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Chapter 4: The Responsibility of Earthlings for the Earth: Graciousness, Lament, and the Call of Justice by Clarence W. Joldersma

An illustrated companion to Chapter 4 of Beyond Stewardship: New Approaches to Creation Care. To view main webpage, click here:

I came to know that a nail itself had intrinsic value. Although a thing, a nail deserved straightening. It had a goodness that called me to invest time and energy."
We need an expanded self-understanding of humans beyond our role as stewards of resources for human projects and interests. ...And we need to view the nonhuman creation as having an independent moral standing beyond its use for humans."
Conscious thoughts and actions, which help us make our way in the world, are based in our sensorimotor structures. We share this sensorimotor embodiment with nonhuman living creatures. As cognitive beings, we already have an inkling of a depth to our human experience, that we are earthlings."
Individual neurons (right) are the building blocks for the web of neurons (left) that constitute the human brain and allow us to experience emotion, just like many other earthlings
Already our elemental makeup and our need to breathe show that we are earthlings. This earthiness reveals our relatedness to other living creatures and our earthly kinship with what matters for the teeming creatures on earth."
"201 Elements of the Human Body-01" by OpenStax College [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)] https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:201_Elements_of_the_Human_Body-01.jpg
At its most comprehensive, the earth is a dynamic system constituted by various subsystems: atmosphere (air), biosphere (living creatures), cryosphere (ice), hydrosphere (water), and lithosphere (earth’s crust). These specific systems compose a comprehensive earth system and jointly form the livable conditions that matter and on which we depend."
The 5 Spheres of the Earth (Image courtesy of Janice Wharton)
For the last ten thousand years, the earth system has been very supportive of human and other creaturely life. This elemental support also shows us to be precarious as living creatures. We are vulnerable to the elements and ultimately to the supportive stability of the earth system."
The Earth is delicately balanced, and climate change upsets that balance in many natural systems.
Climate change is not merely change but an undermining of the generosity of the earth as a supportive dynamic system. Disruptions of the global earth system threaten to undermine the well-being of the many living creatures that constitute the intricate web of life."
The Carbon Cycle. Note the black arrows, where human processes unbalance the system.
The Water Cycle. Climate Change has affected this cycle in several ways, including melting ice.
We experience the goodness of the creation as a felt claim, as an imperative that the nonhuman creation matters. The imperative becomes, then, a summons to protect the vulnerable earth from harm. Earth matters. ...This independent moral standing of earth should spur a response. It should awaken our fundamental responsibility to the creation as something to respect and care for intrinsically. This reorientation is a call for restraint and a call to care for creation for its own sake."

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