Environment

Conservationist: Dominique Bikaba

Dominique Bikaba
Dominique Bikaba

“Peace for humanity is not only the absence of war, or the end of violence ... For us Christians, peace is based on a fundamental new relationship between mankind and God. That is why Christ said he brought peace, ‘not as the world gives.’ He brought a different peace.” – Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, known as Don Samuel, a champion of the poor and of the indigenous people in southern Mexico

Eastern Congo is home to some of the world’s most stunning scenery—and some of its most brutal and unimaginable violence. The relationship between these two symbols of the region is a close one.

Part of the call of Christian peacemakers is not only to make peace between people a reality, but also to bring peace between people and the planet. In his work, conservationist Dominique Bikaba recognizes that peace between people and peace with our environment are closely intertwined, and he is seeking to bring about both.

Armed groups are waging war in eastern Congo, taking no heed of the grave impact that the conflict is having on the environment around them. The resources of the region are being exploited, to the detriment of future generations. This disregard for the communities of the region is a modern-day salting of the land. It’s a practice well known to the people of Israel in the Old Testament, in which armies would spread salt on the land of their adversaries so that nothing would grow there (see Judges 9:45).

The conflict in Congo is being waged on local communities—but Dominique is a problem-solver. He is seeking creative ways to conserve these communities while conserving the environment they inhabit, fostering the inherent relationship between the two. He is “bringing the forest to the community.”

An Olive Agenda: Our Path to Economic Opportunity and Environmental Sustainability

World photo, Denis Cristo / Shutterstock.com
World photo, Denis Cristo / Shutterstock.com

An examination of current public debate reveals a divide between the “brown agenda” of economic opportunity and the “green agenda” of environmental sustainability. 

On the one hand, a “brown agenda” concerns economic opportunity, or in other words, the alleviation of poverty. In light of ongoing distress surrounding malnutrition, infant mortality, and unemployment, the brown agenda is important, urgent, and worthy of support. On the other hand, a “green agenda” relates to environmental sustainability and care for the Earth. As scientific reports affirm the reality of climate change, and in recognition of decreased access to clean water and biodiversity around the world, the green agenda is also deeply important, urgent, and worthy of support.

With the above thoughts in mind, one recognizes that both brown and green agendas are essential for the promotion of life. However, the proponents of each agenda seem to be at odds with the adherents of the other. For example, far too many with a “brown agenda” believe that the best way to reduce poverty is to reduce environmental controls, and to the contrary, those engaged with the “green agenda” too often place the needs of the Earth before the livelihoods of the poor and marginalized. As a result of this persistent struggle between “brown” and “green," progress on both agendas is limited, and our path toward economic opportunity and environmental sustainability is severely off course. 

Why Bill McKibben is the New Noah

Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com
Earth photo, moomsabuy / Shutterstock.com

Last month, Rolling Stone magazine featured Bill McKibben's latest plea for climate sanity on its cover. And despite every pundit's whining proclamation that climate change is such a buzz-kill, Bill's article got forwarded, commented, tweeted, and otherwise pushed around the Internet more than anything else RS has put out lately.

So somebody out there is paying attention to climate change — even if the elites can't seem to grow a spine about it.

What I liked about Bill's article was that he lays out a clear, 3-pronged strategy for really doing something about climate change while there's still time.

If we do these three things, there's a possibility that we can reverse climate change, restore health to our skies, earth, and oceans, and move forward into a future where our grandkids can not just survive, but thrive.

Here's the plan.

Global Warming 'Converted Skeptic' Explains the Switch

Last weekend the New York Times published an op-ed by University of California-Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who said he has changed his professional opinion on the cause of global warming:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Muller’s announcement sparked a media flurry throughout the week, and NPR’s Science Friday host, Ira Flatow, interviewed him today. You can listen to the audio recording HERE.

Tips for Achieving an 'Almost Amish' Lifestyle

Organization illustration, marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com
Organization illustration, marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: This post is a follow-up to yesterday's Ten Ways to Live "Almost Amish.' Author Nancy Sleeth offers tips for achieving each of her principles for "almost Amish" living. 

