Mass Extinction in the Ocean
This week brought a report from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) that was labeled “shocking”. The shock value was at least as much about the rate at which marine ecosystems are deteriorating as it was about the specific observations and predictions. For those who follow these things, many elements of the report are not news, but the gravity of it all becomes more obvious with the timeline described and with consideration of the way these various elements interact with one another. The conclusion about the risk to both marine life and human life if we stay on our current course is grave: “the world's ocean is at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.”
According to the report, the greatest stress on the ocean is global warming with its twin effects of warming the temperature of the ocean and causing ocean acidification. Dr. Alex Rogers, the scientific director of IPSO who says “when the oceans go down, it’s game over”, talks about the main problems we are looking at with the oceans and some possible solutions:
“I find it very difficult to tell people what a scary situation we’re in at the moment,” says Professor Chris Reid of the Marine Institute, University of Plymouth. “The oceans are changing in a huge way, and I’m particularly worried for my grandchildren.” Here’s the rest of what he says about the speed of the changes that are occurring:
Even though care was taken in the report to talk about possible solutions to this crisis, the report was very discouraging given the political realities of today’s world that make it highly unlikely that these solutions will be implemented in time to ward off mass extinctions in the ocean and the attendant effects on the rest of the world, including human life.
I read something else this week, an interview from Christianity Today called The Joyful Environmentalists: Eugene Peterson and Peter Harris. In it, Peter Harris talks about the difference between their work – work done “in response to who God is” -- and the work of secular environmentalists. Noting that environmentalists who believe they’ll be able to save the planet may easily get “exhausted and disillusioned and depressed”, Harris goes on to say:
If, on the other hand, you do what you do because you believe it pleases the living God, who is the Creator and whose handiwork this is, your perspective is very different. I don't think there is any guarantee we will save the planet. I don't think the Bible gives us much reassurance about that. But I do believe it gives God tremendous pleasure when his people do what they were created to do, which is care for what he made.
The idea of doing what we can to care for the earth out of a joyful response to the Creator resonates with the verses near the end of Habakkuk. Though the crops have failed and the livestock is gone, says Habakkuk, “yet I will rejoice in Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18). The Habakkuk response suggests a spiritual path to help us avoid despair and do the work of creation care as well as we possibly can in the difficult years ahead.