Unintended Consequences: What Can Be Done? (Part 2)

We might have the best of intentions but our actions may cost us more than the original price.

Yellow Sign "You Can't Fix Stupid"

In case you missed the first installment in this series, you can find it here: Unintended Consequences (Part 1)

We all do stupid things.  Pushing ‘send’ on an email, hurrying an unedited ‘tweet’, or posting Facebook frustrations often leaves us in a place we would rather not be.  We can be dumb, ditzy, and delirious.

But what happens when we do ‘smart’ things?  Sometimes ‘being smart’ gets us in trouble.

“Don’t get too big for your britches” is a phrase I remember from childhood.  “He thinks he’s ‘all that’” is the 21st century equivalent.  Just about the time we think we’ve “arrived” we find our destination eludes us.  Decisions backfire.  One choice eliminates options.  Human intervention often creates problems even with the most benign, beneficent intentions.  The negative outcomes of human action are all around us.

Alien and the three movies that followed scared us on screen.  But aliens from space may be a metaphor for what we do to ourselves.  Alien animal species transported from one habitat to another is one example of many.  Laws restricting the movement of wildlife are in place for a reason.  The consequences of humanity’s undisciplined freedom can ravage an ecosystem.

Want a pet from another country?  Not a good idea.  The Burmese python introduced into the Florida Everglades created more problems than it solved.  Intentional or not, release of the python into the national park has endangered indigenous and endangered species.  There are always consequences to our actions.

The Macquarie Island Ecosystem is a classic example of unintended consequences.  Shipping cargo to the islands in the early 19th century brought rats residing on transports.  So cats were brought in to solve the rat problem.  Soon the cats overpopulated the islands.  Toxins were then used to exterminate cats.  Miss Cellania explains:

With the cats gone, those 10,000 rabbits who were immune to the Myxoma virus began to multiply again. The Tasmanian government came to the conclusion that all non-native species had to be eradicated at the same time. That would be the only way to restore the nature preserve to its intended use for the original sea animals. The current eradication program began in 2010. But even that has its problems. The poison bait used to eliminate invasive mammals is working its way through the ecosystem. Just last year, we learned of the death of thousands of seabirds that ate the carcasses of the poisoned mammals.

Introduction of a predator into a certain ecosystem which eliminated the immediate problem created many more.  Aliens take many forms and have multiple consequences.  We might have the best of intentions but our actions may cost us more than the original price.

How can we be sure not to pay for something we did not want?  What is the best way to operate in life if the future is unseen?  What can we do to limit and lessen “getting too big for our britches”?   We need to remember that we are finite, fallen creatures living in a fragile creation.  We need to understand that Universal Laws govern creation, whether we have a God-centered view of life or not.  We should strive to preserve the thinking of the past, to ignite reformation in the present, and to anticipate the possible impact of our decisions for the future.

Futuristic thinking was the concern of Frederic Bastiat.  His essay “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” ends with a quote from Francois Rene de Chateaubriand.  Chateaubriand was a French ambassador living in the mid-19th century who served after Napoleon fell from power.  What Chateaubriand says about history in Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb can be applied to all of life.

There are two consequences in history: one immediate and instantaneously recognized; the other distant and unperceived at first. These consequences often contradict each other; the former come from our short-run wisdom, the latter from long-run wisdom. The providential event appears after the human event. Behind men rises God. Deny as much as you wish the Supreme Wisdom, do not believe in its action, dispute over words, call what the common man calls Providence “the force of circumstances” or “reason”; but look at the end of an accomplished fact, and you will see that it has always produced the opposite of what was expected when it has not been founded from the first on morality and justice.

May our search for morality and justice begin with Righteousness.  May our perception of doing what’s right be tempered, aware of possible unintended consequences.  And may we understand that unintended consequences will be overcome by The Outcome of The One to come, Jesus (Revelation 19).

Mark believes in the tension of “the ideal and the real.”  God’s laws are intended to limit and lessen the consequences of human behavior.  God’s laws are compromised only because of human sin.  God never compromises His own perfection, nor lowers His standard.  He does, however, lower Himself, stooping to our level so as to save us from ourselves in The Person and Work of Jesus (Romans 5).  

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