An out of this world perspective on creation care…

I believe that God has given us the privilege and responsibility to take care of creation.  But why should we?  What’s the big deal?

Often talking about care of creation brings out images like this of a polar bear mother and her cubs…

Polar Bear Mother and cub .
Polar Bear Mother and cub s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

or like this of three zebras drinking water together…

Three Zebras drinking water.
Three Zebras drinking water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

or of this baby chimp and its mother (Its ok to say “Awwwh, its so cute”.)

A Baby chimp and its mother.
A Baby chimp and its mother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And care of creation may also bring to mind images such as of this exotically far away Kenyan girl…

Kenyan girl holds up food she has harvested.
Kenyan girl holds up food she has harvested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet creation care should also bring to mind people less exotic and closer to home like this crowd of people gathered for an American Idol audition…

Crowd of people gathered for American Idol audition.
Crowd of people gathered for an American Idol audition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And these people are people like you and me.  We creatures are all part of creation.  We rely on all of creation together to survive and thrive.

Now let us  intelligent, spiritual, thinking and believing creatures view the creation we have the privilege and responsibility to care for from a different perspective.

Can you see it here?

The Milky Way Galaxy as envisioned by NASA.
Perspective 0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about a lot closer?  It’s only four-billion (4,000,000,000) miles away – about 1 billion miles further away than the remote dwarf-planet Pluto visited by the New Horizons space probe July 14, 2015.

Earth viewed from interplanetary space probe Voyager 1, about 4 Billion Miles into space.
Perspective 1:  4 Billion miles away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s get a little closer… How about now? …

Perspective 2
Perspective 2:  0.9 Billion (or 900 million miles) away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe a little closer will let you make it out…

Perspective 3
Perspective 3: About 0.00025 Billion (or 250,000 miles) away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe a slightly different exposure…

Perspective 4
Perspective 4: About 0.00025 Billion (or 250,000) miles away/

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, it is our home planet.  Earth.  From remote perspectives -the farthest billions to 250,000 miles away – we can view a unique priceless gem floating on a velvet black backdrop.  Nothing sparkles with light and life like it.  There is NO Planet B anywhere else in sight.

For billions and billions of miles there is nothing like Earth in our Solar System.  For at least 600 million billion (6.00 x 10^17) miles there is nothing confirmed to be habitable like Earth anywhere in our own Milky Way galaxy let alone for the 550 Trillion Billion (5.5 x 10^23) miles across the entire  observable universe.

 

So, why should we care for creation? Why is caring for creation and this planet in particular such a big deal?  Because for now and the forseeable future, this is it.  It is our home.  It is an oasis in an otherwise trackless void of inhospitable extremes. This planet  is God’s singular great gift to us for us to live, love and flourish.

Perspective 5
Perspective 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one of our gifts to God, to ourselves and to each other is to care for this gift of creation and in particular this small blue dot God has given us as home.  Jesus’ summary of the law – to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves – requires it.

 

NOTES On The Perspective Pictures (all courtesy of NASA):

Perspective 0: The Milky Way Galaxy as envisioned by NASA.

Perspective 1: Earth, viewed from the interplanetary space probe Voyager 1, about 4 Billion Miles into space, is barely visible as a speck about halfway down the rightmost, mostly vertical, bar.

Perspective 2: Earth, viewed from the interplanetary space probe Cassini04 - PIA17171_fig1 Earth from Saturn 130719 with notes, about 900 million miles into space, is  barely visible as a speck about halfway down in the center of the right half of the image.

 

 

 

 

Perspective 3:  1968 Earthrise viewed from lunar orbit some 250,000 miles away.

Perspective 4:  1972 Earthrise viewed from lunar orbit some 250,000 miles away.

Perspective 5: 1997 composite image featuring African continent was compiled from earth orbiting satellites.

NOTE:  For the record one of the closer things to an exception, an “earth-size” planet, that researchers claim to have found  is an Earth-mass planet 26,000 billion miles away.  It orbits closer to its star than Mercury orbits our sun. Such a planet would offer, to say the least, an inhospitably warm welcome – were it ever possible to get there.

When I tend my garden, I remember Uganda

kale_sack_garden_uganda
Kale growing from a sack garden in Kampala, Uganda.

Kale might be a “hipster” vegetable in the United States, but it’s as common as potatoes and rice in East Africa.  I’m glad I planted some in my garden: when I look out my kitchen window, I remember the leafy greens growing out of sack gardens in Kenya and Uganda.

I recently returned from a trip to East Africa, where I had the opportunity to connect with Kenyans in the small rural town of Kijabe and Ugandans in the sprawling slums of Kampala who are working to instill creation care practices in their respective communities.  Training women and men to grow staple foods with limited space and water while embodying the biblical wisdom of Psalm 24:1 (The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it”) is a cornerstone of both Care of Creation Kenya and A Rocha Uganda.  Both organizations teach “Farming God’s Way” and micro-gardening; both techniques allow people to grow more crops on less land and with fewer inputs such as water and inorganic fertilizers, all while contributing to the health of soils and souls.

lettuce_sack_garden_uganda
Holes intentionally made in the side of the sack allow for multiple tiers of vegetables to grow in the same amount of space.  This lettuce is recovering well after an intense rainstorm, helped by the the fact that sack gardens encourage plants to put down deep roots.

