3. Live Within the Biosphere

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

John 3


Three Elements

Before taking action to address the predicaments we face, it is important to develop an intellectual and spiritual understanding of what is happening. In other words, a theological foundation is needed. Three suggestions for theological discussion are provided at this site. They are:

  1. Understand and tell the truth;

  2. Accept and adapt; and

  3. Live within the biosphere (this one).


Element 3. Live within the Biosphere


At the root of many of our difficulties lies the unspoken assumption we are somehow outside of nature — we are able to control nature for our own benefit. Even church environmental groups can exhibit this way of thinking when they form committees with titles such as “Care of God’s Creation”. There is a danger that we see ourselves and creation as being separate from one another, and that we are in control of both. This way of thinking is no longer appropriate; we will have to see ourselves as being within nature, within the biosphere — not outside of it. Even people who are environmentalists and nature-lovers may find that they need to change their way of thinking.

In Genesis 1:28 we are instructed to “fill and subdue the earth”. We have succeeded all too well in following that instruction — if we continue, we will destroy ourselves and our environment. We have also seen how God instructed Noah and his sons to populate the earth.


It will be important to determine just why we want to preserve the natural world and the creatures in it. Are we taking these actions for the sake of the natural world itself, or because a healthy biosphere is of benefit to humans and to our way of life? Should we carry out activities to protect nature not for its own sake, but for ourselves? Is the natural world its own justification? should we stop the use of insecticides and herbicides, and accept the additional human suffering that will result? Does living within the biosphere mean that we offer the same protection to malaria-carrying mosquitoes as we do to cute animals such as koala bears? After all, even the COVID-19 virus is part of God’s Creation. These are tough questions.


Questions such as these will pervade almost everything that we do. For example, the chemical industry has manufactured billions of tons of artificial fibers such as polyester and nylon to make fabric and clothing. When the clothes wear out or fall out of fashion, we throw them “away”. But that begs the question as to where “away” may be located. These fibers do not degrade quickly, and many of them wind up in the ocean. Tiny threads of microfibers are being found in the internals of fish that live in the deepest parts of the ocean. If our concern is to do with “nature” then we should stop manufacturing polymers for use in clothing and we should revert to wearing clothes made of natural materials such as wool and cotton. Yet these artificial materials allow us to have comfortable, hard-wearing clothing at an affordable price. And even if richer people could afford to switch to natural materials, many people toward the bottom end of the economic scale cannot. So, should we protect these fish even though very few people have even seen these fish and which, as far as we know, contribute nothing to our health and prosperity? Or should we continue to use polymer fibers, knowing that they are of great benefit to us, particularly less prosperous people, and let the fish take their chances?


One of the theological themes of this site is that we need to be willing to make sacrifices in our material standard of living. But, to what to what extent should we make sacrifices, not just for other people, but also for the natural environment? Where do we draw the line? And, if we are to make sacrifices, who do we include in the word “we”? Just those who are already reasonably prosperous, or those who are already struggling to maintain an adequate life style? None of this is easy.




The page Gaia discusses the concept that the Earth, as an entity, is a living being — a holobiont, of which we are part. This way of looking at the Earth aligns well with the idea of “living within the biosphere”.