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Species Extinction and Earth Stewardship

Christians talk about our calling to be "good stewards of God's creation," but often we don't carry that commitment into the details of political policies. In today's world, there are urgent matters that demand our active stewardship.

Last spring, a major report from the UN had a headline-grabbing announcement that around 1 million species are threatened with extinction within decades. That's about 1/8 of all species on Earth. "The global rate of species extinction is already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than the average rate." That now-rapid rate comes mostly from human influences such as habitat destruction, toxic chemicals, and over-fishing.

The loss of so many species disrupts ecosystems. 

This is a serious threat. The loss of so many species disrupts ecosystems around the planet and has dramatic impacts on human societies. As the report said, "Nature is essential for human existence and good quality of life. Most of nature's contributions to people are not fully replaceable, and some are irreplaceable." 

Species extinction is an urgent theological and ethical issue. The modern church needs to reclaim the old awareness that all creatures, all species, are beloved by God. (Remember St. Francis!) The ethical principle of the "integrity of creation" insists that each species is valuable in its own right. Just take a look at the end of the book of Job, where God delights in species that are of no use to humans.

In the United States, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been the most prominent law to stave off species extinction. Passed in 1973, the ESA has been a successful force for the protection of threatened species. Historically, it has had strong support from Christians, who have often looked to the ESA as an important tool for protecting God’s creation. Canada followed suit in 2002 with the Species at Risk Act, aimed at preventing wildlife species in Canada from disappearing. 

The new rules make it harder to protect critical habitat

Last August, though, new rules in the United States to implement the ESA were put in place which are widely seen as weakening important protections for at-risk species. Among the changes, the new rules make it harder to protect critical habitat; the coming impacts of climate change are discounted; and federal agencies may now consider possible economic impacts when a species is being considered for listing. The overall result will be less protection for fewer species, at a time when the need for far greater protection is scientifically obvious.

The actions by the US administration to weaken the ESA are damaging to God's creation, and place at even greater risk species that are already in serious trouble. 

Good stewardship means acting strongly

A bill in Congress will repeal the ESA regulations of last August, and strengthen the Act. The "Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Conservation Act of 2019" is more popularly known as "The PAW and FIN Conservation Act." At the end of January, PAW and FIN was passed by the House Natural Resources Committee, and the next step is a full vote in the House.

In this time when the crisis of species extinction is so evident, good stewardship means acting strongly for the protection of those creatures which are endangered and at risk. As an act of faith, we need to ask policymakers to restore protections for all of God's cherished creatures.

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

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