1. Homes are simple, uncluttered, and clean; the outside reflects the inside.

Almost Amish Decluttering Tips:

  • Start small:  Clean one shelf of a closet, once corner of the basement, or one drawer of your desk each Saturday; by the end of the year, your house (and heart) will be much lighter.
  • For each item you bring into the home, give (at least) one away one.
  • Limit temptation by reducing catalogs and junk mail:  visit www.dmachoice.org and www.catalogchoice.org to remove your name from mailing list.

Ten Ways to Live 'Almost Amish'

Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth

The Amish are by no means a perfect people, and there are dark sides to their history. Their example, however, does have much to teach us. How can we incorporate the best of Amish principles into our modern lives? To answer this, I did some reading. And some visiting. And some listening. I in no way pretend to be an expert on the Amish, but the more I read and visited and listened, the more I found to admire. The Amish are islands of sanity in a whirlpool of change.

Along the way, I discovered some Amish principles that we can all try to emulate. These principles (similar to the list that Wendell Berry laid out more than two decades ago in Home Economics) provide guidelines for a simpler, slower, more sustainable life. They offer me hope.

Eye on the Sparrow

WHEN I READ about the dire impacts of global warming, I think about Howard Thurman. This might be perplexing to those more familiar with Thurman as the author of Jesus and the Disinherited, a book Martin Luther King Jr. was said to carry with him wherever he went.

While Thurman is well-known as a theologian, prolific writer, mystic, seminary professor, and religious leader, few realize that—well before environmentalism became mainstream—Thurman articulated a complex theology of the “original harmony of creation,” a harmony that human action had significantly disturbed. As he lamented in 1971, “Our atmosphere is polluted, our streams are poisoned, our hills are denuded, wildlife is increasingly exterminated, while more and more [humanity] becomes an alien on the earth and a fouler of [our] own nest.”

From the early years of his life at the start of the 20th century, Thurman’s faith was formed in intimate connection with the natural world—specifically, the Halifax River and northeast Florida woods and coastline, where he wandered and played as a boy. Thurman’s relationship with nature deepened when a heartbreaking event estranged him from organized religion. When he was 7, his beloved father died quite suddenly. The family pastor refused to conduct a funeral because his father was not a regular churchgoer, and a traveling minister who officiated at the service took the opportunity to expound on the dangers of dying “out of Christ”—to the small boy’s wonderment and rage, “preach[ing] my father into hell,” as he later recalled.

In contrast, the young Thurman found solace and comfort in nature’s seasons and cycles:

Here I found, alone, a special benediction. The ocean and the night together surrounded my little life with a reassurance that could not be affronted by the behavior of human beings. The ocean at night gave me a sense of timelessness, of existing beyond the reach of the ebb and flow of circumstances.

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Climate Change Has Dramatic Effect on Greenland's Ice Sheet

Writing for The Huffington Post, Joanna Zelman reports on a new NASA study:

Unprecedented melting of Greenland's ice sheet this month has stunned NASA scientists and has highlighted broader concerns that the region is losing a remarkable amount of ice overall.
 
According to a NASA press release, about half of Greenland's surface ice sheet naturally melts during an average summer. But the data from three independent satellites this July, analyzed by NASA and university scientists, showed that in less than a week, the amount of thawed ice sheet surface skyrocketed from 40 percent to 97 percent.
 
In over 30 years of observations, satellites have never measured this amount of melting, which reaches nearly all of Greenland's surface ice cover.
 
Learn more here
 

Wild Goose 2012: An Exercise in Mindfulness

Wild Goose 2011, via Christian Piatt
Wild Goose 2011, via Christian Piatt

How do you know when someone has a Prius?

Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.

We got a Prius about four years ago, and immediately we bought into the hype about milking every gallon of gas for another tenth of a mile. We read the hyper-miler blogs about how to employ the gas and brake pedals most efficiently. We competed against each other for the best MPG. It was nerdy but fun, and we felt like we were doing something at least a little bit socially redeeming.

I haven’t seen the research, but I’m convinced that a significant chunk of the Prius’ reputation as a gas miser stems from the way its users are trained to drive it.

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