Following the disastrous flood, Noah built an altar, sacrificed a number of animals who had survived the journey, and when the Lord “smelled the pleasing odor,” (one imagines a grilling here for the ages) he decided never to destroy humankind and the earth again. Joseph Anton Koch offers this 1803 view of the moment, entitled Noah’s Thank Offering. The New Revised Standard Version phrases it thus,
As long as the earth endures,
seeedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
shall not cease. (8.22)
And, of course, we receive a rainbow as a guarantee on those words.
I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of
the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and
the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and
you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a
flood to destroy all flesh. (9.13-16)
The term Anthropocene defines a period roughly beginning with the rise of agriculture or the Industrial Revolution, focusing it’s name upon the multi-layered affect human beings have had on the earth. A feature of this epoch will be the world’s sixth mass extinction, as recently claimed in Time. Other articles have appeared from Stanford and the Smithsonian. Today proved no different in the Sunday New York Times with Jim Robbins’ editorial, Building an Ark for the Anthropocene. Organizations around the world, some operating in the United States, are trying to set aside land, assist in necessary migration, and create seed banks in order to prevent the loss of one-third to one-half of this planet’s flora and fauna. What sign will human beings create as a promise not to bring about a great extinction? A rainbow or a funeral wreath? Here’s one of the casualties already, the Dodo as painted by Roelant Savery.