Eco-Justice Ministries  

Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Choose Life!
distributed 3/9/01 - ©2001

The news of death this week still leaves an ache in the pit of my stomach.

I'm not referring to school shootings or other headline-grabbing accounts of death, although the tragedy there is unquestioned. The news that stirs my grief is a story from CNN that has had little circulation.

22 million monarch butterflies have died at a forest reserve in central Mexico. The report says that they may have been intentionally killed by loggers spraying pesticides in a forest reserve. Mexico had recently expanded the reserves to better protect the butterfly's wintering grounds. The poisoning may have been an attempt to render the preservation efforts meaningless.

CNN details the eco-justice efforts of the Mexican government in that region - expanding reserves to protect the amazing, migrating butterfly, and providing help for the loggers with both direct relief for lost work and help for long-term job options.

What strikes me in this situation is the apparent unwillingness of loggers to embrace different ways of work that would protect the butterflies. It is a clear echo of the struggles in the Pacific Northwest of the US, where loggers fight efforts for sustainability and species protection. Lashing out at one of the real victims - butterflies or spotted owls - replaces constructive work for the long-term health for all.

But the problem is not unique to loggers. Humans are far and away the most flexible and adaptive species on earth. We can live almost anywhere, and do almost anything. But we are tenacious in clinging to our own lifestyles, even when the damage and destruction we cause are clear.

Over and over again, we choose a way of life, instead of life itself.

Our national culture of waste and excess (rapidly becoming the global culture) is unsustainable and deadly. It drives global climate change, poisons our air and water, depletes topsoil and fisheries, and crowds species into extinction. The way we live brings death to our communities and our planet.

And yet we cling desperately to the way of life, rather than embracing life.

If Mexican loggers have killed millions of butterflies, their sin is great. But it is not all that different from a sin that we all share. Their action to protect a lifestyle, even when good options are available, is conscious and blatant. But we all participate in the same sin as we cling to our cars and strive for endless growth of wealth and possessions. Each of us, every day, chooses lifestyle over life.

The problems we face are hard enough on a technical level. How do we discover options that treat people justly and also preserve the health of environmental systems? The problems are compounded when we encounter stubborn resistance to change from people in all walks of life.

The church must address this human problem. The church is all about change and transformation of the human spirit. It is about confession and repentance and new life. It is about proclaiming new visions and calling people to new hope. In these days of growing environmental crisis, the transformational work of the church is desperately needed.

God speaks to the people of Israel: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live." (Deut. 30:19)

May the church empower people to choose life over lifestyle, so that we may all live.

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On the good news front, Colorado this week joins 16 other states in the Climate Change Initiative of the National Council of Churches. A grant received by the Colorado Council of Churches, and administered by an interfaith task force, will engage people of faith in education, training, organizing and advocacy. Congregations in Colorado will work for changes in lifestyle and in public policy.

Thanks be to God for these intentional, committed efforts to choose life, and to care for God's creation!

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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