Monday, February 15, 2010

D is for Deforestation

God's intention was right relationships in the world between him and the people, between people and people, and between people and the earth. Original sin messed all that up; original sin marked the first time that man thought of himself before others. Eve didn't think of trusting and obeying God, and she didn't think about how her actions would affect Adam. That's kind of what sin boils down to, isn't it? Thinking of ourselves first, before obeying God, before how our actions might affect others. It was the beginning of disconnect, where Eve just had blinders on and saw only herself.

But God created this complex world where everything is connected. When I was in my environmental science class, I was just in awe to learn how intricately connected everything in nature is. For example, in any forest, you have the small plants and animals that are on the forest floor. If there aren't any trees in an area, the microclimate that usually exists for these smaller organisms changes drastically. So these small plants are sparse, which leaves the herbivores that usually eat those plants without food. They start dying out or moving to other areas, which leaves the bigger animals who feed on those small animals without food. In addition to a lack of food, the bigger animals that might make a tree their home are left without shelter. Any bodies of water around the area suffer because they derive a lot of nutrients from leaves that fall into the water. And I can't forget to mention the bacteria, which doesn't have anymore dead matter to feed on because we clear-cutted the forest. That doesn't seem important, BUT they are an important connector in the chain.

In God's design, everything is connected, and it's so beautiful... but there's one huge problem... we live in a fallen world where we are disconnected from creation. But here's the thing, if everything depends on everything else in nature, that must mean mankind is part of that, too. We depend on nature A LOT, but we're pretty disconnected from that. We don't hunt our own animals, grow our own vegetables, cut down our own trees to fashion our chairs. We don't have any idea where our stuff is coming from or what the impact is.

It's easy for us to be short-sighted and thinking that we don't make a difference as an individual. I sometimes even have to remind myself that one plastic bottle that I throw away doesn't make a difference, but it does... because that's just one more person to the millions who adds more waste to the world.

Forget the whole thing about climate change and what not... I get that people don't believe in global warming. Frankly, I don't think that's the root of the issue here. In the practical sense, we are using our resources at a rate that is much, much faster than they can be reproduced; sustainability should be on our minds because once we run out of stuff, then what are we going to do? I think if we were even a little more connected to where our stuff is coming from, we'd see that we do have an impact. There are landfills in third world countries, namely China, Nigeria, and India, where we dump all of our old electronics. Waste gives off chemicals that seep into our groundwater, which is bad for our country, BUT we have the money (aka your tax dollars) to make landfills more safe so that we aren't drinking toxic water. But what about third world countries? So workers in those countries have to disassemble our old electronics, and they are actually handling these chemicals. This is not safe, but what choice do they have? Then said chemicals get into their groundwater, which flows into their rivers, and they drink it. So if you care about the justice issue of clean water, it's not just about digging wells, but it's about creating less waste that pollutes their water in the first place.

And here's the thing, I don't even know if anyone bothered to read all of this. I don't know if anyone saw the word "deforestation" and was immediately put off. But I'd ask you why. Why are you disinterested in the environment? I think our sinful nature causes this disconnect that we don't actually think what we do could possibly affect someone across the world. God's restoration is all about connecting a disconnected world. That can happen as simply as making the choice to reuse bags instead of getting plastic ones at the store, recycling paper instead of throwing it away, and just reducing the amount of stuff that we have and use.

I think Jesus was totally a hippie, and if he were walking around today, he would be all about the environment. He would tell parables about our attitudes of wanting whatever is most convenient for us. I think Jesus would look at a forest that has been clear-cutted, and it would hurt him to see that disconnect. He'd be sad that His father created all this beautiful stuff, and we didn't care enough about it to take care of it.

God is all about us being different from the world. So what does our use of the resources in the environment say about how we feel about the God who created it all? I think He has a few things to say about this: