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, occasionally lamenting the loss of a favorite hiking place or noticing that I no longer saw horned lizards in my backyard. Beyond that, the environment was a secondary concern. Those who went before me at Plant with Purpose, however, saw a direct connection between forest health and the health of poor communities. To get beyond treating the symptoms of poverty, we would need to address the health of the ecosystem that supported the poor. Standing on a windswept hillside in Haiti one afternoon, overlooking a panorama of eroded mountains and silt-choked rivers, it dawned on me that we could not give a cup of cold water without restoring the watershed. Over the past 18 years, I have slowly realized that this observation applies beyond Haiti. We all depend on a healthy world.
As 6.8 billion human beings seek to satisfy their needs and desires on an ever-shrinking planet, it should not surprise us that the issue of environmental stewardship or "creation care" is part of our global conversation.
While climate change dominates the discussion, hundreds of lesser known and less controversial environmental issues are coming to a head.
Marine species we used to think were infinite in number are vanishing at alarming rates. Half of the world's primates are in danger of extinction. Frogs and bees are disappearing. Fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce. Deforestation is reducing rainfall, soil fertility, and water resources in many parts of the world. In light of these realities, what ...Read Scott Sabin's complete article
Selected writers respond to Scott Sabin from around the globe.
Etienne is not a Filipino name, but the settings and scenarios of Etienne's life shared by Scott Sabin are realities in many places in the Philippines. The Philippines is a tropical country of 7,107 islands. ...Read More
While I don't disagree with Scott Sabin's thoughts, I am uncomfortable with "piling on more doom and gloom." True, the average North American is disconnected from the environment, and that disconnect ...Read More
Scott Sabin rightly mentioned the heartbreaking situation of Haiti. In video images of the recent tragic earthquake, we saw a striking contrast between the denuded wilderness of the west side of the island ...Read More