In the beginning, God created the earth and everything within it and upon it, bearing us in mind all the while: this world was made for us. When He created Adam and Eve in His image and likeness He said to them “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over…all the living creatures…”. This word “subdue” is a strong one; our instinct is to see it in terms of crushing some manner of resistance. Some see this as God telling Adam to conquer the wilderness outside of Eden, that mankind has a blank check to use the Earth as it sees fit. But this is not so: notice what God does in the beginning.
“The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed,”. Later Scripture tells us that God placed Adam in the garden to “…cultivate and care for it,”. In other words, the manner in which we are commanded to “subdue” and have “dominion” over the Earth is to imitate the example God showed Adam when He fashioned, from the wilderness, a patch of paradise: Adam was meant to make the whole Earth an Eden. We haven’t license to do whatever we want; rather we have the responsibility to receive what God has entrusted to our care and use it for the fulfilment of our needs, and tend it well, not only for the sake of future generations but in honor of the God who fashioned all things. Let us use the Earth and everything in it, yes! But let us recall what the poet Emerson once wrote “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Fr. Jacob Boddicker, SJ – Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (USA & Canada)