“If anybody in this country should be concerned about creation care, it should be the Christians, because it is our biblical mandate to care for creation, and unfortunately, historically, Christians have often not done a good job at that,” said Jeff Regier, professor of biology here at Taylor University, “...we should be at the forefront of the creation care movement.”
A call for climate action and environmental justice is not a surly cry for attention or excitement; it is a way to put into practice God’s initial order of caring for His creation, as well as Jesus’ most important commands: to love God and to love our neighbors.
How does caring for God’s creation correspond to loving our neighbor?
For us, and we are sure for many of you, nature has always been a place where we feel closest to God. In recent education, however, we have discovered something unsettling. The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees (97% actually) that climate change is happening and that humans play a role.
Not only does this mean that the earth itself is damaged, but specifically its most vulnerable inhabitants experience the first fruits of this damage. The way our society has treated the earth as a commodity rather than God’s creation has taken its toll.
Climate change is not just about saving the polar bears or penguins. Its impacts can be seen even here in Indiana.
The Marion farmer whose income is based on the success of his crops is at the mercy of climate change. Because of extreme weather patterns, his crops are subject to flooding, drought and soil erosion. Warmer winter seasons mean that the insects that attack and destroy his crops during the growing season will not die off as they normally would in the cold and will attack and destroy even more fervently in the next growing season.
According to Rob Reber, environmental science professor, this heat also increases the abundance of introduced plant species, which can cause ecological havoc by outcompeting native species or farmed crops and disrupting food chains. Additionally, climate-induced extreme heat is already worse in the Midwest than anywhere else in the U.S., further threatening the crop yield. If the farmer loses his crop, not only has he lost his financial security, but he and the community around him who buy his produce have lost their food security.
Climate change is affecting our farmers - our neighbors, as well as ourselves.
Although Taylor University is in the middle of the cornfields where it is natural to assume our neighbors are farmers, Taylor has a deep history of going to the ends of the earth through lighthouse trips and study abroad opportunities. Many students have gone on these trips and made connections with people from all around the world, including us.
In January of 2019, we were a part of a group of about 20 students and two faculty members that traveled to Malawi and Zambia to further our education in community development and sustainable agricultural methods in the region. Phil Grabowski, sustainable development professor, co-led the trip with Bob Aronson. Prior to this trip, Grabowski had lived and worked in Malawi for 5 years doing agricultural work with a faith-based organization called World Renew.
Grabowski comments on the environmental crisis facing Malawians today: “Most people in Malawi are small-scale farmers who are working hard to produce enough food for their families each year. When there are droughts or floods many people depend on relief food to survive. Climate change is directly affecting these farmers’ ability to feed their families. Scientists have published research showing that greenhouse gas emissions are leading to shorter rainy seasons, more dry spells and more floods in southern Africa. One way we can tangibly love our Christian brothers and sisters in Christ in Malawi is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
In situations like this one, communities that are not responsible for much greenhouse gas emissions are the ones feeling the brunt of their impact. This was evident on our trip: people in these impoverished countries are implementing more sustainable farming practices than the wealthy United States yet are facing dramatic devastation and loss due to the effects of climate change. In America, we see this play out in primarily poor and minority communities who receive the least amount of environmental regulation enforcement. Studies show that because of this, these communities experience greater rates of asthma, infant mortality and other health complications. The injustice is evident.
We live in a world that is calling for climate action, not for the sake of science, but for the sake of each other. As Christians, we believe that God calls us to love and care for our neighbor, to seek justice and defend the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17).
Greg MaGee, biblical studies professor comments, “The Bible begins with an affirmation of God as the wise creator of a good creation and an identification of humanity’s role in carrying out God’s governance of the created order (Genesis 1:26-28). The Bible ends with a picture of the goodness of the new creation (Revelation 21-22). God’s redemptive plans include his redemption of all of creation (Romans 8:19-25). Christians’ wise stewardship of creation today can testify to the goodness of the original creation and the ‘renewal of all things’ (Matthew 19:28) in the new creation.”
But how can we engage in creation care when society urges us to indulge our whims without thinking of the consequences?
“On a personal level, Christians can enjoy God’s good creational gifts and resources in moderation, with the needs of others (including future generations) in mind. This may require us to disengage from the consumption culture around us in some significant ways,” Magee continues.
Since our neighbors are being harmed by climate change, and God calls us to care for his creation and love our neighbor, we have the responsibility to take action.
We urge you: be conscious consumers. Whenever we scan the barcode of an item, we invest in the company that created it. We have the opportunity to advance sustainable industries with every purchase we make! A way to be conscious consumers is to shop second hand. Who doesn't love Goodwill anyway? Educate yourselves on sustainable practices. Some documentaries that may be helpful are “Chasing Coral and Minimalism,” or the podcast “TIL Climate.” Hold your elected officials accountable.
A quick search on house.gov/representatives can show you your local reps and how to email, call, or meet with them to share your concerns and talk about solutions. Appeal to your representatives to take responsible action to mitigate the effects of climate change. They are there, after all, to represent your voice! We hope this has been insightful and encouraging to you as we seek to steward the earth better and love one another well.