The science is staggering, the denials confounding, and our lack of action-based attention exasperating.
I’m talking about a global environmental crisis that is affecting all forms of life. While some are still stuck in the “fact-finding stage,” others of us struggle to know what actions will really make a difference and how to affect substantial change.
For the most part, we’ve embraced recycling, but not so much the other Rs – reducing and reusing.
Even these good efforts are threatened as overseas markets for our waste diminish.
The fact is even these necessary measures are based on an “economy of more,” the ever-present gross domestic product (GDP), supposedly an indicator of all things beneficial. Well, it’s not. It’s killing us and our planet.
The seemingly egalitarian idea that all of humanity should rightly aspire to growth in levels of consumption on par with the Western material diet is ludicrous. That would take at least three earths – resources that we simply do not possess.
What about new technology, you say? Unfortunately, such developments are also based on a “green economy,” one that fuels GDP growth.
Scrapping your current ride to buy a hybrid or an electric makes sense if you really need to replace your current vehicle.
However, new cars and batteries are material too, and their manufacture requires natural resources and generates waste.
Sure, more efficient and less polluting technologies are very helpful and potentially much better for the environment, as in large-scale solar energy production.
Yet, too many of our decisions continue to be based on an economy of immediate expense rather than on an economy of true cost; our children and the rest of God’s creation will inherit the ecological debt that we fail to pay for now.
Speaking of which, as we scour the Christian Scriptures to seek answers, we tend to limit ourselves to a light treatment of the stewardship passages in Genesis 2, avoiding stronger passages like Leviticus 18 – “and if you defile the land, it will vomit you out.”
Further, we have a tendency to affirm the gnostic notion of spirit as good and matter as bad, forgetting that “all that is” was spoken or breathed into existence by the Creator (John 1:3).
Finally, we conveniently ignore primary realizations from the life and teachings of Jesus that life involves both suffering and joy, both are necessary for abundant life.
Our belief tends to be in the direction of “evacuation” rather than “transformation,” as Brian McLaren is fond of saying.
Bottom line? The world is filled with too many people using too much stuff and, our methods of resource allocation leave much to be desired.
With our words, we pretend toward a life of sacrifice, but we demonstrate a life of over-consumption and accumulation.
We rightly give of our abundance, but we hesitate when it becomes inconvenient or painful or involves real reduction. We need to add another R to our repertoire – refuse.
We’ve simply got to get away from more as the measure of all good things. God help us and our common home.
Associate Coordinator for Global Missions with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A long-time advocate of environmental stewardship, Harrell leads “Kutana Kenya,” an immersion experience for graduate and seminary students that CBF hosts in partnership with Africa Exchange, a non profit founded by the Harrells and operating in Kenya.