Wednesday, December 13, 2006

This is important

I wanted to post my ethics paper for you all to read. 1 down 3 more to go.

While stem cell research, gay marriage, and abortion are on the top of everyone’s list of things to advocate, the environment is getting left behind. The Religious Right and politicians are sending the message that the environment does not matter and that we all must turn our attention to a few hot-button issues that affect only a small percentage of the population. However, the condition of our earth affects everybody. Christians are often likely to assume that the environment is someone else’s problem and terms like “environmentalism” push people away because they are seen as politically or liberally motivated. It is a Christian’s duty to care for and protect the environment as stewards of God’s creation.
For decades we have been aware of the environmental problem. There is a growing lack of natural resources to heat our homes, provide us with electricity, and run our cars. Lands have been stripped of forests, agriculture has farmed the soil until it is rendered useless, and oil and coal are constantly being removed from the earth. One-fifth of the world’s people live in industrialized countries, but they consume more than two-thirds of the planet’s resources. An average American consumes as much as 2.1 Germans, 12.1 Columbians, 28.9 Indians, 127 Haitians, and 395 Ethiopians. These resources are not infinite and will one day run out, yet there is little attention being paid to develop safe and sustainable ways to replace these resources.
This extensive use of our resources is being compounded by the constant increase in the earth’s population. As of December 2006 the world population is over 6.5 billion, 300 million of which live in the United States. The simple problem of too many people and too few resources exists, but it also goes beyond that. The world’s people and the status of the earth are interdependent on each other. We need to consider the connection between our lack of resources and our consumption levels responsible for the status of the earth. The world’s population has grown more since 1950 than it had in the previous four million years. This population growth has caused one-third to one-half of the Earth’s land surface to be transformed into living space. It has also contributed to the extinction of animal and plant species at the rate of at least one species every twenty minutes. Water supplies are becoming scarce and stressed, including the contamination of 40% of the United States ground water. Also, although the United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population we consume 25% of its resources.
The increased population and consumption leads to another serious environmental problem. We are continuously and recklessly polluting the earth. Pollution comes in many varieties, including air, soil, and water. Daily activities like driving our vehicles, disposing of our trash, and consuming products that are mass-produced contribute to the pollution of the earth. Perhaps the biggest issue here is that people are generally unaware of the fact that the way they are living is contributing to this destruction.
As Christians we must turn our attention to the scriptural evidence and what the Bible says about our relationship with the world and the God who created it. Those who lived in the Biblical world were much closer to the earth and to nature. They witnessed the beauty of creation every day; their landscape was not blocked by skyscrapers or factory smokestacks and the stars sparkled vividly at night without being blocked by smog and city lights. When we first look for biblical support for nurturing the earth, it is easy to be satisfied with Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’” (NRSV).
This dominance, given by God over all of creation, must be looked at critically. The earth is not ours to utilize and destroy as we please; it was created and belongs to God, Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (NRSV). Humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and were given a position of dominion over all other creatures. Therefore we must provide the same care, as God would give to the natural world, a world created with all things good.
We are charged with stewardship over the earth, which means caretaking, not abusing. In the Hebrew Bible it is commanded that fields and vineyards shall be sown and harvested for six years, but lay fallow on the seventh in order for the land to be at rest. Leviticus 25:2-4 says, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a Sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard” (NRSV).
There is less evidence in the New Testament of our connection with the natural world. However, it is clear that Jesus and his disciples followed the basic views of the Hebrew Bible. They lived close to nature and enjoyed it. Jesus used examples of nature within his teachings. Jesus and his followers were more interested in the relationship of humans with one another than with nature, but it is most likely that there was no need to mention the proper care of the earth because it was already taking place.
The 2004 United Methodist Book of Discipline discusses that “natural world” in its Social Principles. The introduction states, “All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect” (¶ 160).
Evangelicals are becoming involved in the environmental movement. Most prefer to call it “creation care,” which is what the Washington Post used in an article titled “The Greening of Evangelicals.” They take the lead from a pastor in Seattle who says the term does not “annoy” conservative Christians for whom the word “environmentalism” connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats. In 2004 the National Association of Evangelicals adopted an “Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility” which states, “We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part. Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to the public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation.”
The Emergent Village is a website devoted to producing information and developing the emergent church. Emergent Village Values and Practices says “To honor creation and to cherish and heal it.” The weblog at the Emergent Village posted “Earthkeeping Resources” on September 1st. This entry is an extensive list of local, national, and international Christian organizations devoted to the care of the earth. From this list it is clear to see that Christians everywhere are saying the same thing in many different ways. We must take care of the earth.
So what is a Christian to do when faced with the reality of the condition of the earth and the charge of stewardship over it? There are the obvious and immediate actions.
• One could investigate his/her local recycling program, learn to sort, manage and recycle materials.
• One could reduce his/her household energy consumption by replacing tradition light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs. They cost a bit more but last longer and save money on one’s electric bill.
• One could reduce vehicle emissions by utilizing public transportation and by walking or riding a bicycle. In an area where public transportation is not available, one could consider sharing rides and also consider eco-friendly options when purchasing a new vehicle.
• When one visits the supermarket, he or she could look for locally grown foods. When food has to travel fewer miles from the farm to the plate there is less pollution involved in getting it there. While at the store one could look for recycled products and environmentally friendly cleaning agents.
• One of the fastest and easiest ways to determine if one is living environmentally friendly and for more suggestions one could take the Ecological Footprint Quiz at www.earthday.net/footprint.
Environmental stewardship is a Christian’s responsibility. Humans were given dominion over creation not to use and destroy as we please, but to take care of and nurture. We should not only take care of the earth for our time but for the sustainability of the future.

