by Rusty Pritchard
One of the priorities for social justice advocates in the church is going to be harnessing the new attention to environmental issues that so many Christians are expressing. Anytime a new conversation starts there are opportunities to shape its direction, and the church’s relative neglect of environmental issues means that its future path has yet to be mapped. Rather than letting the discourse be dominated by the priorities of secular (often self-absorbed) environmentalism, socially-concerned Christians should ensure that there is a close dialogue between social justice and environmental concerns. A newly-launched campaign called Plant with Purpose promises to be helpful in that regard.
Plant with Purpose is a new outreach effort by Floresta, an international NGO which is either a poverty alleviation ministry that deals with environmental issues, or an environmental ministry that focuses on poverty alleviation. Either way, they help people in desperate environments figure out development opportunities that protect the land, sustain local economies, and build faith. Of all the ministries I’ve encountered recently, none so clearly link creation care with human flourishing.
In their words,
Most of the world’s poor are rural poor. Many are subsistence farmers, completely dependent on their environment for survival. But as a result of widespread deforestation, the land isn’t providing like it used to.
Land that once bore bountiful crops that could be sold or eaten, isn’t producing. Streams that used to provide water to drink, now run dry. Out of desperation, the poor cut down more trees to sell as firewood, even though doing so means further destroying their one chance of survival.
By reversing deforestation, Plant With Purpose helps the poor restore productivity to their land to create economic opportunity out of environmental restoration. Since 1984 we have helped more than 100,000 people in some 230 villages lift themselves out of poverty through our holistic approach to sustainable development.
Doug Satre is Plant with Purpose outreach director (like many Floresta employees, he was a supporter long before going to work for the organization). According to Doug, Floresta’s already planted over 4 million trees and made over 6,000 small business loans worldwide since 1984.
Plant with Purpose, like its parent organization Floresta, is a powerful example of new framing of the “environmental issue”. It reconnects people with creation, it enhances human welfare while protecting the resource base, and it does it primarily by creating jobs and enhancing markets and property rights. Plant with Purpose blows by the “environment vs. jobs” debate, the “regulation vs. free market” debate, and the “preservation vs. wise use” debate. All Christians concerned with poverty, justice, and inequality should become familiar with their work. Their new campaign makes it easy. Check out Plant with Purpose, and be sure to see their short, inspiring, creative video on YouTube (you may already be watching it on this page!).
Plant with Purpose will have a major presence at the Flourish 2009 conference in Metro Atlanta: CEO Scott Sabin and Outreach Director Doug Satre will both be there, leading a workshop on the connection between poverty alleviation and creation care. If you’re not registered yet, this is the week the early-bird special expires. Register today for Flourish 2009.
Rusty Pritchard is the President and co-founder of Flourish.