n the nearly four years I’ve been writing this column perhaps the most controversial topic I’ve broached is the environment. In January 2005 I urged Adventists to be more proactive about caring for our planet. I was surprised when the response to the column was mostly negative. Somehow, environmentalism had gotten a bad rap.
In the years since, I’ve thought a lot about the issue. And I remain convinced that everyone should care about (and for) the world we inhabit. Here are five reasons that environmentalism should be important to Adventists:
God created the world: The Bible opens with a compellingly lovely account of Creation. God made the world and all that was in it, and He saw that it was good. After creating humans God gave them (and, by extension, us) the responsibility to care for the natural world (see Gen. 2:15). As with all of God’s commands, we are the beneficiaries. Time spent in nature is rejuvenating. Consider the pleasure of walking in the woods, bird-watching, snorkeling, mountain climbing, rock climbing, canoeing. When we are surrounded by the things God has made, we reconnect to the Creator. Preserving God’s creation should be one of our priorities.
Clean planet, healthy bodies: Adventists place a lot of emphasis on health. We are mindful about what we place in our bodies. We embrace a diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; we avoid toxins. Caring for the environment is a natural extension of healthy living. Our bodies are affected by our environment. Air pollution exacerbates allergies, emphysema, asthma, and bronchitis. Pesticides used on food are carcinogenic. To be healthy, one needs access to clean air, water, and food.
We should be good stewards not only of our financial resources, but also of our natural ones. The world does not have an infinite supply of fresh water, rain forests, savannahs, wetlands, coral reefs, and wildlife. Many species are already extinct. Scientists now warn that if we continue to overfish and pollute the seas, the oceans will be emptied of fish in 50 years.#*
I’m reminded of the parable of the talents. The king gave resources to each of his servants. When he returned, he honored the servants who had been good stewards. But for the servant who had not nurtured his resource, the king stripped him of his talent and cast him out (see Matt. 25:14-30).
Christians ought to be exemplary stewards of the world God has created. We should support conservation efforts and take personal steps so that we don’t contribute to pollution.
The Golden Rule: Our actions ought to benefit others. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12). This command, often called the golden rule, succinctly describes how to be good citizens.
We are all citizens of a global community, and as such, we should consider how our choices impact those around us. Industrialized countries currently consume an unequal share of the world’s natural resources and produce excessive amounts of carbon dioxide. The whole planet, however, must share in the consequences.
When you go camping, don’t leave your garbage. Instead, if you’re mindful of future campers, you gather your trash and carry it out with you. In the same way, countries need to be mindful of their environmental footsteps. We all share the same air and the same water. Our actions affect not only us, but also our neighbors in Africa, South America, and Asia.
A Chance to Witness: Being an environmentalist could provide new witnessing opportunities. In general, the environmental community is wary of organized religions. They haven’t witnessed Christians nurturing God’s creation. Let’s change this. Moreover, we can meet individuals who have much in common with Adventists. Environmentalists are equally committed to their diet and to their families. Here is one way to meet a new neighbor and to build a relationship based on some common ground.
If you’re interested in conservation tips, visit the Sierra Club
’s Web site.
*MSNBC Staff. “Seafood Could Collapse by 2050, Experts Warn: Overfishing, Pollution, Warming Are Destroying Stocks, Study Finds,” MSNBC News, November 3, 2006. Retrieved March 25, 2007, www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15532333/.
Sari Fordham is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. Her passion for the environment began with Sabbath afternoon hikes.