Micro-gardening usually involves taking advantage of vertical space that is available on even the smallest of plots.   With a few common, locally available items and a couple hours of work, anyone can begin cultivating dozens of vegetable plants right next to their front door.  Food aid bags are reused as the container for the garden, and with some rocks, soil, compost or manure and seedlings, voila!  You have a sack garden.  The column of rocks in the center of the sack acts as an irrigation channel, encouraging the vegetables to put down deep roots as they follow the water.

For those of us living in a city, it’s hard to imagine having enough space to garden.  More and more of the global population resides in cities, and the percentage is expected to go up in coming years.  In Kampala, I noticed that many people make a living by selling excess produce.  However, fresh food is still hard to come by in some places, like schools.  A Rocha Uganda regularly partners with primary schools in Kampala to help them implement small, manageable gardening projects by teaching the kids how to build and take care of a sack garden.

In the United States, most of us would be too busy to handle anything but a “small, manageable gardening project” like a sack garden or a single raised bed.  We have the luxury of not growing a thing and still eating every day.  However, I appreciate the reminder of kale, lettuce, squash and spinach that grows in my backyard: my friends in East Africa are bringing the Good News and helping people meet their most basic needs through gardens.  I will savor and be thankful for everything I harvest, knowing that I am adding my voice to many across the world who thank God for their daily bread (or sukuma wiki, as the case may be).

In the coolness of the evening, I can picture God walking among the sack gardens in Kijabe, Kampala, my backyard raised bed, and the other little gardens of the world.

Singapore Students take Creation Care Seriously

We are often asked if all of our work at Care of Creation is making a difference in the world.  Are people listening? If so, what are they doing about it?  The following report out of Singapore by way of the IFES Prayerline newsletter answers that question.  Yes, people are paying attention.  And they are developing their own movements along the way!

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So you’ve just attended a conference or camp. The fellowship was fantastic! The worship was amazing! You’re excited and enthusiastic about the future!

But then… back to reality. There are essays to write, problems with relationships, families to keep happy, fun times and difficult times. The conference excitement and the lessons learned start to grow dim.

FES Singapore students are determined this will not happen to them. They want a recent equipping conference to be just the beginning of challenge and change in their lives. At the close of the conference they wrote their pledges on origami paper, folded them into aeroplanes, and flew them. Then they all picked up a plane and committed to pray for the person and their pledge.

They have also organised a follow-up journey together. Their aim is to bring ‘organic, self-propagating, bottom-up change’. Local projects focus on topics discussed at the conference, such as migrant workers, social media, social entrepreneurship and conversations in the public square. Two projects that will be promoted nationally focus on rest and creation care.

One of these projects centres around Psalm 24:1-2 – ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.’ If we really believe this verse, FES asks, how will its truth affect our lives? How can we be responsible caretakers of God’s world?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Spend time outdoors.
As a community, explore and enjoy the wonders of God’s creation. If you take time to be ‘in’ the natural world, you will see what a marvellous gift it is. This will help you want to take care of it.

2. Stop pursuing ‘gadgetry’.
Constantly buying new devices may be a form of idolatry. Furthermore, only a small percentage of discarded items are recycled, creating mountains of e-waste – over 3.4 million tons in the US in 2012 alone! Sadly, poor countries are importing e-waste in order to recover the valuable bits, but the salvage process creates hazardous liquids and gases that are impacting the health of people and the environment.

3. Minimise wastage.
If you buy only what you need, you will waste less. This equates to a smaller carbon footprint, but is also being a good steward of resources – all part of loving our neighbour.

Another initiative is called Sleep Singapore Sleep. Students are finding creative ways to encourage themselves and others to get proper rest in order to better deal with stress. As the university year starts they will give out inflatable pillows to incoming students with a verse from Proverbs written on them: ‘When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet’ (3:24). They want to work with the student affairs department in the university to open discussions about meaningful rest in a stressful environment.

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Keep up the good work, Singapore!

Good News, Major Insurance Companies Recognize Climate Change is Happening…But will that make a difference?

flooded-491245_1280
How will insurance companies handle increased risk of disasters, like flooding?

During the Q&A session I asked speakers at a March 19, 2015 Weston Sustainability Round Table about insurance and climate change.  Did insurance companies have the clout, perspective and willingness to advocate strategies that reduce the magnitude of climate change?  Would such businesses support a carbon tax?  For the record, “murky” seemed to characterize the situation as they described it.  Their answer parallels comments made by an Insurance industry expert who spoke on a Citizen’s Climate Lobby monthly conference call in 2014.  According to both presentations, insurance companies, and reinsurance companies in particular, recognize the reality of climate change and its human causes.  Unfortunately they have not, and likely will not, advocate for mitigation strategies (policies and techniques that dramatically reduce carbon pollution) to reduce the size of climate change.  Instead they will continue to modify their business models so they continue to make money.

