God and an Endangered Toad: Faith Traditions and the Environment

A couple of weeks ago, there was quite a brouhaha in the news about the inclusion of God into the Democratic and Republican party platforms at the convention. Personally, I don’t think God cares too much about party platforms.

But I do think God might wish that we humans were better stewards of this beautiful planet and the animals that inhabit it along with us. Around the time of the conventions, the Zoological Society of London published a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Species Survival Commission that listed the one hundred most threatened species of animals. These animals are unique and interesting in their own way, but they may die out simply because they don’t offer obvious benefits to humans. Are we being good stewards by letting this happen?

Although it’s rare, sometimes faith and conservation do join forces for good. Recently, I read a post by Brandon Loomis in the Salt Lake City Tribune:  Utah Group Goes on a Divine Quest for Rare Toads.

Volunteers in Utah from Interfaith Power & Light, a faith-based environmental coalition, went on a search for the rare boreal toad (Bufo boreas), which occupies only 1 percent of its historic breeding places and is under evaluation for possible Endangered Species Act protection.

The most serious threat to the boreal toad is the chytrid fungus, a disease that is devastating amphibian populations worldwide. Biologists believe habitat protections can help reduce stress and can keep outbreaks in check.

Boreal toad. Photo courtesy of the State of Utah Natural Resources Department: Division of Wildlife Resources.

The interfaith group didn’t find any boreal toads, but their excursion wasn’t in vain. One of the volunteers was quoted in the article as giving her reason for the importance of their outing, other than the fact that kids love frogs and toads:  “More and more we become so disconnected from nature. We might go to church on Sunday, but I feel like we’re called to do more than that.”

The search was organized by Jason Brown, a Mormon with theology and forestry degrees who teaches ethics at Utah Valley University. As quoted in the article, Brown said: “Depending on the faith tradition, biodiversity can be sacramental of God, or [indicate] God’s presence.”

We say Amen to that.

For more information:
The Interfaith Power and Light website has links to articles about different religious faith traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and others) and the environment.  Please
click here.
Vernal.com for more information about the boreal toad.