I will be the first to admit that a passage like that is open to various interpretations. Nowadays most scientists believe that after some incalculable number of years the forces of entropy will lead the entire universe to devolve into a state of low-grade radiation with a temperature approaching absolute zero, unable to support any kind of life. Some theologians have found that scenario so troubling that they interpret Paul's words in Romans, along with similar passages in the Book of Isaiah about "a new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17), in a very literal sense as portending an eventual, momentous renewal or redemption of all creation.

I myself am far more cautious in this regard. As I have written elsewhere, "One of the most constant themes in the spiritual teaching of the world's religious traditions is that human beings ought not to cling to possessions of one sort or another and that things will in fact normally be much more appreciated and enjoyed if one does not cling to them or yearn for them to have a permanence that is not appropriate" (Theology and Modern Science: Quest for Coherence, p. 107-8). This surely holds not just for objects in our immediate vicinity but for the universe as a whole. As William Blake wrote in his short poem "Eternity,"

He who binds to himself a joy
    Does the winged life destroy;
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies
    Lives in eternity's sun rise.

There are two further issues that should be addressed. The first is whether there is something in Christian doctrine that tends to make Christians ecologically irresponsible. Even those Christians who have written most ardently about the goodness of creation recognized that it is not ultimate, and many of them have used expressions that do denigrate the world around us. Julian of Norwich, immediately after speaking of God as creator, protector, and lover of all that God has made, writes: "God wishes to be known, and it pleases him that we should rest in him; for everything which is beneath him is not sufficient for us. And this is the reason why no soul is at rest until it has despised as nothing all things which are created."

This is the kind of language that led Karl Marx to speak of religion as "the opium of the people," people yearning for "pie in the sky by and by" while despising material reality. A related criticism is that the Christian tradition in particular is largely responsible for the exploitation of nature, as famously argued by Professor Lynn White, Jr. in an often-anthologized article first published in 1967. White claimed that "in Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit.... Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects" ("The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis," Science 155 [10 March 1967]:1203-07).

Still others have asserted that when God, in the first chapter of Genesis, tells humans to "fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth" (Genesis 1:28), this command gives us carte blanche to treat the world around us in any way that seems to be for our benefit.