It is undeniable that unmitigated climate change threatens the way of life known to humans since the agricultural revolution. While those of the one-third world who profess religious belief might find it easy to believe and trust that God would never allow humankind to mess things up so terribly (the two-thirds world knows better), this is a problematic assumption if we take seriously the vision of some biblical prophets. Consider the description of the day of YHWH found in Isaiah 34:
For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of vindication by Zion’s cause. And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and her soil into sulfur; her land shall become burning pitch. Night and day it shall not be quenched; its smoke shall go up forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever. But the hawk and the hedgehog shall possess it; the owl and the raven shall live in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plummet of chaos over its nobles. They shall name it No Kingdom There, and all its princes shall be nothing. (Isa 34:8-12 NRS)
When read alongside the forecasts of climate scientists, this prophetic oracle achieves a new significance. It’s theology, likewise, is worth considering. The “day of vengeance” signifies a destructive and enduring scenario. The landscape is catastrophically altered to preclude the possibility of human habitation, and this alteration will endure well beyond lifespan of those who bring this day upon themselves (the day of YHWH in the prophetic texts is never presented as a capricious act of the deity).
What is all the more remarkable, however, is what this day means for the wild inhabitants of God’s land. Here, I quote Hilary Marlow’s essay, “Justice for Whom? Social and Environmental Ethics and the Hebrew Prophets” in Ethical and Unethical in the Old Testament: God and Humans in Dialogue:
But this is not something arbitrary or unexpected. Verses 16a-17a suggest that this is YHWH’s deliberate provision for these animals: “Seek and read from the book of the lord. . . . for the mouth of the Lord has commanded, his spirit has gathered them.” From a wider ecological perspective, the desolation and depopulation of the urban landscape has allowed another part of the created order to flourish. YHWH’s outpouring of vengeance against humanity shifts the ecological balance in favour of the non-human natural world. The explicit sense of divine purpose and plan cautions against the anthropocentric assumption that human wellbeing is the only thing that matters. The power of the natural world, whereby settled land reverts to wilderness and is colonized by wild animals, is a reminder, then as now, that human settlement and cultivation is not the default mode of the natural environment. (116)
This perspective is not unlike that of Leviticus 26:34-35.