God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." -- Genesis 1:28Whenever I see the Blue Angels -- the precision aircraft flying team -- I think of what amazing things we can do, if we set ourselves to it. That kind of achievement inspires wonder, awe, excitement. To make it happen, it took vision and passion. (There had to be enough passion to survive a hundred committees.)
For every crowning achievement, there are hundreds of good ideas that never become accomplishments. And there are hundreds of mediocre ideas that take their place, not as good but easier to achieve.
When we think about ruling over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and all the living creatures that move over the face of the earth, we can see the beauty and the possibilities of a vibrant world. When we set out instead to think of environmental responsibility, you can nearly feel the joy drying up like the morning dew, vanished before the passionless presentation of a morally obligatory chore.
We weren't called to only avoid doing harm, to achieve an adequate balance, or to create a merely sustainable environment -- to watch our step (or our carbon footprint) and hope that our passing leaves no mark. Our call has its roots in a paradise; being asked to settle for less -- to aspire for less -- leaves us apathetic. We may see it as a duty, as a chore. But our hopes are higher than that. We do not want that kind of moralizing -- the call to be adequate that is a dumbed-down version of the call for excellence. People resent that type of moralizing precisely because it is dumbed-down, where they would welcome an actual call for excellence.* 'Hope that our passing leaves no mark" -- where's the good in that? We are told to envision a paradise where there are rivers flowing down the streets of the city and an orchard lining its banks (Revelation 22:2).
I have an idea that every Bible verse, sooner or later, is lived out by someone. So to read a Bible verse, or to quote it, is to plant a seed and hope it grows.
There is a river, the streams of which make glad the city of God. (Psalm 46:4)
* There is something demoralizing about finding that someone's expectations of you (or your neighbor) are so cynical. And so, in its own way, I suspect that kind of moralizing has a demoralizing effect.