In the 1960s, the ecology movement was launched with a fundamental insight: Everything is part of a system. If you alter one thing, it will affect something else—for good or ill. For example, we discovered back then that using the pesticide DDT to control mosquitoes and malaria (a good thing) also weakened the shells of birds' eggs and threatened their ability to reproduce (a bad thing). Such discoveries helped us think beyond our immediate actions and anticipate the collateral damage created by the way we live.

Are evangelization, compassionate justice ministry, and earth care similarly connected in a spiritual ecology? In this essay for the Global Conversation, Scott Sabin, author of the newly published Tending to Eden, connects those dots.

On a precarious slope, Etienne digs in the dusty soil with a small hoe, planting beans in hopeful anticipation of the rains, which have become unpredictable in recent years. Miles away, his wife is returning from the increasingly distant forest with a large bundle of firewood on her head. She was up before dawn carrying water from the spring, nearly an hour's walk away. The infant on her back is sick with intestinal parasites from drinking the water that she has worked so hard to provide.

Though the global context may be lost on Etienne and his family, they live with the consequences of environmental degradation on a daily basis. By contrast, in the United States, frequent headlines warn of the tribulations of the earth and its ecosystems, but because the impact on our daily lives feels minimal, the steady parade of dire predictions is ignored—or worse, fosters despair.

Until I began working with Plant with Purpose (formerly Floresta), I was among those who ignored the signs, ...

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