We live in an amazing world. A world of enormous potential. But we also live in a world full of dangers such as natural disasters and diseases. God’s first commandment to mankind was to multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. We will look at what it means to subdue the earth and look at some of the pitfalls along the way.
What does it mean to subdue the Earth? A dictionary definition is “to overcome, quieten, to bring under control”. Probably the most helpful term is to “bring under control”.
The earth contains a number of elements that are harmful to human life. The natural world brings earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. The weather contains dangers like hurricanes, storm surges, floods and droughts. We could even be threatened with a large meteor from space doing untold damage.
“Bringing under control” also involves the use of the Earth’s resources and how we utilise them. There is a fine line between using these resources in a responsible manner and exploitation of those resources in a way that is harmful to the rest of humanity or the animal kingdom.
For early man one of the main threats was wild animals; but this threat has largely decreased over the ages. Although some diseases like leprosy, smallpox and tuberculosis have been wholly, partly or largely eliminated we are faced with new challenges such as HIV and AIDS. There are promising signs that malaria, that has killed millions, could be brought under control in the near future.
Subduing human nature
I am very aware that we also need to subdue human nature. Greed, envy and fear produce injustice, poverty and conflict that have tremendously negative effects of upon the aim of subduing the Earth. With God’s help we can deal with greed and fear in our own lives. Helping other people to know God can also have a positive effect and therefore bring about a better world.
Bringing our world under control
Subduing the Earth or bringing it under control involves the following:
- Responsibly using the Earth’s resources such as coal, oil, iron and mineral wealth, without exploitation, harming or polluting the environment.
- Control of ‘natural’ disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and the eruption of volcanoes or at least accurately forecasting these events to minimise their impact.
- Control of the weather particularly hurricanes, floods and droughts.
- Dealing with the domesticated and wild animals and protecting threatened species.
- Looking after our oceans, using it’s resources while preventing pollution and preserving fish stocks.
- Caring for the diversity of plant-life and rain-forests while understanding that possible cures for diseases in plants could be destroyed by our actions.
- Finding more efficient ways of growing food to feed an expanding population without exploiting the land in an irresponsible manner.
- Developing drugs and exploring natural cures to eliminate the diseases that for so long have plagued mankind and the animal kingdom.
- Controlling potential disasters from space by monitoring bodies that could have disastrous results and having a plan to prevent or deal with such an event.
- Finding ways of ensuring that everyone benefits in a fair and just way by eliminating extreme poverty throughout the world.
- Be aware that greed and fear produce injustice, poverty and conflict. These things have a negative effect on the aim of subduing the Earth.
- Finding a way to use nuclear energy (particularly nuclear fusion) without pollution for us now and in future generations.
- Using the laws of physics to our advantage such as has been done with electricity, electromagnetic waves (radio waves etc) and electronics (computers, communication etc.).
A balancing Act
In all of these things there is a balancing act. How do we use the Earth’s resources without exploitation? How do we feed an expanding population without damaging the environment? Could we learn to control earthquakes and might that control bring about other dangers? If control of the weather was possible how could we ensure that bringing rain to a drought stricken area would not have adverse consequences elsewhere?
There is no “magic bullet” in all this. Our efforts to control our world can have good results or could bring harm to other aspects of our environment.
So, who controls this process of subduing the Earth?
- Politicians. One problem with living in a democracy is that our politicians can be more concerned about the next few years and fail to take a long-term view.
- National states, Countries can be more concerned about benefits to their own citizens and fail to take a global view,
- The commercial world. Big companies are largely concerned about their own profits which can often lead to exploitation of the world’s resources. They may try to take more global view but the pressure is always there to succeed and maximise the profits.
- Environmental pressure groups. These can have a large impact on the policies of politicians and companies. The problem is that they can often appear quite negative. The basic assumption seems to be that to protect the environment we have to be prepared to suffer a decreased standard of living and a reduction in development. This would have a dramatic effect upon the poorest people in the world.
- The Media. Newspapers, television and the internet play an important role in changing public opinion and forming policy.
- Individual people. Politicians will only take action when they sense a change in the way that ordinary people (voters) see things. Companies will change the policies when there is a commercial pressure to do so from the customers (us).
So what can we do as individuals to help in this process of making the world a better place to live in?
- Be aware of all the issues involved. “Saving the whale” is a legitimate aim but is hardly the only issue at stake.
- Join an environmental pressure group.
- Explore careers where science can be used to benefit mankind. (For example medicine.)
- Think carefully about how a particular environmental aim, or scientific achievement may adversely affect the desperately poor or the marginalised people in our communities.
- Act as a responsible consumer and put commercial pressure on companies who are more concerned about profit margins than the effect that policies have on people.
- Encourage our politicians to take a more long-term view in the policy-making.
- Speak out against national, corporate or individual greed.
- Be prepared to give out of our own resources (time and money) to organisations whose aim is to eliminate poverty and improve the development of poorer nations.
- Guard our communication with our friends, family and circles of influence. As individuals we can’t change the world on our own but we can exert an influence upon people we meet every day.
How should we see this commandment to subdue the Earth? To the first men and women this was comparatively simple. It involved protection from wild animals and looking after the land that they used to grow their crops. It is now much more complicated but tremendously exciting. The commandment to mankind to “multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” can be seen more as a blessing from God upon mankind than a commandment.
The future is exciting. We can co-operate with God’s purposes and make this world a better place for everyone. We can look after the earth in a responsible manner while enjoying its resources and potential.
This article probably raises more questions than it answers. Please comment on your views. What do you agree with? What do disagree with? What is left out of the equation? To leave a comment all you need to do is add your name and e-mail address and type a comment. Comments will appear below this article immediately and won’t be removed unless they are offensive in nature.