Similar to Goal 14, but with an emphasis on land. Environmentally it seeks to prevent deforestation, desertification, and loss of animal and plant species.
Psalm 8:6-9 shares how God made us rulers over the works of His hands, over ‘all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky…’ But the same verses also declare how ‘majestic is your name in all the earth’. Reflecting on Gods creation, David highlights two important things. 1) Gods creation is amazing. 2) Gods given us the call to care for it.
The Forest by Sasha Milic
+ THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:6-9
Much of what we have said about the sea applies equally to the land. The land however is more familiar to us, it does not offer that same degree of mystery. It is accessible and, arguably, as a result, we are even more of a threat to it. We are living through what ecologists call the sixth great extinction, and the first caused by humans. The current rate of species extinction is thought to be hundreds of times higher than the ‘natural’ rate because of our interventions. Given our God given role as stewards of creation, is this an acceptable state of affairs?
There is an irony here. As we travel more, and gain firsthand experience of the diverse world around us, regularly settling eagerly in front of our TV screens to wonder at its beauty, so exquisitely presented, we might think we would be inclined to care more. But our feelings and actions rarely seem to work in tandem. We are aware of the richness of all that surrounds us, but seemingly numbed to the reality of doing very much to protect it. Biodiversity presents the sheer variety of all that life around us, and, crucially, its interdependence. Even a cursory reading of the scriptural story clearly echoes that sense of both variety and wonder. ‘How majestic is your name in all the Earth’ indeed! Creation itself is a complex collective of which we are a part, a community of life to which we have a God given responsibility. We are learning more about the inter-relations of the members of this family; how the forests and the deserts, the trees and the plants, the birds and the bees, work together for good. The world is our teacher for sure (Job 12:7-10).
There is another element to the Bible’s story which also ought to inspire us in this area. In Romans 8 there is a picture of ultimate salvation that has ‘all creation waiting in eager expectation’ as it itself is ‘liberated from its bondage to decay’. Now this is rich language, but it seems, at the very least, to be an answer to the gospel commission in Mark 16 to ’go and share the good news with all creation’. God’s purposes include the richness of the world around us, the new heavens and new earth we are called to anticipate, are a renewed but equally connected ecology.
Goal 15 looks specifically at conserving certain types of vital and endangered ecosystems, at preventing desertification and deforestation, and at protecting various species under threat. In doing so it anticipates that coming kingdom and so is, in itself, a work of the gospel.
+ DISCUSSION POINTS
- What do you think when you watch a nature programme or hear something on the news about these issues? Does it matter, and why? Does it make you want to do something?
- ‘For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.’ Psalm 50:10. If you agree that all animals belong to God – how does that change the way they should be treated?
- What do you understand from Romans 8:19-22, where the whole of creation is caught up in God’s great act of rescue? To what extent is environmental protection ‘gospel’ work?
+ GOAL 15 IN ACTION
You may wonder what animal welfare has to do with world hunger and poverty. The Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals (ASWA) believes that animals are valued by God. It highlights our awareness of welfare issues, good animal care and our relationship with the planet.
Industrial livestock farming is considered a major climate change contributor. Cattle are especially large consumers of water and grain, with over a third of the world’s grain estimated to be fed to livestock. It has been said that world hunger could be greatly reduced if the amount of meat eaten was drastically reduced. There are also the key issues of animal cruelty with particular challenges for those living in poverty to care appropriately for their animals. Organisations such as SPANA provides invaluable free veterinary care to owners, enabling indispensable working animals to fully heal and resume working.
+ WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Personal – Eat less meat/dairy and experiment with some plant-based meals.
Local – Support local farmers who practice free range farming.