Christian Stewardship –
connected by the environment
Looking at recent global events, I've become increasingly aware of one of the foundational principles of Christian Stewardship — our unavoidable connectedness to one another — especially when it comes to the environment.
Consider volcanic eruptions in Iceland that affected air travel in Ireland, Scotland and locations as distant as Spain and Portugal. Scientific observers report the nuclear incident at Fukushima, Japan, spread trace amounts of radiation to locations as distant as New York state, Alaska, California and Austria.
After the BP oil disaster, NOAA research vessels discovered massive plumes of dispersed oil up to 30 miles long by seven miles wide and hundreds of feet thick, which prevailing ocean currents are dispersing throughout the Atlantic.
These examples emphasize that regardless of how we may see ourselves, we are profoundly connected to other people on this planet. Elements in the earth, sky and the sea don't respect time zones, international borders or other lines of demarcation. The things we do in one part of the world can have implications for us all.
That is why the proposal of the Ecuadorian government, being brokered by the UN, is both radical and an example of good CS.
The Yasuni National Park in Ecuador is not only richly diverse in unique animal and plant life, but the surrounding rainforests play a major role in maintaining the global carbon dioxide/oxygen balance. Yasuni also happens to rest on top of a massive oil reserve — the development of which would almost certainly threaten the health of its other natural resources. Bryan Walsh's recent article in Time magazine titled: "Rainforest for Ransom," discusses the proposal that the industrialized world pay Ecuador a percentage of the value of the oil reserve to preserve Yasuni and forego oil development for the time being.
The Yasuni proposal addresses several difficult truths. First, the world needs Yasuni to remain a vibrant rainforest. Its value as an ecosystem is virtually priceless.
Next, the people of Ecuador need cash. They are some of the poorest people in Central America. Finally, since Yasuni is of inestimable value and can't be replaced at any price, it is only rational to pay to preserve it.
How are CS principles reflected in this proposal? It acknowledges the world's connectedness — how events in central Ecuador can impact air quality around the world and contribute to scientific and medical research for years to come. It recognizes the real needs of the people of Ecuador and attempts to address those needs with justice and dignity.
Some might ask, "How we can consider it good stewardship to pay Ecuador not to develop their oil reserves?" The answer is the entire world needs what Yasuni has — and the Ecuadoran people need something that much of the industrialized world can provide — resources to live better lives.
If everyone the world over was a Christian steward and lived according to those principles, this international deal to save Yasuni would not be necessary. That's not how the world is. So, we turn to market-driven solutions, and hope for the best result.
But even so, as Christian stewards, we need to recognize initiatives that conform to good CS principles, and give them our support. Part of our CS responsibility is to speak out and advocate for the legislative initiatives and policies that are consistent with the values we hold.
I'm not saying this proposal is the best solution, the only solution, politically savvy or even economically feasible — but it does reflect some solid CS principles. And it gives the world a chance to preserve a marvelous gift from God that we cannot afford to lose.
(Walt Sears represents region 2 on the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Council and is a member of the diocesan stewardship commission.)