Why Christians Should Care about Earth Day
- Dr. David Vanderpool livebeyond.org
- 2016 21 Apr
Well, it is finally that time of year again; Earth Day is Saturday, and it is Global Soil Week, but first, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Global Soil Week? Really? That sounds about as dull as dirt.
I understand where that sediment… I mean sentiment comes from; however, this substance that we think of as “dirty” is one of the few things that makes life possible on our planet. Soil is what gives us means for nourishment, purifies our water, and allows for the growth of the human population. The main problem is that, from a human perspective, quality soil is a non-renewable resource, and every single year through erosion and pollution, we lose thousands of acres of fertility.
The connection between man and land is something trailing back to the ancient times. In almost all accounts if civilized history, farming and agricultural development have been a huge part of our ancestors’ livelihoods. When agricultural developments and innovation occurred, mankind could cease being hunter gatherers, and remain in one place. But all of this would be impossible without fertile soil.
During biblical times, the area of known as the Fertile Crescent, located near the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, and Jordan Rivers, was one of the most fertile places in the world, and the largest food source on the planet. It served as the bread basket for the ancient world and is known as the birthplace of agriculture; however, in recent history the area’s soil has experienced severe changes and is now not-so-fertile.
As Christians, we are called to be stewards of the Earth. Right from the very beginning in Genesis 2:15 the Bible says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” And in Psalms 24:1 “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”
Since the entirety of the Earth is God’s, we are called to be good stewards of it, taking care of it, and preserving it. In Matthew 5:13, Jesus tells us that we, as Christians, are to be the salt of the earth. Although Jesus is teaching a theological lesson with this statement, it has environmental implications as well. Salt served as a key component in ancient fertilizers used in the soil, and it serves as a key nutrient in the fertility of soil today. Without that key ingredient, the fruits – both spiritual and physical – would be much more sparse.
During the 1930s in the United States, farmers had to learn the hard way the importance of soil preservation. The Dust Bowl, as it has become known, served as an agricultural awakening in the United States. In its disastrous wake, many farmers began implementing practices such as crop rotation to help preserve the soil’s nutrients, sustain ground water, and limit soil erosion.
Today, a majority of the world’s population’s agricultural skills are still developing, if at all. With a population that could increase upwards of nine billion in the coming century, teaching the developing world proper agricultural techniques and the importance of soil preservation is one of the most imperative things we must do.
Christians, as salt of the Earth, have a job to go and teach others how to be spiritually salt of the Earth, and physically good stewards of the salt of the earth.
In Haiti, where I live, the people have never been trained in proper agricultural methods and techniques. For instance, in the early 20th century, much of Haiti was covered in trees. Today, less that two percent of the land is forested. Generations of Haitians never understood how this would lead to immense soil erosion, lowering the land’s productivity and stability thereby increasing hunger and economic instability.
Most of what these farmers knew had just been passed down from their parents before them. It is individuals like these that need our help regarding education in how to better care for the land. We all know it is much better to teach someone how to fish than to give them a fish. If we teach these individuals sustainable farming techniques instead of just giving them food, we will provide both them and future generations with meals for a lifetime and a healthier planet.
Dr. David Vanderpool is founder and CEO of LiveBeyond, a faith-based, humanitarian organization improving lives of the poor in Thomazeau, Haiti, with sustainable solutions in medical and maternal health care, clean water, education, and agricultural and economic development.
Image courtesy: Thinkstock/Jupiterimages
Publication date: April 21, 2016