Scott Sabin, Executive Director of Plant With a Purpose, frequently gets asked the question: “How do Christians choose between caring for the poor and caring for creation?” The presupposition beneath the question is that you have to choose one or the other. At first, this seems understandable… churches have finite resources after all. But to Sabin the question reflects the mistaken notion that caring for creation is something other than a justice issue. Sabin says, “[The question] still catches me by surprise because my own concern for the Earth grew out of a concern for the poor.”
“As someone told me recently, creation care seems like a cause for bored middle-class Americans who want to have chickens in their backyard, whereas the poor don’t have the luxury of worrying about their environment. The idea is that environmental issues are primarily aesthetic and fall pretty high up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. … However, if you live in a world in which water comes in plastic bottles and food comes from the supermarket, it is easy to see the environment as purely decorative.” Read the rest of “The Connection Between the Poor and the Earth.”
The idea that creation care is a past time for the wealthy and bored is perhaps a symptom of our insulation from the earth. The poor do not have that luxury – their fates rise and fall with the fate of the land. As Dick Keyes said, “We live in a world where food magically drops from thin air onto supermarket shelves.” The majority of humanity doesn’t live in that world. The world’s poor live in a world where the health of the soil, the flow of water, and the diversity of animal species connect directly to their livelihood and their lives.
As Sabin Says,
“Thus, helping to create opportunity – serving the poor – helps to serve the environment and helping to restore the environment serves the poor. Both activities serve the Creator. We need not make a choice between the poor and the earth.”