“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” With these words the Creator summed up his sentiment about all that he had made and done. Today you and I are destroying what he made and declared good. We:
- pollute the air to where millions must wear face masks
- make large portions of the world’s oceans uninhabitable for coral and fish
- stand by helplessly as rates of extinction of other living species skyrocket
- deplete the fertility of soils by application of insane amounts of fertilizers and pesticides
- turn vast swaths of jungles in South America and elsewhere into range lands for producing hamburger beef
- cruelly caging millions of chickens, pigs, cows and other animals to supply meat, eggs, milk and skins for our mass consumer societies
- contaminate pristine waters and landscapes with the pollutants and wastes produced by our factory farms, our fast fashion, and our insatiable addiction to fossil fuels and quest for more and more stuff
We who were commissioned to be stewards of all that God made are failing miserably at our task. We are destroying what God created and said was very good. Our sheer number and way of life impacts the Earth’s finely tuned regulatory processes. While the media warns about climate change, scientists use a more ominous term to describe our impact on Creation: the Anthropocene, when human activity has become the dominant force impacting climate and the environment.
Many young people are calling for immediate and drastic action. I hear them, and they welcome someone in a position of some modest influence listening. Most of all, as I teach at a Seventh-day Adventist institution, I remind my students of their cultural DNA as Adventists and how this relates to the current crisis. Specifically, I remind them that:
- Our calling is to be stewards of God’s creation. This is our God-given mandate: to be mindful of our impact on the lives and habitats of other creatures; to take good care of the Earth.
- As the Psalmist says, one purpose of Sabbath keeping is to acknowledge that the Earth and all that is in it is the Lord’s. The Sabbath also is a time to get off the treadmill of rampant, unbridled consumerism and instead enjoy fellowship with others and communion with God’s creation.
- We are champions of a healthy diet and lifestyle — nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, fresh air, rest and trust in God — NEWSTART for short. We can’t be champions of this way of living if we fail to care for our environment. As individuals, the single most important thing we can do is follow a plant-based whole foods diet. We are especially blessed to have this know how as part of Adventist cultural DNA.
- We see ourselves as part of God’s family above all else, regardless of national or racial or ethnic boundaries. We celebrate this every five years when we gather for our General Conference. Such an outlook is crucial for addressing the challenge of the Anthropocene, as the forces unleashed by our modern way of life know no such boundaries.
- Our worldwide system of churches, K-12 schools, universities and community services organizations are an enviable vehicle for making a difference. I challenge students to organize their own institution into becoming a “transition community” (look it up on YouTube) — a place where everyone works together to learn, share and apply best practices from our own faith tradition that can make a huge difference for the environment where we live.
Lastly I remind students that, despite the dire situation, we have assurance that God is in charge both of our lives and of our planet, and that our calling is simply to do the right thing by his Creation.