And it came to pass that God walked out one morning to watch the sunrise. Sipping a second cup of coffee, God wandered through the gardens of heaven and looked out over the universe, delighting in creation. Suddenly one of the angels from the house staff came running up.
“Hey, boss! Did you forget that you are hearing special petitions this morning? You’re due in the Great Hall in ten minutes. And I have to tell you, there is a huge crowd in the waiting room.”
God hurriedly gulped the last of the coffee and trotted off toward the Great Hall, grabbing a robe from the cloakroom and sliding onto the throne just as chimes rang out the hour. The first request was easy – a slight course correction for a meteorite so that it didn’t slam into a populated planet. Then God gently explained to a distraught star why she was feeling increasingly hot and bloated and assured her that it was all part of the intended cycle of life. After she had left, God called over a scribe-angel and gave instructions for an update on the stellar health fact sheet.
“I want the whole section on life cycle rewritten in clear language. Then make sure it’s distributed to every star that shows signs of going supernova in the next million years or so. There’s no good reason why that poor star didn’t know accurate facts of life.”
Turning to the door keeper, God asked, “Who’s next?”
“Dear God, we have a delegation of species from planet earth. You know, that pretty blue planet that circles a class-three star out on the edge of the Milky Way.”
At that, the large doors swung open to allow all the delegation members to enter. A team of cherubim pushed in the huge tank that had been provided to accommodate the whale, the salmon, and the phytoplankton. The tiger strode in purposefully with the frog riding on his back and a pair of honeybees buzzing around his ears. Flying in overhead, the petrel glided to a smooth landing beside the whale in the water tank, while the California condor settled onto a heavy beam jutting from the wall just over God’s left shoulder. Bringing up the rear, the shy gazelle planted each hoof carefully on the slippery marble floor, then came to a complete halt as God began to speak.
“So what brings you all here this fine morning? You live on one of the best pieces of real estate in your galaxy, you know – a real gem of a planet, if I do say so myself. Is something amiss?”
Whale, being a great traveler and thus having seen much more of the planet than many of the others, had been designated their spokesperson. “It is true. The planet that we call home is lovely and well-equipped with everything necessary for abundant life. But alas, we are plagued by a rogue species that is fast making it unlivable for many of us. Most of the problems started about three hundred years ago, but they have gotten much worse in the past century. We know that there is a natural ebb and flow to life, that species flourish and then disappear. But this isn’t natural. Over the past millennium we’ve lost species at 13 times the normal extinction rate, and it’s rapidly getting worse.
“For example my own group, the cetaceans, filled the oceans just a few centuries ago. Now most of the great whales are endangered. There are only a few hundred each remaining of the northern right whale, the vaquita, the baiji, and the Indus susu. That’s not really enough to sustain a population. We don’t breed like rabbits, you know. Our cousins the dolphins and porpoises are managing better so far, but 20 to 25 thousand of them are slaughtered each year in the Japanese dolphin hunt, while more than ten times that number die after becoming trapped in commercial fishing equipment and nets.
“Truly, every being that lives in the ocean is threatened, because the ocean itself has become warmer and more acidic than it should be, and it’s filling up with trash. Coral asked me to tell you that we’ve already lost 19% of our coral reefs, and another 35% are threatened with bleaching and death within the next 40 years.”
At this one of the bees, who had been buzzing more and more angrily as whale spoke, interrupted. “The honeybee population in North America has decreased by 50% in just the past twenty years. We pollinate a third of all the food plants in the world. A FULL THIRD! And we’re being poisoned while we do it.” Bee’s outburst set off the rest of the delegation, and suddenly everyone was shouting out their complaints: overfishing, genetically manipulated food with no nutritional value, land stripped and left naked, pesticides, herbicides, water and soil poisoned by mines and wells, leaking pipelines, suffocating oil spills, everything burning, burning, burning.
God raised a hand to quiet the crowd. Gradually calm was restored, and they settled down to listen. “So what do you want me to do for you? What would make things better?” There was some foot shuffling and muttering. Then condor leaned down from his perch and spat out, “Get rid of the humans. They are the ones who are killing us off and destroying our planet.”
“All of the humans?” God asked quietly. “There are over seven billion of them now. Are they all completely destructive?”
There was some more muttering. Then gazelle whispered, “No, not all of them. There are a lot of poor ones that are more like us, just living on the land and trying to get by. And some of the rich ones have figured out what’s going on and are really working at stopping the destruction. But the very richest ones of all are the most destructive, and they have most of the power. I don’t know if the wise ones can turn things around before it is too late.”
God sat in deep thought for a few minutes, then spoke. “I’ve been aware of this situation for some time now, of course. I gave the humans free will, so they have to work this out on their own. I’ve already raised up a number of prophets to warn those who have ears to hear – people like Bill McKibben and Vandana Shiva and David Suzuki – and I will raise up more. Humans have to decide whether to hear and repent, or to find themselves in the midst of their own species collapse. They’re fast approaching a pivot point, peril or promise, and the choice is theirs.
“Here is the hope that you can take back with you. The planet will survive. Life will continue. It may be very different forms of life than now exist, but there will be life. There have been five great extinctions on planet earth prior to now, and each time new life arose and flourished after the old had disappeared. To everything there is a season. So go back, live the lives you have been given, and listen for the voices of the prophets. They will be there.”