God’s good creation is vital part of the peace and justice we are seeking. A right relationship with God calls for a harmonious relationship with all of creation.
“Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6 NRSV)
“In the beginning ... God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1 NRSV).
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15 NRSV).
The Bible provides a clear role for people in regards to the rest of God’s creation. We shall have the special responsibility of caring for the earth not only because we depend on a healthy ecosystem, but because we are called by God to care for God’s earth. Additionally, there are many points in the Bible which animals are used to describe that justice of a “new heaven” and “new earth” extends to all of God’s creation (Psalm 147, Isaiah 65, Ezekiel 34, Matthew 6:26-33, Colossians 1:15-20, Revelation 4:11).
"The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it!" Psalm 24:1 (NRSV)
"For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God." Romans 8:19-21 (NRSV)
For more Biblical context on creation care, visit the Earth Ministry website.
Mission and Ministry Board (formerly the General Board)
Creation care and church ministry
Global climate change factors such as rainfall, flood, drought, and changing temperatures will make access to adequate food and clean water even more difficult. The UN Development program predicts that in Africa 600 million more people will face malnutrition due to climate change, and because of this sub-Saharan Africa will face up to 26% loss of productivity by 2060.
Water scarcity poses another serious threat as 1.7 billion people now are at risk. Climate change alone is going to add 1.8 billion people to that figure by 2080 in areas of South Asia and Northern China according to the 2007 UN Development report.
For Africa alone, the National Council of Churches estimates that the 15 communions (of which the Brethren is one) together would have to provide an additional million dollars annually to feed struggling populations.
Global warming could induce flooding and tropical storms in coastal and low-lying areas and displacing up to 332 million people according to the UN Development Program. Of these, countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Egypt could have a combined total of 92 million people displaced.
Not only floods and tropical storms, but also strong category 4 and 5 hurricanes are likely to continue to land more frequently because warming Atlantic ocean waters creates stronger storms more often. Since 1970 the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has doubled according to the National Science Foundation. In 2007, two category 5 hurricanes made landfall for the first time in history, and together caused thousands to be displaced from their homes, and killed a couple hundred according to National Geographic.
The most disastrous US hurricane of recent history is Hurricane Katrina, which caused 81 billion dollars in damages and killed almost 2000 people according to the National Hurricane Center. This kind of destruction will only continue as stronger storms become more frequent.
Just as in Katrina, the faith community will be called to serve in disaster relief ministries during such disasters. In Katrina alone the 15 communions of the National Council of Churches spent 2.5 million dollars in disaster relief. The churches combined will need to increase disaster funding by 42 % to maintain supporting these ministries as hurricanes become more frequent.
War and violence
As food and water become scarce, conflict will arise as people fight to get basic necessities. In many regions of the world people are already in conflict over arable land. A UN Environment Program report states that armed conflict will only continue to escalate forcing people from their homeland, and causing even more indirect deaths due to the changing climate.
According to the UN, 15.2 million refugees fled their homeland in 2009. During the last decade, over a million refugees have been naturalized in the US. In 2006, Church World Service and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service settled 16,768 people, spending about $2,800 on each person according to Church World Service. The total cost of refugee resettling is estimated to be about $8,000 per person according to the World Health Organization. Local community groups and churches fund the additional spending, meaning that as refugees continue to be displaced by climate change and violence, the church will need to increase funding to refugee resettlement programs.
To read more about how the Church will be impacted, view the Climate and Church: How Global Climate Change Will Impact Core Church Ministries.
All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people(John 1:3- 4 NRSV).
Global climate change
In 2007 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) reported to the United Nations that the Earth is undoubtedly getting warmer. Throughout the world the IPCC has noted many indications of climate change:
This same report to the UN concluded that human contributions are more than 90% likely the cause of accelerated warming during the past 50 to 60 years. Humans contribute to climate change through large inputs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Our dependence on fossil fuels including coal, oil, and gas to power our daily activities is largely to blame for our contribution. Developed countries with large homes, cars, and factories are using most of these fossil fuels. To make the problem worse these countries also cut down trees that could use carbon dioxide to provide more oxygen.
Americans are consuming more than our fair share of energy and fossil fuels. We produce 25% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for the entire world, even as we make up about 4% of the world’s total population. The largest culprits of pollution are coal and gasoline. Coal produces 2.5 billion tons of CO2 annually, and cars produce 1.5 billion tons every year. These levels of emissions are not sustainable, and we must work to curb our addiction to polluting non-renewable energy sources in order to protect God’s creation.
“Our task is nothing less than to join God in preserving, renewing and fulfilling the creation.”
--1991 Annual Conference Statement, Creation: Called to Care
As climate change continues, the most vulnerable populations are the people most affected because of their dependence on the physical environment. Accordingly a dramatic rise in hunger, disaster, and war will mean the church will need to provide more ministry financial and volunteer support as we prepare to help increasingly more people.
According to a report done by the United States Global Change Research Program, climate changes are also already happening within the United States in the coastal waters. Changes will increase the occurrence of heavy downpours, rising sea levels, lengthening ice-free seasons in oceans and lakes, and alternation of river flows. On land lengthening growing seasons and rising temperatures will occur. Agriculture challenges include increases in heat, pests, disease, and weather extremes. Human impacts from climate change will occur from an increase of issues such as heat stress, diseases, pests, rodents, extreme weather, and declining air quality.
Fossil fuel consumption is not only negatively affecting climate change, it also harms Americans through higher energy costs. Here in the US, families earning less than $10,000 a year are paying up to 69% of their income after taxes on energy costs including heating, cooling, and transportation according to the US News and World Report. Up to half of American families are spending at least 20% of their income on energy according to the same report.
Energy conservation and efficiency measures save on natural resources and production costs. Simply put, the less we use the less we need to produce. Heating and cooling costs account for almost half of the energy used in homes. Energy audits allow for an awareness of how effectively energy is being used and give ideas for better energy management. Several programs such as LEED certification and the Building Performance Institute provide examples of sustainable practices for existing buildings and a list of professionals to aid in the process. Long-term savings, increased functionality, and less consumption creates a win-win situation for both people and God’s creation.
Energy policy transformation is needed to shift our collective energy use away from expensive and harmful sources into energy efficient systems and renewable sources that are respectful of Creation, and more affordable to all income brackets.
Small changes can make a big difference.
For more information, visit the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches.
Congregations are finding innovative ways to be good environmental stewards.
For more information about these congregational greening tips and more, visit the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Chuches.
As a nation we must review our treatment of creation and prioritize a more just and sustainable future. The BP oil spill was a reminder of the cost of lax environmental policies from the government, as well as a reminder that new energy policies are necessary to protect creation from harmful human practices.
We must be mindful of our policies towards fragile systems, including endangered eco-systems. Harmful practices such as mountaintop removal mining strip out our forests and destroy the precious eco-systems. Toxic chemical slurry is leeched into the water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 2,200 square miles of forests will be eliminated by 2010, and that 700 miles of stream had already been lost since 2001.
Protecting eco-systems includes providing for the animals in danger of extinction. There are currently over 1,200 species endangered according to the National Fish and Wildlife Service. Overfishing is huge problem, especially because many popular seafood dishes are using unsustainable fishing methods. Check out the Environmental Defense Fund’s Pocket Guide Seafood Selector to help you buy sustainable fish.
For more information, visit the Eco-Justice Program of the National Council of Churches.