Save the Sharks!

Save the Sharks!

Just when you thought nothing could be more care-free than a day at the beach, Shark Weekarrives. Beginning this Sunday, the Discovery Channel’s annual summer special will terrify and enthrall viewers with close, sometimes fatal, shark encounters.

But despite sharks’ fearsome reputation, we humans actually pose a greater threat to them than they do to us. Humans kill millions of sharks each year, and scientists express growing concern that shark populations are in danger from overfishing.

Why should it matter if sharks are in peril? Because without apex animals like the magnificent great white, Earth’s ecosystems will undergo radical changes.

Grim news

Recent research exposed an alarming decline in the populations of the world’s top consumers, both carnivores and herbivores. The report, published in Science, states that we are witnessing a mass extinction event.

The loss of these animals may be humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature. Although such losses are widely viewed as an ethical and aesthetic problem, recent research reveals extensive cascading effects of their disappearance in marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems worldwide….These findings emphasize the urgent need for interdisciplinary research to forecast the effects of trophic downgrading on process, function, and resilience in global ecosystems.

Popular news coverage of this issue notes that how we handle this situation is critical, not only for the natural world, but for humans, too. RTB biochemist Fuz Rana backs up this conclusion in a discussion of the Science article on I Didn’t Know That! He calls the report “sobering” and a “call to action” for Christians to do our part in taking better care of our planet.

Going green—biblically

So what’s a believer to do about the environment? For me, the decision to “go green” has been plagued by a number of concerns. Between navigating political agendas, draconian measures, and expensive solutions, I’ve been left wondering how in the world someone like me can make a difference—especially in the face of such a chilling report on animal population declines. It’s tempting to just shrug the whole thing off and let someone else deal with it.

Yet working at RTB—plus watching a few Shark Week specials—has helped convince me that caring for creation is a truly biblical responsibility that reflects the Creator’s heart. The Evangelical Environmental Network advocates creation care, citing Christ’s ownership of creation (Colossians 1:16; Psalm 24:1), the plight of the poor—the first people affected by environmental problems—(Matthew 25:37–40), and other issues as reasons for becoming environmentally conscience.

RTB founder Hugh Ross, a big fan of the outdoors, encourages believers to look for solutions that benefit nature and humanity. He argues that, since God both created the world and charged humans with caring for it and each other, practical biblical solutions are possible.

The internet is replete with tips for everyday folks on how to live more eco-friendly and a surprising number of these suggestions actually save money as well. One tip struck me as particularly fitting for Christian life-styles: simply spending less. What a concept! We can sacrifice some of our wants so that our demands do not overtax the environment and deprive the poor of their needs.

Staying focused

Reports like the one in Science present daunting challenges—but the difficulties don’t excuse us from responsibility nor need they overwhelm us with pessimism. I’d encourage believers hoping to make a positive environmental change to remember the story of Jesus feeding a crowd of thousands. The disciples looked at their puny resources and despaired of feeding so many people. But that circumstance didn’t stop Christ from using the little offering to accomplish His purposes.

As Christians, being environmentally responsible involves not just recycling cans and bottles, but also submitting ourselves to Christ and allowing Him to work out His good purposes for the benefit of humanity and the planet. Not everyone can afford to make the same contributions to creation care, but the size of our “offerings” makes no difference to Him. He’ll use and multiply everything we give Him.


Resources: Check out RTB’s global warming webpage for a biblical and scientific perspective on environmental issues.