I have just finished reading a new book by Scott Sabin called Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People. I have lots of books on Christianity and the environment but this one is different in that it highlights how environmental degradation both contributes to poverty and effects the poor disproportionately.
Sabin is executive director of Plant with Purpose, a nonprofit Christian environmental organization with operations in seven countries. One of the primary goals of his organization is planting trees and promoting sustainable farming practices. To some this may not seem like much of a Christian mission but Sabin argues convincingly that it truly is. By addressing environmental issues in poor countries Plant with Purpose offers hope for the future and love for those in need now.
One of the places the book talks a lot about is Haiti. I have seen firsthand the deforestation that has taken place in this Caribbean country due to cutting trees for fire wood or the production of charcoal. Ninety six percent of the Haitian forests have been denuded. I have also seen firsthand the devastation caused by the flooding deforestation contributes to. Without a doubt, one of the best things we can do for places like Haiti is assist them in reforestation projects. As Sabin notes, “When the land is impoverished, its people will remain in poverty.”
In the study guide that is included in the back of the book Sabin says, “The hardships faced by these communities are linked to environmental health. Deforestation, pollution, famine, unsanitary water sources, and events such as drought, flooding, and mudslides are environmental issues. For Christians, who have been charged with caring for the poor, a response to poverty must include responding to the environmental issues in which poverty is rooted.”
In the book’s conclusion there is this wonderful summary: “When we see creation through God’s eyes, we see that God is revealed in and glorified by this wondrous symphony playing all around us. The good steward knows that humans have a special part to play in this symphony. Made in God’s image, humans have a responsibility to care for creation, and thus the good steward seeks to exercise dominion with the same compassion with which God rules. The good steward’s attitude is best described as one of humility. With humility, the good steward works to serve and protect creation, acknowledging human dependence on habitat. Because humans are so dependent on habitat, the good steward responds to Christ’s call to care for ‘the least of these’ by responding to the ecological degradation that characterizes the habitats of our world’s poorest communities.”
Reading Tending to Eden has opened my eyes to seeing Creation and Creation Care to a new level. I commend the book to you and encourage you to pay a visit to www.plantwithpurpose.org.
(The top image shows charcoal being produced in Haiti. Note the lack of trees on the mountains in the background. The bottom image is a street scene near Port au Prince.)