3 comments:

Matt said...

Chrissy, you had asked me via AIM what "my people" say on the environment. Since you posted about Methodists and Evangelicals I thought it would be a good thing to put on here the Catholic/Orthodox viewpoint for you and your readers. Here are some places to look at:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/CHRISECO.TXT
On Christian Ecology



Neither Tyrant Nor Treehugger
http://www.ewtn.com/library/Doctrine/ZENVIRON.HTM

Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/Doctrine/ZENVIRON.HTM

TO THE FIFTH INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SYMPOSIUM (JPII to EP Bartholomew of Constantinople)

http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2ENVSY.HTM

BE A CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENTALIST
by Mary Beth Bonacci

http://www.ewtn.com/library/YOUTH/CHENVIR.TXT


Yup, they are all linked from EWTN as you'll notice. Thats because EWTN has a huge library of resources so any time you want to find anything out about the Church you can just look it up there. Its great!

Rachel Ann said...

I love you, Chrissy. Your paper makes me happy. I hope to see you Saturday:)

Matt said...

Chrissy, you had asked me via AIM what "my people" say on the environment. Since you posted about Methodists and Evangelicals I thought it would be a good thing to put on here the Catholic/Orthodox viewpoint for you and your readers. Here are some places to look at:

http://www.ewtn.com/library/ISSUES/CHRISECO.TXT
On Christian Ecology



Neither Tyrant Nor Treehugger
http://www.ewtn.com/library/Doctrine/ZENVIRON.HTM

Common Declaration on Environmental Ethics:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/Doctrine/ZENVIRON.HTM

TO THE FIFTH INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL SYMPOSIUM (JPII to EP Bartholomew of Constantinople)

http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2ENVSY.HTM

BE A CHRISTIAN ENVIRONMENTALIST
by Mary Beth Bonacci

http://www.ewtn.com/library/YOUTH/CHENVIR.TXT


Yup, they are all linked from EWTN as you'll notice. Thats because EWTN has a huge library of resources so any time you want to find anything out about the Church you can just look it up there. Its great!