Earth Day, celebrated on 22 April, is a time to demonstrate concern for the protection of the environment. But beyond a mere acknowledgement that we care, what are we actually doing to make a difference? Should we, as Christians, be actively involved in preserving and restoring our planet?
Brittany Ederer, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), is now working with the Christian charity Care of Creation. I asked if she would give us her perspective on why Christian students should be concerned about the environment. She writes:
Scripture reveals a special relationship between God and his creation, including human beings:
1. We’re made to care for the planet. God ordained that all of his creation would be fruitful and multiply where they live. He gave his special creation, the image-bearers of God, the responsibility of ruling over everything he made. (Genesis 1:20-28, 2:15; Psalm 8:5-8)
2. The planet should glorify God. God made everything to glorify himself – the stars, moon, mountains, trees, birds, animals, and humans. Creation is a witness to the existence and goodness of God. (Psalm 8:3-4, 96:11-13; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Leviticus 25:23-24; Job 12:7-10; Romans 1:20)
3. The planet is fallen. The fall of humans in the garden of Eden resulted in a curse: not only for humans, but also for the land itself, a curse that affects all of creation. Suffering and death is not exclusively a human experience, and creation suffers under the wickedness of humanity. (Genesis 3:17-24; Jeremiah 12:4; Hosea 4:1-3; Romans 8:22)
4. We’re called to restoration. Through his life, death, and resurrection Jesus opened the way for the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of all that he made. Humans are now able to be forever in right relationship with God, and as co-heirs with Christ are agents of redemption, reconciliation and restoration. (Matthew 6:26, 28:18-20; Colossians 1:15-20; Romans 8:19-21; 2 Corinthians 5:14-19; Revelation 22:1, 2)
What can students do?
Can students make a difference? Some already are! Years ago, post-graduate students who were part of InterVarsity/USA set out to discover the technology for using coconut fibre to make a profit, increase the income of coconut growers, and be good stewards of our planet. They formed Whole Tree, Inc. a company that still exists today.
In Uruguay, Christian students built a bridge to the gospel as they picked up litter. They found themselves the centre of attention as people passed by. Gavin, one of the Christians in the group, said, ‘Nobody had ever seen this done before... in two hours we had over 30 people stop us to ask what we were doing. We told them that we were Christian students who care about our city. Every one of those people walked away smiling and half confused. Hopefully they were encouraged not to litter. And hopefully they were also taken aback when they associated the word "Christian" with this act for community benefit.’
One IFES movement, AGEUP Peru, saw the problems that illegal mines had brought to the town of Puerto Maldonado: child prostitution, environmental degradation, and violent reactions to government restrictions on the illegal miners. Last year 21 pastors and student leaders met together to seek ways to be part of finding solutions.
Christian students can also serve as volunteers in relief efforts run by others such as ‘Farming God's Way’ in East Africa. Deforestation, erratic water supply, and techniques which result in over-farming and soil deterioration are addressed through tree-planting projects, water-harvesting techniques, and the transformation of farming practices. Many other Christian organisations would welcome student initiative and involvement.
Students can recognize that their identity is not in being a consumer, but in being a child of God.
And what about considering our consumer lifestyle? Increasingly we are becoming disconnected from the sources of products we use. Electricity, electronics, furniture, building materials, fuel, vehicles, clothing, and food all come from God's creation at some point. Students can recognize that their identity is not in being a consumer, but in being a child of God, and as such, it matters what they buy and how they make purchasing decisions.
The catalyst for a lot of poor environmental stewardship is the appetite of the Global North for consumer goods. What if college students in regions such as Latin America or South Asia produced a video to send to IFES movements in the North America, East Asia or Europe, telling their story of living with environmental damage? What if we partner in prayer together, as well as make sacrificial lifestyle changes, and get involved at the community level? The church is, after all, a living, breathing, united body with many parts. All the parts are designed to work together!
(photo by Fikri)
What will you do to be a better steward of God’s world? What local examples can you share with us? Let us know today!