Trees Of Life
Calvin DeWitt, founding director of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, told CT that Sabin is "always pursuing his mission" to reform the way people live and work to restore balance with the environment. "A lot of us feel that's what we want to do. Scott has been able to figure out how to do it."
Floresta's three-part mission of environmental stewardship, economic development, and spiritual discipleship is unique among creation-care groups, said Jim Ball, the longtime director of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Until very recently, no one else was doing all three. Two new groups, Eden Vigil and Care for Creation, aim to address these areas, but Ball said no other Christian relief and development organization has Floresta's lengthy, holistic track record.
In April 2009, seven evangelical relief and development agencies, including World Relief, World Vision, and Food for the Hungry, joined Floresta to form the Evangelical Collaboration for Climate Adaptation, an initiative that recognizes the vital link between responsible forestry and relieving poverty. "I definitely think that within a decade, this will be a much more important part of evangelical relief and development organizations," Ball said.
Some of Floresta's newest supporters are North American church leaders. Pastor Mike McClenahan and Solana Beach Presbyterian Church in Southern California partner with Floresta in Oaxaca, Mexico. McClenahan has preached on practical ways Solana Beach members can care for creation. He believes community-based environmental work ends up reaching the unchurched. "People may not want to talk about Jesus, but they want to clean up the lagoon," McClenahan said. "I'm passionate about [Christians] seeing themselves as sent into the world to make a difference, whether it's for the environment, building houses in Mexico, or tutoring children in our community."
High Tech, High Touch
Reforesting denuded land is laborious and expensive. By the late 1960s, Dominican government officials, alarmed by spreading deforestation methods and severely eroding croplands, devised two solutions: they lowered the price of propane to reduce the demand for locally made charcoal, and made it illegal to cut down trees.
Their measures had unforeseen consequences. According to Carlos Disla, national director of Floresta in the Dominican Republic, trees became the enemy of poor farmers. "If you can't own what you plant, there's no incentive to plant it," he explained.
Floresta leaders now recognize that the only way to save the forest is to show farmers how to see living trees as sources of income. Broadly speaking, the ministry's strategy is to blend new technologies with intense community networking, relationship-building, and education. Its "high tech, high touch" approach features four areas of focus:
- Agronomy: Farmers are introduced to using genetics, soil science, and meteorology to grow trees and seasonal crops for food, fuel, and industry.
- Multi-sector model: Guided by a shared vision, the government, private enterprises, and churches work together to promote reforestation.
- Best practices: Community models are designed to be sustainable, reproducible, and scalable from the village to the national level.