And God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living breathing beings and let the birds fly over the earth, against the face of the firmament of heaven.” And God created the great sea monsters and every living breathing being that creeps, with which the waters swarmed according the their kinds, and every winged bird according to their kinds. God saw that it was surely good. And God blessed them saying, “Branch off and become many, and fill the waters in the seas. Let the birds become many on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, Day 5.
A headline from National Geographic reads “Source of Half Earth’s Oxygen Gets Little Credit,” explaining that plant respiration is only responsible for half of the oxygen we breathe. The other half comes from the tiny ocean dwellers called phytoplankton who also metabolize carbon dioxide into oxygen.¹ The ocean is teeming with swarms of things that give us oxygen to breathe.
Audubon Magazine asked it’s readers, Why do birds matter? Melanie Driscoll, director of bird conservation for the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Flyway, answered in this way:
Birds are important because they keep systems in balance: they pollinate plants, disperse seeds, scavenge carcasses and recycle nutrients back into the earth. But they also feed our spirits, marking for us the passage of the seasons, moving us to create art and poetry, inspiring us to flight and reminding us that we are not only on, but of, this earth.²
Over our heads are winged creatures who spread life and poetry against the backdrop of the firmament.
And God blessed them saying, “Branch off and become many, and fill the waters in the seas. Let the birds become many on the earth.” This blessing carries with it the creatures that make life sustainable on earth. We experience this blessing every time we breathe.
I can’t speak thoroughly to the science of our ecosystem, but I know that it’s both perfectly tuned for life and delicate. Since the beginning of industrialization, carbon emissions have caused a steady decrease in the acidity of our oceans. This altered environment threatens the stability of life for the swarms of teeming things, and thus threatens the stability of the environment as a whole.
“We do not understand the earth in terms of what it offers us or what it requires of us, and I think it is the rule that people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.”
If you are seeking to not destroy the earth, there are somethings you already understand about it. 1) Creation is to be loved because God made it and it is absolutely lovely, scientifically and otherwise. 2) We are irrevocably interconnected.
As yourself today, what is the earth offering? Start with your breath. Ask yourself next, what is it requiring of me? Start with gratitude.
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.”
³ Wendell Berry, “Think Little” in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry (Berkley: Counterpoint, 2002), 85.