This Lent (6 March to 20 April) Bishop Peter and Bishop Ruth are inviting us to focus on caring for the world around us. The Bishops’ Lent Challenge, Living Well in God’s World will help us think about what our Christian faith says about how we live and how we care for creation. This week’s theme is ‘Good stewards?’.
Want to know more. Click on the headings below to see the reflections, bible readings and facts to inspire you.
Genesis 1 describes how God created a perfect world and gave mankind dominion(v28) –not domination! –over it.A good king exercises compassionate, loving dominion over his country –and the best example is Jesus, the servant king. So being made in the image of God,we humans are called to ‘rule over’ the earth in the same way that Jesus ‘rules over’ his people –in love and service.
Genesis 2:15 tells us that ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it’. ‘Work and take care of’ can be translated ‘till and keep’ or ‘serve and preserve’. So Christian dominion is to be exercised by serving creation on God’s behalf –being good stewards on behalf of the landlord, God. This means ensuring that every part is able to flourish. As Margaret Thatcher, perhaps rather surprisingly, said, ‘No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy—with a full repairing lease.’
In our church we have recently followed the Exploring Christianity course, one session of which is on environmental ethics. It makes the distinction between anthropocentric (human centred) and biocentric (earth-centred) ethics. There are, of course, problems with both approaches, and we concluded that we have to steer an even course between the two.In the past, humans have clearly exploited the earth for our material gains, both mineral and, arguably, animal and vegetable. This has been justified by an anthropocentric approach, which is clearly wrong. So too would be a biocentric approach, in which all life is, as far as possible, given equal value (a way of interpreting Gen 1: 31a). As Exploring Christianity points out, a little facetiously, few urban-dwellers want to give equal rights for rats!
One way to be good stewards of the earth might be to eat meat less often;a “flexitarian” diet usesless of the world’s resources. Poorer quality land, which makes up a large part of rural Somerset, is not suitable for growing crops but can be successfully used for grazing animals, and bring biodiversity benefits too.
How can we change, and reduce the human impact on the planet?Let us not forget the words of Psalm 24.1 “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it …”
Revd Bill Lemmey
Rector of Porlock, Selworthy and Luccombe
- Could you reduce your meat or dairy intake? How about a meat-free Monday and/or a dairy free day each week?
- Find out more about the environmental impact of food on the BBC website
- Shop ‘smarter’ in the supermarket. Look for free-range, non-processed, local produce, fish from sustainable sources and fill up with fruit and vegetables, pulses and nuts.
- Reduce your intake of processed foods. This will keep you healthier as well as reducing your impact on the planet
- Find out what fruit and veg are in season, and choose these over imported, unseasonal foods. Check the ‘food miles’ of what you are thinking of buying, and choose local produce over air-freighted. Why not sign up for a local Veg Box scheme or go along to a Farmers’ Market?
- Put on your calendar a visit to a local farm on 9 June, Open Farm Sunday.
- Find ways of reducing single use plastics? Take your own re-useable bags to the shops, choose unpackaged food when possible, check out your local market, use re-fillable bottles (your local health food store will probably offer top-ups of washing up liquid, laundry liquid, shampoo etc.)Look out for your local ‘milk station’ where you can buy fresh milk direct from the farm in reusable bottles.
- Try not to buy water and fizzy drinks in plastic bottles, or takeaway drinks. Take your own re-usable bottle or travel mug –lots of cafes are giving discounts if you do this.
- Try and reduce food waste. Only ‘Buy one and get one free’ if you will actually use it, or share with a friend. Make sure you understand the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ –it could save you money and stop food being wasted.
- Replace liquid soap with bars, look out for shampoo bars, try re-useable beeswax wraps or tinfoil instead of clingfilm, ditch disposable razors (gents) and check out Mooncups (women). You will save money and the planet.
- In Somerset, much of our meat production is on a grass-based system in areas where cereal crops cannot be grown, but that is not the picture globally. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, Meat and dairy production takes three quarters of all the available agricultural land in the world. One third of that land is used to grow animal feed such as rather than directly feeding people.
- Friends of the Earth tell us that, in 2050 the world is expected to be eating 76% more meat than it did in 2005. Growth in meat consumption in China, the biggest meat consuming country, is projected to be over four times of the next fastest-growing consumer, Brazil in absolute terms.
- Globally, 33% of fish are being fished at unsustainable levels.
- Over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950’s, and most of it is still here! If placed end to end, the 480 billion plastic bottles produced worldwide in 2016 would extend more than half way to the sun.
- By 2050 plastic waste is estimated to outweigh all the fish in the sea. Most of the plastic produced since the 1940’s still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose.
- The average UK household wastes £470-worth of food per year. Roughly 250,000 tonnes of edible food is unnecessarily wasted, which is equivalent to 650 million meals.With an estimated 8.4 million people in the UK struggling to afford to eat, it’s easy to see how this food could be better used.