Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns.
by Tom Beutel
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Genesis 2:15, NIV)
Our family never plans to travel in July. The reason is simple. July is the month when our gardens are at their peak. The vegetable garden is producing squash, peppers, cucumbers and beans. We are picking blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. The flower beds are putting on their most magnificent show. And, of course, the weeds are proliferating despite mulching and prior weeding.
There are days, especially when it is very hot or rainy, when the outdoor work seems to be more than we can handle. But, overall, the work is worth it; we get fresh fruits and vegetables, cut flowers to bring in, and a beautiful yard to enjoy. And, there is more than enough to go around.
Not only is there some to share with family and friends, but the butterflies, bees, and humming birds enjoy the bounty as well.
Another benefit is the pure satisfaction of working in the soil, pruning and thinning, staking up, and generally tending the garden. This is the first job God gave us humans to do – to “work … and take care of” the garden. When we do there is a connectedness with creation and with God. We are aware, first hand, of what is going on. Is it too dry? Are there pests that need to be controlled? Is everything healthy and thriving? I go out to weed and notice that the beans are ready to be picked or need to be watered.
Perhaps this closeness with the earth, with the soil and the growing plants, on a small scale, helps me to keep in touch with the creation on a larger scale. How is it doing? Is it too wet? Too dry? Is everything thriving?
Throughout the US and in other places in the world, this has been a tough summer weather-wise: extreme heat throughout a large part of the US and Europe; excessive rain and flooding in the US, south Asia, and the UK. While climate change cannot necessarily be linked to any single event, the occurrence of more frequent severe weather events may be attributable to climate change.
Peacemaking includes seeking shalom – well-being and wholeness – for the natural creation, plant and animal life. This is the case because God created the natural world and gave humans the responsibility of caring for it. But, it is also dictated by the fact that the humans depend on the natural world for food and resources. The well-being of humans is inextricably tied to that of the environment.
Consider these facts related to climate change quoted from the Nasa: Global Climate Change website (https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ ):
- Global temperature rise: The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century..
- Shrinking Ice Sheets: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass … Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016, while Antarctica lost about 127 billion tons of ice per year during the same time period. The rate of Antarctica ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade.
- Sea Level Rise: Global sea level rose about 8 inches in the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and is accelerating slightly every year.
- Extreme Events: The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
These facts may not seem particularly critical, but consider what they mean in terms of the practical impact on the environment and humans.
To take just one example, sea level rise causes coastal erosion of beach areas and roads, flooding with property damage and water borne disease, increased soil salinity, habitat loss with loss and migration of species, and stronger storms. (https://deepoceanfacts.com/effect-of-sea-level-rise )
To learn about climate change, its effects and some things you can do see the following:
- Nasa Global Climate Change Information related to climate change. https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks https://www.ipcc.ch/
- National Geographic Sea level rise, explained Information on sea level rise https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/sea-level-rise/
- MCC Climate Change Information and some action recommendations, primarily advocacy with elected officials https://mcc.org/stories/climate-change
- Save Our Environment Donate to an environmental advocacy group.
Finally, each of us can do a number of small things which, taken together, can help reduce the contribution of human activity to climate change: drive a fuel efficient car, turn off lights when not in use, plant a garden or a tree. Which brings us back to where we started, tending the garden. If we think of the garden as the natural world God created, then it is our “job” to care for it, for the well-being of all it contains, for others, and for ourselves.