atempt to slay the dragon, to use the immense resources of the Earth for
our convenience, eventually unleashes it, making the Earth less habitable.
Our story would thus be much like Job's: by demanding that an indiffer-
ent universe comply with our expectations, we would have provoked it to
respond with a stunning violence that revealed our true place.
Such a transformation would not put our ethical orientation into
doubt but would actually give it new strength and sophistication. We
who inevitably lead intentional lives, filled with a sense of responsibility,
would learn not to expect that our intentions will also be those of the
universe. Giving up our cosmic arrogance, we would also renounce the
idea that our moral purposes for the cosmos will come true. If we choose
to assume responsibility for the environmental crisis now taking place
around the Earth, to own disaster, we would realize that this ethical act
does not make us masters of the situation, but the reverse, for it asks us
to do justice even when we are powerless to bend natural forces to our
will. We would thus act with justice not because the universe will reward
us or because everything will work out well for us if we do, but simply
because such action is the right thing to do. This renunciation would have
a double benefit: it would allow us to give the wildness of the world its
due, to pursue a truly ecological ethics of humility in the face of nature, as
I argued above, and would also relieve us of the notion that this wildness
will necessarily operate in a manner we might expect. 154 We would thus
finally live with genuine humility, affirming through our actions our due
place in the creation.
Once we learned to live in this way, we might also finally place the
great emphasis on the future in its proper sphere—in the world of ordi-
nary prudence, beyond which lies an entirely different level of concern.
We can and should still remain atentive to the practical maters of life,
including how we emit greenhouse gases and the consequences of doing
so for all forms of life. But beyond prudence lie the ultimate questions of
who we are and why we are here. Our pragmatic concern for the future
cannot eclipse the presence of forces that have always superseded us, that
have perpetually revealed our cosmic vulnerability.
Accepting this gap between ethics and the universe, between prag-
matic concerns and a sense of the sacred, between prudence and awe,
we would also relinquish any myth, any religious teaching, that would