It’s easy to claim God gave us dominion over the earth and think we have free rein to do what we want. But dominion implies stewardship. Are you a good steward?
“God spoke: ‘Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.’”Genesis 1:26 The Message
“Today you’re going to investigate the cause of death for these fish,” the biologist at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista, CA, told our students.
“Cool,” one of the boys enthused, “just like on CSI!”
“That’s right,” she replied, “all of these specimens died at the same time, and as we dissect them, you’ll discover what killed them.”
The students settled in to their tasks. For some reason, finding the cause of death made dissecting fish more exciting than dissecting a frog in the science lab. By the end of the experiment, the students discovered the fish had died from a lack of oxygen.
“Why do you think they died from lack of oxygen?” the biologist asked.
“Someone took them out of the water?” one student guessed.
“They get oxygen from water?” another student asked.
“They got into some polluted water?” a third volunteered.
“Close,” the biologist said. “Has anyone ever heard of a red tide?”
Most of us hadn’t. She explained how toxic algae grows when the water has excess nitrogen and phosphorus. Depending on the species, the algae can be red, green, or bluish. It blocks sunlight from reaching aquatic species, thus cutting off oxygen and killing fish and other species.
How Do Algal Blooms Happen?
The biologist explained how decisions made upriver and upstream have consequences downriver and downstream. When farmers and ranchers fertilize their crops or homeowners fertilize their lawns, excess nitrogen and phosphorus are carried to streams and rivers during heavy rainfalls.
When water flows over pet waste and animal manure or across roofs, sidewalks, and streets, it also carries pollutants that affect water quality.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency’s website explains how nitrogen and phosphorus get into the air when people use fossil fuels for power generation, industry, and transportation. Studies have shown how heavy rainfall can increase the amount of phosphorus in the soil. As the water runs over the soil, it carries the phosphates into into streams and rivers.
When the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus go up, algae thrive. It thrives even more on sunny days with no wind. Within days, the algae can spread to the point that it starts harming aquatic life. Algal blooms pose danger to humans, too.
What Do Algal Blooms Have to Do with Dominion Over the Earth?
Algal Blooms demonstrate the domino effect of how different groups of people steward (or don’t) resources. We only have one Earth, and the decisions we make now can affect our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.
When God gave Adam (and humankind) dominion over the earth at Creation, he didn’t mean for Adam (or anyone else) to ruin the kingdom. Dominion implies stewardship. If we steward the resources, we’ll have enough to go around. When we take our responsibility as a license to do whatever we want, the Earth (and the people on it) suffer.
In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the parable of the faithful servant, who responsibly uses the resources the master gave him. He stewards the money entrusted to him.
I confess I have spent most of my life using resources with abandon. I’ll run water in the faucet when I don’t need to rather than turn it off between tasks. I use laundry detergent with phosphates, which contributes to the downstream algal bloom problem. Years ago, I used to drive all over parking lots looking for the closest place to park. Wasting fuel when I could have parked at the back of the lot and burned calories instead.
God calls each of us to steward his creation. In what ways can you contribute to the solution rather than participate in the problem?
Father God, you gave us dominion over the earth, but we have squandered resources and used them with abandon. Please help me to think before I use, to consider before I consume. Help me, like a good steward, to be faithful in little things.