To my shame, environmentalists have always confused me. From my vantage point, there were better things to do, more noble ventures, like caring for people. It was cool that they planted trees and launched recycling campaigns and complained about diesel fuel, but me - I would tackle greater causes. Because caring for people with needs is much more honorable than caring for the ground that was cursed anyway, right? Yipes.
Then my brother started getting all weird and environmental on me. He bought energy saving light bulbs, insisted that I not use any of the plastic bags at Giant Eagle (and how was I to get a week’s worth of groceries home without them?), and bought locally grown produce. He only shopped at Goodwill, he spoke about fair trade, and he ate organic. And then my husband quickly followed suit, which really confused me. He so doesn’t meet the environmentalist stereotype! I couldn’t help but wonder what good their little global fight was doing anyway? It was bigger than them. Thank God my skepticism and defeatist mentality crumpled under truth and reason and justice. Here is what the guys taught me.
God’s creation pours forth speech. Its sheer beauty is unrivaled, unmatched, and awe inspiring. Consider the creativity in the giraffe, the currents of the Atlantic Ocean, the etchings of the Grand Canyon, the interdependence of a colony of honeybees; how every single humpback whale tale is a different piece of art, you name it. When God created, He resoundedly said that it was good, and it was good, and it was good, and…. Yeah, it was good. And then we humans introduced brokenness into the world. Not only did we ruin our relationship with our Maker, but we destroyed our relationships with our own flesh and blood and with the ground that we stand on. The world has been wounded ever since. Not so good.
When we watch the evening news, we hear about drought induced by climate change, children orphaned in Africa because of AIDs and the lack of clean water, and malaria epidemics compounded by deforestation. We hear the reports and we shut off the TV. We wonder how such a good God could allow this. But truth be told, we are allowing this. It is our consumerism and lack of concern for the environment that is hurting people. And it seems to strike hardest those whose voice is seldom heard: the poor, the children, and the elderly. While it is true that we may not listen to their cries because they are marginalized, we also don’t hear their cries because we’ve been shielded from the consequences of our environmental decisions.
In America, we’ve forgotten that the environment is our life-support system. When something goes out of whack, we pay for effects to be reversed. We pipe our water and purify it with all sorts of filtration systems. We buy fertilizers to fix soil degradation. We spend a ton more money on lobsta (okay, I do!), but we can still purchase those delectable little buggers because we’ve got the money to spare. We don’t often feel the effects of a wounded world because we’ve often got the bank accounts to buffet us.
The poor don’t have this luxury. They suffer due to scoffers like me. They die because of my neglect. The developed countries (20% of the world population) are consuming over 80% of the earth's natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Under all this doom and gloom, there is a pure and simple story of redemption. Christ came to restore us. And when Christ restores us, he heals our relationships with Himself and with our own flesh and blood. He makes all things new. He fixes what our hands have broken. He gives us new eyes to see wounds that need healed. He turns our ear to those whose cries have been silenced for far too long. He cultivates beauty in desolate places.
All that being said, green matters to me these days. I have a long, long, long ways to go yet, believe me. But, my mindset has changed. And that’s probably a good place to start. This is an honorable cause. Environmentalists aren’t nuts. And yes, one person can affect change. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to care for our relationships – with our Creator, our brother in Uganda, and the ground that we walk on together. And it is more than a responsibility. It is an honor to be a part of the hope that Christ offers, even if that hope looks a little more green than it used to.