That seems to mean they will assess and adapt to changing risks with tactics like higher premiums, higher deductibles, more exclusions and more property owner precautions.  More likely than not, they will at best advocate for adaptation strategies (e.g. better sewers and other flood control infrastructure).  Practically speaking, mitigation strategies such as Revenue Neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend, while good for humanity overall in the long run, won’t likely save the companies any insurance claims payouts in the next 10-30 years .   Steps today to  reduce green house gas emissions and carbon pollution won’t eliminate the impacts of climate & weather changes already happening due to current  levels  in the atmosphere.  Lobbying for mitigation, for cures to climate change, instead plunges them into a political firefight without improving next quarter’s, next year’s or even next decade’s profits. Lobbying for adaptation, on the other hand,  avoids politically contentious questions of human cause and responsibility while keeping them profitable for the time being.  It reduces the amount of damage and associated insured costs from the inevitable climate change induced extreme weather events.

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I will serve my God’s Creation

By Luke Baine, board member of Care of Creation.  Luke, his wife Katie, and their dog live in Tennessee. 

from left to right: Care of Creation Director Ed Brown, Professor Emeritus Dr. Calvin DeWitt, and Care of Creation board member Luke Baine.
from left to right: Care of Creation Director Ed Brown, Professor Emeritus Dr. Calvin DeWitt, and Care of Creation board member Luke Baine.

It has been an honor to be a supporter of and involved with Care of Creation for the past few years. This past weekend they celebrated 10 years of service to God’s Kingdom. Care of Creation is an organization that loves the Lord and seeks to do His will by serving His Creation. This means both fishing for men and cleaning the tank!

crowd in sanctuary
Thank you to all the friends and partners of Care of Creation who were able to celebrate with us.

It was great to see the Staff who work tirelessly day to day and their fearless leader, Ed Brown. It was also encouraging to mingle among the many supporters who braved a perfect spring evening in Madison to celebrate 10 years of environmental missions and listen to the modern day father of Christian environmentalism, Cal DeWitt. As the sun set over Lake Mendota we were treated to videos from the two missionary families serving abroad, Craig & Tracy Sorely and Erik & Rachel Ness. Both families have experienced their share of struggle and success. It was a joy to learn more about their service to the Lord and His Creation. Cal then began to speak about how he came to be involved in environmental stewardship, and how we are called to “con” serve the Creation of our Father. He challenged us to serve the garden as we serve the Lord.

I believe that “Creation Care” is as much a secular issue as a Christian one. However, to call yourself a Christian, a Disciple of Jesus Christ, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit means that you are called to serve God, His Will, and His Creation. This means that environmental issues our planet is facing are every Christian’s responsibility. It is not about being preachy or feeling morally superior but humbly loving and serving God’s Creation.

ed, stacey, susanna
Stacey Gluck receives an award for her and her husband Fredric for their sacrificial service and dedication to the mission of Care of Creation.

My wife and I had a wonderful time in beautiful Madison, WI. Many thanks to Ed & Susanna Brown, Stacey & Fred Gluck, Brittany Ederer, Andrea Ebley, David Fine, and Kermit Hovey for putting on a wonderful evening.

With service, I look forward to the next 10 years of Care of Creation!

How do you pray about an oil spill?

Today is the 45th celebration of Earth Day.  Monday of this week was the fifth anniversary of the worst environmental disaster in US history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  The damage to the Gulf was more severe and longer lasting than even the pessimists predicted:

Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of Gulf Restoration Network, says that after five years, there are more questions than answers about what the lingering impact of the spill means.

“Dolphin deaths continue, oil is still on the bottom of the ocean, tar balls keep coming up,” she says. “And nobody really is able to say what we may find in five years, 10 years. It’s really distressing to me.”

Sarthou says there’s no certainty the spill won’t be a problem for generations to come. (NPR)

So, five years after this disaster, and 45 years after the nation started trying to do something about this kind of thing, we ask again, “How long?”   Below is a repost of one of our original commentaries on the oil spill from May 20, 2010.  The oil well had been gushing for a month already, and we asked:

How do you pray about an oil spill?

It’s a legitimate question:  The news is getting worse by the day for those of us many miles away, and no doubt by the hour for those living in the area of impact.  This morning we learned that some experts believe the amount of oil leaking may be much more than even the revised estimate of 5,000 barrels per day. More worrisome than that, there is now real concern that the oil may join the Gulf stream ocean current, which would send it around the tip of Florida and all the way up the East Coast of the United States, staining beaches and killing wildlife as it goes. Continue reading

A Conversation about God, His Creation and Our Role in Creation