Sometimes certain environmentalists criticize the Bible as the root of disregard for and disrespect for nature. They think that modern, western nations have shown a remarkable desire (and ability) to master and control nature, and they note that modern, western nations were shaped by the Bible. And they note that the Bible expressly tells human beings (in the book of Genesis) to go out and subdue nature and exercise dominion over it.
This argument is somewhat tendentious, even on general principles. After all, the west has gotten a lot more interested in mastering nature as a result of the influence of the Enlightenment political thinkers, and those thinkers were in some ways rebelling against the Bible. This is surely why domination of nature is not historically co-extensive with Christianity. It arose a long time after Christendom had come along, and in fact when it was falling apart and being replaced by the modern world. Also, anybody who reads the Bible can see that it does not exactly celebrate the obsession with material comforts and worldly power that makes us want to dominate nature.
In addition, the Bible says other things about nature besides advising human beings to exert dominion over it. Most obviously, the creation account in Genesis teaches that all the created things were good in the eyes of God, even before any human beings came along. That seems to me like a clear teaching that human beings cannot regard other creatures as existing only for the use of humans (although there might be proper ways to use some of them).
In his encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis tries to correct this idea that the Bible authorizes unlimited domination of nature. Here is a pertinent passage (from section 67):
We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man ‘dominion’ over the earth, has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justified absolute dominion over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to ’till and keep’ the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. ‘The earth is the Lord’s’ (Ps. 24:1); to him belongs ‘the earth with all that is within it’ (Dt 10:14).
Indeed, the pope goes on to suggest that biblical religion might actually provide a more solid ground on which to respect nature than other alternatives(from section 75):
A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality.
I think he has a point here. If we take an all-good creator out of the picture, what motive do we have to respect creation as somehow good in itself? We would have a self-interested motive to protect it, so that we can continue to live in it comfortably. But that is not the same thing as regarding it as intrinsically good. And it is not as strong or reliable a motive, perhaps, as a belief in creation’s goodness apart from anything we might be able to get out of it. And how can we believe nature has an inherent goodness if we believe it is all the result of chance and necessity, not the plan of a loving, personal, supreme God?