The Child shall Lead the Lion

May 10, 2019 · Print This Article

In stunned silence, my students watched 1-ton walruses slip off the edge of a cliff and fall to their deaths. The gracelessness with which they fell jarred with the emotion of the moment.

It was not easy viewing, either, for the producers of the new series Our Planet as they filmed this compelling scene with such powerful animals tumbling powerlessly down a rocky cliff face. The students I taught, often boisterous, were stilled by the sight of the graveyard of blubber at the bottom of the cliff.

This viewing was the flashpoint that brought the findings of the most comprehensive report on the earth’s biodiversity home to me. Humans’ threaten 1 million species with extinction, says the report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “Boy, we are in trouble.” These words were not spoken in vain by the Professor who chaired the report, Sir Bob Watson.

I don’t need to beat the drum for why this is happening. There’s more of us and we are consuming more. We are cutting down trees, changing habituates, over-fishing, we’re polluting the air, soil and air. And because of the natural interconnectedness of the ecosystem, if we lose species, it affects others. If the earth could speak, it probably would be groaning[1].

Yet with such apocalyptic language, there was a quiet sound of hope. There are solutions – yes, we can do something about it. And one solution stood out for me, in particular. It’s a solution that gets at the heart of our values – what we believe.

The solution is about changing the story we’ve come to believe in. It’s not a story written down, but one we, particularly in the West, have bought into. It’s a narrative that shapes our decisions because of what we believe the good life is. This story tells us that achieving the good life depends on “high consumption and quick disposal.” This social narrative of wanting more wealth and possessions is at the root of the choices individuals and governments make. So is there another story we can buy into to help nature?

In short, yes. This other story is suggested by the co-chair of the report. Professor Sandra Diaz tells outlines this new story: “We need to shift it to an idea of a fulfilling life that is more aligned with a good relationship with nature, and a good relationship with other people, with the public good.”[2] This story is about another kind of good life. A more sustainable one that places the value of relationships above consuming more.

I like this story, even if I don’t know yet know how to live it. Though I do wonder whether we humans can ever be relied on to change things?

It’s difficult to know where this story will end for nature. This is where I have hope. It is not a misplaced hope with everything crossed. It’s a hope based on someone who I believe can deliver promises. And this person has promised a different kind of end to this story. Ok, admittedly, you may not buy into this story, but if you think it’s worth further thought, I will share an outcome for nature very different from the dire predictions we’ve heard this week.

This narrative predicts the only way the natural world can survive and thrive is not with a change of story but a change of nature itself. The nature of humans, and the nature in which this world is governed. This story predicts only the intervention of God himself can bring about sufficient change. We are given a view into what nature looks like in a soon-coming world tomorrow:

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”[3]

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[1] This groaning is the state the Bible suggests the natural world is already in: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22 (NIV).


[3] The Bible, Isaiah 11:6-9 (NIV)

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