Stewards of God's Creation

Tue, 01/01/2008

“Respect for life and for the dignity of the human person extends also to the rest of creation.” -Pope John Paul II

Christians have a rich heritage of faith, tradition, and social teaching to draw upon as in order to live the Gospel faithfully. Christians seek to protect the dignity of every person and promote the common good of the human family, particularly the most vulnerable. The poor suffer most directly from environmental decline and have the least access to relief from their suffering. Because children may be exposed to environmental hazards at an earlier age than adults, even before they are born, they can develop slowly progressing, environmentally triggered diseases such as asthma, childhood cancer, mercury and lead poisoning.

In an Address by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew at the Environmental Symposium in Santa Barbara, California he said; “To continue to walk the current path of ecological destruction is not folly; it is sin…To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation…for humans to degrade the integrity of Earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the Earth of its natural forests, or destroying its wetlands…for humans to injure other humans with disease…for humans to contaminate the Earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life, with poisonous substances…these are sins.”

The first step we must take is to repent of our sins, in the presence of God and one another. This repentance of our social and ecological sins will acknowledge the special responsibility that falls to those of us who are citizens of the United States. Though only 5% of the planet’s human population, we produce one-quarter of the world’s carbon emissions, consume a quarter of its natural riches, and perpetuate scandalous inequities at home and abroad. We are a precious part of Earth’s web of life, but we do not own the planet and we cannot transcend its requirements for regeneration on its own terms. We have not listened well to the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

A next step is to pursue a new journey together, with courage and joy. We need to stop destroying and start restoring. By God’s grace, all things are made new. We can share in that renewal by clinging to God’s trustworthy promise to restore and fulfill all that God creates and by walking, with God’s help, a path different from our present course.

A CALL TO ACTION – National Council of Churches in the United States

 

Healing the Earth and Providing a Just and Sustainable Society.

For too long our Christian brothers and sisters and many people of good will have relegated care and justice for the Earth to the periphery of our concerns. This is not a competing “program alternative,” one “issue” among many. In this most critical moment in Earth’s history, we are convinced that the central moral imperative of our time is the care for the Earth as God’s creation.

CENTRAL MORAL IMPERATIVE OF OUR TIME

Churches, as communities of God’s people in the world, are called to exist as representatives of the loving Creator, Sustainer, and Restorer of all creation. We are called to worship God with all our being and actions, and to treat creation as sacred. We must engage our political leaders in supporting the very future of this planet. We are called to cling to the true Gospel – for “God so loved the cosmos” (John 3:16) – rejecting the false gospels of our day.

We believe that caring for creation must under gird, and be entwined with, all other dimensions of our churches’ ministries. We are convinced that it is no longer acceptable to claim to be “church” while continuing to perpetuate, or even permit, the abuse of Earth as God’s creation. Nor is it acceptable for our corporate and political leaders to engage in “business as usual” as if the very future of life-support systems were not at stake.
Therefore, we urgently call on our brothers and sisters in Christ, and all people of good will, to join us in:
Understanding our responsibilities as those who live within the United States – the part of the human family that represents 5% of the world population and consumes 25% of Earth’s riches.

Integrating this understanding into our core beliefs and practices surrounding what it means to be “church,” to be “human,” to be “children of God.”

Advocating boldly with all our leaders on behalf of creation’s most vulnerable members (including human members).

In Christ’s name and for Christ’s glory, we call out with broken yet hopeful hearts; join us in restoring God’s Earth – the greatest healing work and moral assignment of our time.

“In dialogue with Christians of various churches, we need to commit ourselves to caring for the created world, without squandering its resources, and sharing them in a cooperative way.” -Pope Benedict XVI

DEALING WITH CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change is transforming the nature of global water insecurity. While the threat posed by rising temperatures is now firmly established on the international agenda, insufficient attention has been paid to the implications for vulnerable agricultural producers in developing countries.

Global warming will transform the hydrological patterns that determine the availability of water. Modeling exercises point to complex outcomes that will be shaped by micro-climates. But the overwhelming weight of evidence can be summarized in a simple formulation: many of the world’s most water-stressed areas will get less water, and water flows will become less predictable and more subject to extreme events. Among the projected outcomes:
(1) Marked reductions in water availability in East Africa, the Sahel and Southern Africa as rainfall declines and temperature rises, with large productivity losses in basic food staples. Projections for rain fed areas in East Africa point to potential productivity losses of up to 33% in maize and more than 20% for sorghum and 18% for millet.
(2) The disruption of food production systems exposing an additional 75-125 million people to the threat of hunger.
(3) Accelerated glacial melt, leading to medium term reductions in water availability across a large group of countries in East Asia, Latin America and South Asia.
(4) Disruption to monsoon patterns in South Asia, with the potential for more rain but also fewer rainy days and more people affected by drought.
(5) Rising sea levels resulting in freshwater losses in river delta systems in countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt and Thailand.

The international response to the water security threat posed by climate change has been inadequate. Multilateral efforts have focused on mitigating future climate change. These efforts are critical. Restricting future global warming to an increase of no more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels should be a priority. Attaining that target will require major adjustments in the energy policies of both the industrial and developing countries, supported by financing for the transfer of clean technologies.

The crisis in water and sanitation is, above all, a crisis for the poor. Almost 2 in 3 people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with 1 in 3 living on less than $1 a day. More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.

These facts have important public policy implications. They point clearly towards the limited capacity of un-served populations to finance improved access through private spending. While the private sector may have a role to play in delivery, public financing holds the key to overcoming deficits in water and sanitation.

The distribution of access to adequate water and sanitation in many countries mirrors the distribution of wealth. Access to piped water into the household averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%. Inequality extends beyond access. The perverse principle that applies across much of the developing world is that the poorest people not only get access to less water, and to less clean water, but they also pay some of the world’s highest prices:

● People living in the slums of Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila, Philippines; and Nairobi, Kenya, pay 5 – 10 times more for water per unit than those in high-income areas of their own cities and more than consumers pay in London or New York.

● High-income households use far more water than poor households. In Dares Salam, Tanzania, and Mumbai, India, per capita water use is 15 times higher in high-income suburbs linked to the utility than in slum areas.

● Inequitable water pricing has perverse consequences for household poverty. The poorest 20% of households in El Salvador, Jamaica and Nicaragua spend on average more than 10% of their household income on water. In the United Kingdom a 3% threshold is seen as an indicator of hardship.

The crisis in water and sanitation is, above all, a crisis on the poor.