Man, Nature and God’s Creation

A nice natural scene showing off God’s creation, right? Well, not exactly. Then it is a garden shot? Nope. This is fully a natural landscape. Then what is the problem?

This is yellow bush lupine and the photograph was taken up in far northern California near Arcata. It turns out that yellow bush lupine, which are a very visible part of the dunes and shore areas up by Arcata and Eureka, is not native to the area. It comes from the San Francisco area. It had been planted alongside the railroad tracks to the sawmills in the area about a hundred years ago.

Yellow bush lupine, like all lupine, has root nodules that can capture nitrogen from the air, allowing the plant to grow in areas with nutrient-poor soils. It adapted to the sandy dunes of Humboldt Bay quite well. So the lupine has now naturalized throughout the area.

So we have a dilemma of sorts. Yellow lupine is a unique part of God’s creation, yet we have changed its relationship to creation. This image is clearly showing man’s influence, though I doubt most photographers would recognize it as such.

In today’s world, there are very few places one can photograph nature without seeing signs of man’s influence, whether that is non-native plants, changes in fire conditions, evidence of past farming or logging, and much more. I don’t see that as necessarily good or bad. It simply is. Perhaps it is part of the idea that man should have dominion over the earth from Genesis. Sometimes there are negative effects, sometimes good effects. I don’t buy the idea that our translation of the original text to dominion actually means that we dominate and subdue everything on our planet. We obviously have a big influence over the world, and to me, this relates very strongly to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), that we are responsible for taking care of God’s world. If the natural world truly is a gift from God, then we are irresponsible children acting like brats if we destroy our Father’s gift.

I think it is a problem to say that as lovers of nature, we can only see nature separate from man. Anyway, what does it mean if man is separate from nature? That is certainly not part of the Genesis creation stories. Is the yellow lupine good or bad? Well, it is certainly part of us and is no more an invader of this landscape than man is. That is a challenging thought! I don’t think it is an easy idea to deal with. Perhaps there is a place both for the unaffected landscape without lupine and the lupine affected landscape.

The idea that man exists separately from nature may be a root problem for how we interact with nature. I think that accepting we are part of God’s creation, part of nature, not separate from it, helps us better recognize what is and what is not acceptable for change in the natural world.

–Rob