Loving nature, it turns out, is not just an instinct but a virtue. Like nature itself, the virtue of loving it requires cultivation. There’s no question that the trait of biophilia is good for us and good for God’s garden, but we aren’t able to retain a love for nature simply because it’s built in. We must actively create, and re-create, every generation, a culture that loves, and therefore tends and keeps, God’s garden.
“We need environmental stewards now more than ever. Yet we are raising a generation of young people whose primary experience with nature is virtual. Real nature is a full sensory experience, with frequent open-ended problem-solving opportunities and no off switch. We should all make outdoor play a priority for our children and ourselves. Nature: use it or lose it.”
In the moments when I can attend one of my children’s soccer games, I find great pleasure from sitting in a field of grass. Since I was a child I have been making little sculptures out of blades of grass … as I did so just this last weekend during a match. Coming off of the inauguration, it made me think of our Provost Jessie Shefrin’s phrase, “Thinking is a kind of making, and making is a kind of thinking.” I make. Therefore, I think. I hope you make something interesting today.
God did not want us to leave as few footprints as possible, leaving the earth alone as much as we can. He commanded us instead to spread out, over the whole globe, and bring it all under our influence, to subdue it for its own good, to make it even more fruitful, beautiful, and sustainable, under God’s guidance and by the power he invested in it. We dare not be cowed into relinquishing this role out of shame that we have performed it badly heretofore. We must take it up afresh, do the best we can, and look forward to the shalom that our administration will bring, in concert with Christ’s rule, in the world to come.
Far from being an ancient myth with no contemporary relevance, the story of Adam’s task has inspired and shaped human endeavor throughout the centuries. Modern science got its start in the golden age of exploration, when collectors began cataloging exotic plants and animals in the hope of restoring Adam’s complete knowledge of the world. Some sixteenth-century scholars, like Benito Montano (1527–1598), gave Hebrew names to the places Columbus discovered, because they assumed that the Bible must contain all the words we need to understand the New World. Others realized that there were more things to know and to be named than they ever imagined. Francis Bacon exhorted gentlemen of means to build gardens “with rooms to stable in all rare beasts and to cage in all rare birds . . . so you may have in small compass a model of the universal nature made private.” Adam’s sin, Christians believed, not only expelled the first couple from the Garden. Plants and animals too had been dispersed, but now scholars could imagine a return to paradise by achieving universal knowledge.
If God were to bring all the animals before man today, the line would be too long. This scene could only take place on the computer, which is exactly what the new Encyclopedia of Life proposes. This remarkable project aims to gather descriptions of every species known to science on a single website. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson has been the driving force behind the Encyclopedia, and his enthusiasm for it is unbounded. “It’s going to have everything known on it,” he said, “and everything new is going to be added as we go along.” Nearly two million species are known, but scientists estimate that ten times that many are yet to be discovered. Most of these unknown species are bacteria, fungi, and insects. We can name them because we know, or want to know, everything about them.
Historically, humans have often felt the need to be special, and just as often have been disappointed. The Earth, as it turned out, wasn’t at the center of the universe. Humans are smart, but in the end, they evolve, live and die just like all the other living things on the planet. In astronomy, the prevailing theoretical models of how the solar system got here have assume that, based on past experience, we’re probably just an average solar system.
But according to a new study by Northwestern University astronomers looking at 300 planets orbiting other stars, we might really be special. “We now know that these other planetary systems don’t look like [our] solar system at all,” said Frederic Rasio, an astronomer at Northwestern, in Chicago. Computer simulations used by Rasio’s team showed that the birth of a planetary system is a very violent affair, with the gas disk that gives birth to the planets pushing them toward the central star, where they often crowd together to be engulfed. Gravitational encounters between growing planets fling some across the planetary system, or into deep space. “Such a turbulent history would seem to leave little room for the sedate solar system, and our simulations show exactly that,” said Rasio in a news release from Northwestern University. Our solar system “had to be born under just the right conditions to become the quiet place we see,” he said. “The vast majority of other planetary systems didn’t have these special properties at birth and became something very different.”
Around the world, the night sky is vanishing in a fog of artificial light, which a coalition of naturalists, astronomers and medical researchers consider one of the fastest growing forms of pollution, with consequences for wildlife, people’s health—and the human spirit.
About two-thirds of the world’s population, including almost everyone in the continental U.S. and Europe, no longer see a starry sky where they live. For much of the world, it never even gets dark enough for human eyes to adjust to night vision, reported an international team that mapped the geography of night lighting.