Monday, April 15, 2013

Stewardship, Part 1: Earth

The first topic related to stewardship I'd like to discuss is our stewardship over the earth. In Genesis 1:28: "God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.' "

It's clear from reading Genesis 1 that God loves the earth. He took great pride in its beauty and carefully selected every seed and grain of sand while creating it. After each busy day of creating the earth, "God saw that it was good." In Matthew 6 and Luke 12, Jesus teaches that we should not be anxious about having clothing because "Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?"

As stewards of His earth and creation, we are responsible for its well-being, which means we should all try to avoid abusing, wasting, and neglecting the earth's resources. Maybe you're thinking something that I used to think: "We'll never be able to help the earth enough to stop the inevitable, so why should I bother doing my part?" Yes, full confession, I used to justify my actions by thinking that. Similar to voting for a politician, "My one little vote doesn't matter, so why bother?" This mindset, I now see, is foolish, naive, lazy, and careless.

I'm not saying that you should sell your house, throw out all your stuff, and go live in a third-world country. But I am saying that we all should own up to the fact that God placed mankind on this earth to be stewards over it. Not to abuse that responsibility and mistreat the earth. And once you own up to that, you should strive to do your part, even if it seems small and insignificant. Even a little change will make a large impact over time.

Now, obviously, we're not all going to be perfect at this. We can't all leave a "zero carbon footprint". But we can do our part to live responsibly.

How does this idea of stewardship over the earth tie into our diet and lifestyle choices? Allow me to share some facts and statistics with you, that perhaps you've never heard before.

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According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than the entire transportation sector. It is also a major source of land and water degradation. (Source)

The dairy sector accounts for around four percent of all global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions according to a new FAO report. (Source)

Huge quantities of the potent greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide are emitted by farmed animals and their waste. (Source)

According to the 2012 State of Food and Agriculture report, "Globally, most of the best land is already being used in agriculture. Analysis of global agro-ecological zones data reveals that much of the additional arable land is in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa but is in remote locations, far from population centres and agricultural infrastructure and cannot be brought into production without investments in infrastructure development. Where the potential to expand agricultural land use exists, there is also competition from urban growth, industrial development, environmental reserves and recreational uses, while other areas are not readily accessible or are of poorer quality...There are also other serious resource constraints, especially concerning water. At present, agriculture accounts for over 70 percent of global water use, but the share of water available for agriculture is expected to decline to 40 percent by 2050." (Source)

Animal agriculture is also a key factor in deforestation, which releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere). The total area used for grazing and the production of feedcrops accounts for 70 percent of all agricultural land and 30 percent of the earth’s land surface. (Source)

The typical meat eater’s diet can require up to 14 times more water. (Source)

Feed to yield ratios:
It takes 2 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of chicken (the average whole chicken is 3.5 pounds)
It takes 7 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of beef (each cow typically yields 300 lb of meat)
It takes over 3 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of pork (one pig yields approximately 140 pounds of meat) (Source)
It takes more than 3 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of farmed salmon (Source)
Not that it would be your entire meal, but 1 pound of corn yields about 3.5 cups...which would feed more than one person. It's so much more efficient to skip "the middle man" (animal) and just feed humans directly.

37% of the world's and 66% of the U.S.'s grain is fed to animals being raised for slaughter.

In summary:
  • Animal agriculture leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions and land and water degradation.
  • It is also one of the leading causes of deforestation.
  • If grain that is normally fed to animals being raised for slaughter were to be fed directly to human beings, world hunger would be virtually non-existent.

So you must make a personal choice for yourself. If you feel convinced that the standard American diet is one that places excess demand on our planet's limited resources, then please understand that any change you make is valuable. Even if you don't eliminate meat and dairy from your diet, a reduction is a wonderful start in terms of an environmental impact. Try implementing "Meatless Mondays" or "Dairy-free Fridays" in your home. The meat and dairy industry have gotten out of hand because they are trying to keep up with rising demands. If the demand decreases, so will the environmental abuse. If you do not see anything wrong with the standard American diet and its impacts on the environment, then I encourage you to do your own research to find out the validity of the above statistics. Either way, we are all living on this planet together, which means we will all face the consequences of our choices. As a believer in Christ, one day you will stand before our King and give an account of your life and how well you managed the resources you were given. Resources that include your body, your time, your relationships, your money, and His Creation. We have all been entrusted with precious resources. We have all been declared stewards.

Next: Stewardship, Part 2: Food

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