With all the pressing needs facing humankind, preserving wildlife habitat sometimes feels like a second-tier problem. But there's a growing recognition that ensuring biodiversity should be a top priority, and not just because of its relation to maintaining the quality of life.
At an interdisciplinary conference at Harvard University last autumn, philosophy professor Tu Weiming pointed to a deeper reason: "Anything we do to nature," he said, "reflects our inner self."
Our attitude toward nature does tell us something about our level of spiritual awareness. And as we develop more of this awareness, we contribute greatly to solving environmental problems. All progress stems from a more spiritual view of life, an understanding that God, divine Love, is really the one and only Life embracing man and the universe. This understanding develops respect and love for every expression of this wholly spiritual Life. It corrects harmful beliefs and attitudes that stem from the mistaken concept that nature is material, in conflict with itself, and more or less expendable.
From this spiritual point of view, there's an ideal and indestructible habitat for all creation - the divine Mind. "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations," the Psalmist wrote (Ps. 90:1). There's no competition for place or order of importance in the consciousness of God, the Mother and Father of the universe. To prove the here-and-now practicality of this fact requires dedication on our part, including taking even small opportunities to expand our love.
A close encounter with a determined goshawk last June provided me such an occasion. These birds nest in a particular stretch of woods near our home, and each spring a posted sign warns that goshawks will attack to defend their young. I usually avoid the area, but it was the most direct line to my destination that day, so I forged ahead. I did pray, though, by warmly affirming God's love for all creatures. Every identity has a useful purpose, and therefore a God-provided and unencroachable place.
This prayer replaced any concern I had, and I enjoyed the woods. Suddenly came a loud screech and rapid flapping. I hugged a tree as a bird dive-bombed, just missing my head. Moments later, it came at me again, passing close but not touching.
Instinctively, I found myself gently speaking to it: "It's OK, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just passing through. God is taking care of all of us." I continued walking with no further interference.
The incident left me with greater respect and, yes, love for that plucky goshawk that took on a full-size human in order to protect her offspring. And it also helped me see that habitat issues aren't so much space demands as they are Love demands - God, Love, calling for its highest idea, man, to reflect love to every aspect of God's creation. Mary Baker Eddy writes, "God gives the lesser idea of Himself for a link to the greater, and in return, the higher always protects the lower" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 518).
Protecting lower ideas doesn't disadvantage the higher idea. There's a more than equal return. When we rise above self-interest to reflect something of divine Love's tenderness for its creation, we feel a closer link to God ourselves. We express more of the qualities of our divine Parent. I took a different, longer route home that day. Allowing the birds a quiet space made me happy. I felt that it linked me to divine Love.
Society is making good progress in recognizing that "dominion" over the earth doesn't mean disregarding the needs of other creatures. But the dominion God gives certainly does include the wisdom to find mutually beneficial ways to care for wildlife. Rising to this demand of Love protects and blesses us all.
God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:21