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Bulletin #6:  March, 2017

Consider This:

One of our core responsibilities as believers is to be stewards of God’s creation until Jesus returns.  Today, the earth loudly groans from unmitigated assaults of injustice:  mineral depletion, nutrient pollution, air and water pollution, habitat destruction, nuclear fallout, climate change, invasive species, asthma, birth defects, food allergies, deforestation, invasive viruses, depletion of natural resources, extinction, earthquakes, tsunamis, warfare over oil supply, citizen displacements and the list goes on and on. As believers, we must not be silent, apathetic or unconcerned about these issues. Our responsiveness to the environmental challenges of our time is a test of our obedience to the Lord’s directive to be stewards of his creation.  Like the parable of talents, the earth was left for us to invest in, to increase its fruit and to care for.  Our stewardship of the earth is also a test of our love for those who have been negatively impacted by environmental injustice in their regions. 

Here’s An Applicable Scripture:

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10

Just because we see environmental waste and exploitation around us does not mean that God does not care about his creation. God has continued to manifest his care for the minutest details of his creation even as he has cared for us.  He has not changed. 

From Jogger to Crusader: How Boston Harbor Finally Got Cleaned up

From 1634 to 1982, pollution in the Boston harbor was a significant issue – that’s almost 350 years.  Believe it or not, raw sewage was dumped into the harbor where it was expected to be washed away by the ocean tides, but it rarely was. It was the dirtiest, most foul harbor in the nation.  That all changed when William Golden, the Quincy solicitor, went for a run on Wollaston Beach and found himself running through sewage.  He could have washed his feet and moved to a nicer running location, but he cared enough to start a series of actions which eventually resulted in a massive, sustained, multi-year, multi-agency clean-up effort which now has the Boston Harbor as one of the cleanest harbors in the country.  Swimmers have returned to the beaches, youth sailing has become a past-time on the harbor, the seals have returned and we have all enjoyed and been inspired by its beauty and tranquility.  The cleanup work was done on-time and on budget.  This is stewardship.

Case Study: Paper -- Let’s Have a Look at Sunday Mornings

Americans make up only 5% of the world’s population, yet consume almost 40% of the Earth’s paper products.  In countries like Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador, our demand for paper is causing serious deforestation, suffering and injustice for local residents.  Forests provide animal habitats, clean oxygen, and watershed protection and prevent soil erosion to name a few benefits. The average American uses about 680 pounds of paper per person – that’s 2 Billion trees per year for our nation.  Yet, on Sunday mornings, many churches still hand out paper bulletins, which are left in the pews or are in the trash by the end of the day.  Perhaps we should revisit these practices and use electronic technology for disseminating information, iPhone and Android church apps, overhead screens for announcements, leaving perhaps an optional printer in the church foyer for the very few who still want or need to see a paper bulletin.  In addition, we should encourage recycling in our churches of not only paper, but of glass, plastic and other recyclables as part of our calling to stewardship.

Personal Meditation:

The extraction, refining and distribution of coal, oil and gas is an industry that impacts every area on earth through their use by competitive economies like the US, China and the EU.  However, the carbon emissions released to the air from these economies are being blamed for world-wide climate change.  The most detrimental impact is on nations that are the lowest users of these fossil fuels like Malawi, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Vietnam.  Picture yourself in the shoes of a Christian living in one of these nations impacted by drought, flooding and unprecedented storms due to climate change.  What would you say to a U.S. Christian who insists that climate change doesn’t exist and/or refuses to change their fossil fuel consumption habits?  How would you convince them to change their ways?

Esther Circle Activity:

Environmental justice, which has its roots in fighting toxic landfills in poor and distressed areas, can similarly be applied to the inequitable distribution of unhealthy food sources across socioeconomic and ethnic lines.  Some communities in the U.S. are considered to be “food deserts” because there are no grocery stores selling healthy fresh produce – their access is limited to fast-food outlets and convenience stores selling junk food.  Gather a group of friends together and watch “What’s on Your Plate,” a documentary about kids and food politics.  (You can find the trailer and a link to stream the movie in the “Useful Links Section below).  The film follows two multi-racial New York City girls, Sadie and Safiyah, as they explore their place in the food chain.  After you watch the documentary, discuss how these issues impact areas near your town.  The Useful Links section below also provides atlases prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which show where those food deserts are located near you. Find one. Consider whether there are any businesses you can invest in which support healthy eating options in that nearby area.

Extended Activities You Can Do:

One of the biggest threats facing the world today is the loss of the global honeybee population.  Since 2006 honeybees have been dying at an alarming rate, due to widespread overuse of insecticides and other environmental factors.   No other single animal species plays a more significant role in producing the fruits and vegetables that we eat.  Commercial bees raised on farms as well as wild bees are responsible for pollination of nearly 80% of the food crops in the United States.  In response to the crisis, one innovation is rooftop beekeeping.  Research whether you, your church or a group of friends can use a rooftop for a beehive.  There are services that can install and manage the beehive for you.  In addition to restoring the rapidly decreasing bee population in our area, you’ll enjoy the taste of pure honey from your own backyard.  Honeybees are just one area of environmental protection that you can get involved in, you can find other concerns and become an expert in the area!

Useful Links:

What’s on Your Plate Trailer

What’s on Your Plate Video (Amazon Prime streaming)

Urban Rooftop Beekeeping

Neighborhood Disparities in Access to Healthy Foods and Their Effects on Environmental Justice

How to Find a Food Desert Near You

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Access Research Atlas

Climate, Consciousness and Social Change