Creation Care versus Social Justice
Updated: Jun 23
In prior articles we explored how we are called to love what God loves – all of God’s creation. This rebalanced our narrower paradigm of principally focusing on loving and serving our human neighbours – which we often frame as improving social justice.
Nature has an inherent worth of its own. Its value is more than servicing people. But is also undeniable that nature provides many benefits to people - and the climate and biodiversity crises threaten those. So now we swing full circle. Does loving the rest of creation interact with loving people or are they separate things that we must now take on as an expanded dual mission?
There are multiple ways that Creation Care is a critical underpinning of social justice efforts. I will highlight three:
· Poverty Alleviation. Why is World Vision - an iconic Christian organization known for its tireless efforts to reduce child poverty around the globe - now focused on climate change? Because they believe climate change threatens many of the gains that they have achieved. Climate change, a problem created by the wealthier nations, disproportionally affects the world’s poorest people.
According to the UN’s refugee agency, an annual average of 21.5 million people has been forcibly displaced by floods, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures since 2008.
The cumulative number is forecast to reach 1.2 billion by 2050. Click here or scan the QR code for a Short Video World Vision on why Climate Change.
· Intergenerational Inequity. Climate change and biodiversity collapse have been caused by the current and past generations of adults. But its effects will be mostly felt by our children and grandchildren. Greta Thunberg has mobilized millions of children around the world to try to create a sense of urgency for action commensurate with the facts. She and her peers would rather be in school, but don’t see much point if the world they inherent is uninhabitable.
According to A Rocha’s survey of churchgoing Christian youth, 91% are worried about climate change and nature loss and 92% believe that caring for creation is an essential act of discipleship and the Church’s mission.
Click here or scan the QR code to watch Greta Thunberg’s address to the United Nations Summit on Climate Action.
· Indigenous reconciliation and justice Indigenous people in Canada and around the world have lived in harmony with nature for millennia. Their spirituality is very integrated with nature. Western colonization disrupted that balance and, in some cases, like slaughtering the buffalo, deliberately destroyed creation to force people off of their lands. Much of Canada’s undisturbed nature is under the purview of indigenous communities.
Formally designating Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) provides a vehicle for increasing prosperity and preserving nature.
Click here or scan the QR code for a short video on indigenous relationship with biodiversity.
Similarly, efforts directed at improving social justice are also important to enabling a sustainable environment. People who can’t feed their families can’t make conservation a priority unless it’s within a new sustainable economic model that contributes to both objectives. For example, farmer incomes are increased through agroforestry in mountainous coffee growing communities by improving yields while reducing deforestation, improving the soil.
Our theology tells us that God loves all of creation – humans and the rest of nature. We are called to care for all creation based on its own merits. But caring for creation can sustain and regenerate nature and bring wellbeing and hope to people.