Way back in 2006, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth heralded a large-scale wake-up call to the urgency of the planetary crisis. Knowledge of climate change—including its causes and effects—exploded from the periphery into the mainstream. Along with many others I felt the urgency of this and other human-caused threats to planetary health, and traveled along a progression of awareness that will sound familiar to many:
First, a naïve expectation that surely corporations and governing bodies would lead the way to provide solutions. Then, the sinking realization that not only were these systems of power unwilling to provide solutions, they were actively and knowingly preventing solutions from being realized. Then came the formation of a people-powered movement to override stagnant and often malignant power structures through divestment, political engagement and direct action. In a short period of time this movement grew legs—with a string of improbable victories under its belt—and its success has forced opposing power structures to double down in deceit, corruption, and, often, the use of military force and intimidation tactics. This stand-off is where we find ourselves stuck today. It is an exhausting and spiritually draining test of stamina and resilience.
In the past year and a half, however, I have noticed a new wave of thinking spreading like wildfire from person to person, network to network. Suddenly, everyone is excited about solutions. Yes, there were solutions before, but they were mostly centered on smarter technologies such as renewable energy. Renewables will be a big part of the transition to a just and sustainable planet, but it turns out that they are not the only solution. It turns out that a major share of the solutions to all of it—to climate change, mass extinction, soil degradation, rampant pollution—lie with the earth itself and our relationship to it. Suddenly everyone is talking about Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown, which shares dozens of brilliant ways that we can not only halt the progression of climate change, but start to reverse it. From biomimicry to regenerative agriculture and permaculture, new ideas and approaches seem to be spilling from our collective consciousness like water from a fresh spring. There is a spirit of possibility and hope that I’ve never witnessed in the movement before.
In Genesis 1, God creates the earth, skies, waters, plants, animals, birds, sea creatures and humans in a massive outpouring of creativity and love. In the Gospel of John, we learn that all things came through the Word—which is the truth and light of the world. It is no surprise, then, that there is unparalleled genius in the earth’s designs. Turns out plants can sequester huge amounts of carbon in the soil. Turns out mushrooms can extract heavy metals and other pollutants from water and land. Turns out we can transform our energy and agricultural systems by working with nature, which is designed to solve problems without waste.
Our mistake as Christians has been to think our God-given role as stewards of creation means human intelligence should supersede that of the earth. That we must bend nature to our will and whims. But no, it means we must cultivate and work with the earth’s genius in order to step back from the brink of wholesale destruction and usher in a flourishing of renewal, healing, and abundance.
What is possible? The transformation of degraded land into fruitful abundance:
The revitalization of local communities:
And so much more:
Christians and other people of faith have played an important and steadfast role in the movement for our earth over the past decade and longer. They have brought hope—enough to sustain an exhausted people. They have stressed the moral imperative to care for the earth and the poor. Now, Christians have the opportunity to do what we do best: to spread good news. To embrace solutions that are based in what we already know: that God’s brilliance is in the earth, that abundance comes from loving relationships, and that the impossible is possible. We can herald the next phase of our planetary crisis—one in which humans steps into our true roles as wise stewards of the earth, grounded in God’s love. Let us start sharing this good news from our pulpits, in our ministry, and in our backyards.
Do we still need to cease harm, in addition to embracing solutions? Of course. Do we still need to oppose destructive power structures hell-bent on profit over people and planet? Apparently so. Now, though, we can do so while also partnering with God and the earth in the spirit of the resurrection.
Contact Dr. Joe Bush to learn about Wesley Seminary’s Certificate in the Study of Ecology and Theolgoy, or to find classes focusing on ecology.
Author: Rosina Snow