This post comes to you from an airport lounge in Nairobi, Kenya, where I am waiting for my flight to Tanzania to visit the new Care of Creation project in Iringa. Meanwhile, I am thinking of the many people, sights and sounds from the last week. One of the most important events is actually one that happened on April 28, a week before I arrived, when an unaturally large rainfall event caused a portion of the mountain above the community where our project is located to slide down. Such an event is a natural part of God’s creation – or is it?
The evidence of God’s grace and mercy in the aftermath of the April 28th landslide in Kijabe, Kenya, is clear. The slide happened after midnight on a Saturday night, so the path the slide took down the main street of the town (which runs straight down the slope) hit no vehicles, no houses and no people. It did wipe out several hundred meters of the boundary fence of Rift Valley Academy, and could have done serious damage to a local high school and the famous Kijabe Christian Hospital but for a strong fence and row of trees at the bottom of the street – and because of the damming effect of a railway line above the town – but we’ll come back to that in a minute. Continue reading
I am currently in Kenya, being reminded once again of the enormous human toll caused by environmental degradation. This post is four years old, but perhaps even more relevant than when first published:
Alan Paton wrote his novel in 1946, published in 1948. It is set in South Africa. What is startling about the book is that the first two pages could have been written about Kenya – and could have been written yesterday.
The lessons from today’s reading are painfully clear: 1)Environmental degradation is not a new problem. Abuse of God’s creation is, apologies to Paton, as old as the hills. As ancient as human nature. If you’ll allow me to quote myself in Our Father’s World, ‘environmental problems are sin problems.’
And, 2)Why don’t we learn? If it was obvious that people were destroying the very land they needed to live on more than 60 years ago, why do we keep acting surprised? Why do we think we can solve this with more fertilizer or another loan from the World Bank?
Here’s the reading. (Pick up the book here)
Floods in Kentucky - Photo courtesy Flickr CC License
Care of Creation, my organization, does a lot of work teaching people in Kenya and other East African countries about the dangers of destroying forests. God gave us trees for good reason: In terms of hydrology (water cycles), trees are essential. They are like the columns holding up the roof of a building – lose the trees, the whole system falls apart. It turns out that something very similar is going on in the Mississippi River watershed of middle America. We’re a richer country – but it appears that mere wealth can’t stop a flood. When we human beings carelessly destroy vital parts of the world God gave us to live in, it doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re living in a village in Kenya or on a farm in Missouri.
Lost in the blizzard of headlines over the last week – tornadoes, weddings, the death of a terrorist – is the developing flood situation in the Mississippi River valley. The few stories that we’ve seen have focused on what one commentator called a solomonic dilemma: Whether to save a small, struggling riverside city (Cairo, Illinois) or hundreds of thousands of acres of the country’s best farmland in Missouri. That case has been all the way to the US Supreme Court in the last 48 hours, with the result that last night the Corps blasted two miles of levees at Bird’s Point, just south of Cairo in order to reduce the pressure on that community’s flood defenses. As of this writing, the river has receded by a foot – the Corps hopes that they’ll see three more feet of decline in the next couple of days. Continue reading
A new report from the UN a couple of weeks ago shows a glimmer of good news on the deforestation front:
The last decade saw forests being lost or converted at a rate of 13 million hectares per year, compared to 16 million hectares in the 1990s.
However, new forests were being planted to the tune of more than seven million hectares per year; so the net rate of loss since the year 2000 has been 5.2 million hectares per year, compared to 8.3 million in the 1990s.
Keep in mind that this still represents a massive loss of forest every year – just less than it was before. Given that one has to stop losing before you can start gaining, this is definitely a step in the right direction. Continue reading
My recent experience of presenting the Our Father’s World seminar material in Manila, Philippines, triggered the following thoughts…
There is a story – a parable, really – that I use at the end of my Our Father’s World seminar presentations. It goes something like this:
Let’s pretend that we’re on a refugee ship of some kind. We’re part of a Christian ministry, and we’re taking a ship load of refugees to a new land, where they can start their lives over again. The ship is crowded, and we have a lot of work to do to care for the passengers and to keep things running smoothly during the three week voyage. Continue reading
We occasionally receive comments through the Care of Creation website ‘contact us’ form wondering exactly what it is we’re talking about. Some of these comments come from, um, cranks – but others are thoughtful and sincerely questioning. Environmental stewardship as a central part of Christian ministry is new for a lot of people, and a comment that come through today was in that vein.
A couple of the things our inquirer said:
I have to ask just what is “environmental sin”? If Jesus had wanted this to be our “ministry” wouldn’t He have stated it? …Do you believe that we can do nothing to stop the “groaning” of creation which is under the curse of sin? …I can definitely see the need to couple the gospel with compassion but to couple it with saving a planet that God says will eventually be destroyed by Him seems…er impractical at best.
I responded as below. Those of you who have read my book or heard me speak will recognize that this is essentially what I’ve been writing and preaching for at least the last 10 years or so… Continue reading