" 'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
" 'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
Warnings against genetic modification perhaps? And what about this one:
Leviticus 19:23-25 (NIV)
" 'When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. [24] In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. [25] But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.
Logical agricultural practice? Think about it - it makes sense! Let the tree grow and mature and bear its fruit, and your yeild will increase. Pick too early, and it will suffer forever after. And this:
Leviticus 22:26-28 (NIV)
The Lord said to Moses, [27] "When a calf, a lamb or a goat is born, it is to remain with its mother for seven days. From the eighth day on, it will be acceptable as an offering made to the Lord by fire. [28] Do not slaughter a cow or a sheep and its young on the same day.
Ethical animal treatment defined! And then there's the Land Sabbath principle, which I really like:
Leviticus 25:2-12 (NIV)
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord. [3] For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. [4] But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. [5] Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. [6] Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you--for yourself, your manservant and maidservant, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, [7] as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.
[8] " 'Count off seven sabbaths of years--seven times seven years--so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. [9] Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. [10] Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. [11] The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. [12] For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
I don't know of anyone who actually practices this one in this day and age. But I wonder how production would increase if they did? I know there are proponents of allowing the land to rest spread across the internet. And it's common knowledge that growing a single crop on the same land, year in and out, is going to destroy the soil. I guess God knows what He's doing when He asks us to let it rest for a while. And here's what happens if you obey:
Leviticus 25:18-22 (NIV)
" 'Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. [19] Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. [20] You may ask, "What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?" [21] I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. [22] While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
Interesting, isn't it. Follow the rules, and here are the consequences - good or bad.

I've only just scratched the surface. I'm finding it a fascinating journey into logical action/reaction, and it's all right there in the Good Book.

I'll leave it at that. This is becoming a book on it's own! :)