Archives for category: environment

July 12, 2010 marked the six-month anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed over 200,000 people, leveled countless buildings, and caused billions of dollars worth of damage.

In March, I wrote a review about Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Scott Sabin, executive director of Plant With Purpose. PWP is a nonprofit working to alleviate poverty by addressing deforestation. From their website:

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.

PWP has worked in Haiti for thirteen years, and continues to help in the rebuilding process after the devastating earthquake.  From The New York Times:

(PWP) has so far hired some 2,200 workers to plant more than 170,000 trees to protect communities. The extra available labor has allowed him to scale up Plant With Purpose’s operations, constructing more than 260 miles of soil erosion barriers to protect farmland from hurricanes and tropical storms.

There is still much work to be done.  Visit the Plant With Purpose Haiti Relief page to contribute towards rebuilding hope for Haiti.

I discovered the work of Plant With Purpose (formerly known as Floresta) through The Ecclesia Collective here in San Diego. I was hooked by the question on the flier advertising a seminar they were leading: What is the connection between deforestation and poverty? For me, the question went a step further: What does any of this have to do with loving & serving people, and participating in the mission of God in the world?

Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People by Scott Sabin, executive director of Plant With Purpose, addresses these questions in a way environmental-laypeople like myself can understand and relate to.  Eden is filled with engaging stories from Plant With Purpose’s work around the world, and from Scott’s own experience. I was happy to receive a review copy of Eden as part of the Plant With Purpose blog tour, which includes many thoughtful perspectives from across the blogosphere.

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I love the idea of going green.

I believe that followers of Jesus are called to be good stewards of this world that God loves so much.  While to some people asking the question, What would Jesus drive? might sound a little goofy, I think questions like this are well worth considering.  Our everyday decisions have consequences.  To paraphrase an idea from the Bible, if our actions have the net effect of hurting those around us, can we really say we love God?

However, connecting ideals to the actual living of life is always the tough part, right?  That’s why I appreciate ideas like this portable solar panel tree. From Gizmodo:

The Solar Tree was invented by Gurdeep Sandhu, and avoids the complicated process of having to install the a solar power system on your roof. You can move it too, so if you change house, you can take it with you. It doesn’t entirely solve the aesthetic problem of having such a thingamajig on your garden, but at least is better than having a roof full of panels and it can be folded at night

At least one commenter noted that, given its portability, security might be an issue (although I’m pretty sure you’d hear the semi-trailer rolling up to your house that would-be criminals would need to haul off your solar tree).

For most of us, installing solar panels at home would probably be too expensive, even with state rebates.  While I’m guessing this portable solar tree is still out of reach for most of us (I couldn’t seem to find any pricing information), I appreciate the fact that it is a step in the right direction.   It would be great to have massive change all at once in important areas of our lives, but the fact is, we often need to take incremental steps that point us in the right direction.

Ever since the drought in Georgia and the wildfires here in San Diego last October, our almost-five year old daughter has been very conscious about conserving water. In fact, since then our family has taken steps such as keeping a bucket in the shower, turning off the water while shampooing and generally taking shorter showers. We want to teach and model stewardship to our daughter, so that she will see that following Jesus is something we do with our whole lives.

Our daughter’s favorite water conservation technique is to collect water from the main tub faucet after switching off the shower head. She always makes sure to tell me, “It’s for the plants.”

Today, after her shower, I asked her why we should try to save water. She looked at me with a huge smile and said, “Because I want to take care of God’s Kingdom, Daddy!”

That’s my girl :)

Last year, Smart USA opened a dealership here in SD. Although our family is certainly interested in driving a car that leaves less of an impact on the environment, SD (like most of Southern California) is basically a jungle of oversized Gravedigger wannabes. In the midst of these ridiculous behemoths, a Smart Car just seems like a really bad accident waiting to happen.

We’ve always liked small, boxy cars. Take the Scion xB, for example — the delightful bread truck variety, not the we’ve come from the future bearing aesthetically displeasing vehicles variety. Not sure how I feel about the new Mini Clubman — kind of feels like it defeats the purpose of being mini by making an extended version; sort of a “jumbo shrimp” conundrum.

None of these wee cars, however, can out-small the Peel P50 I saw recently on Top Gear. Top Gear usually features bigger, louder, faster in the automotive world — for example, a Veyron racing a jet. While the P50 might have the loud department covered, it isn’t much bigger than this familiar playground icon. In fact, if you have time to watch the clip below, you’ll see one of the hosts drive his P50 onto the sidewalk, and then grab the handle in the back and bring it to the office with him (it fits into an elevator, with enough room for another person to stand alongside it as well). I think my favorite is the “sports car” iteration of the P50 (reminds me of Homer Simpson’s vision of the perfect car).

Here’s a clip from that episode of Top Gear:

Maybe it’s because I’ve been fighting off a nasty cold for a couple of weeks (an airplane is just a petri dish with wings) or because we are extremely busy with church (what else is new?), but it just hasn’t been looking a lot like Christmas for me these days. It’s not any kind of cynical holiday-burnout; I’m just kind of beat.

I find myself becoming more & more liturgical — both in how I envision our community worshiping together and in my personal sense of what it means to seek after God. Not liturgy for its own sake, but as a way of creating a rhythm in seeking after God. The word liturgy itself can be translated as, “The work of the people.” Most days, spiritual awakening and passionate revival aren’t falling from the sky in the form of high-density protein bars (nope, not even this kind). For me, the experience of God happens in the active search, the longing, the seeking. I need to lean in, to calm down, to pay attention to God.

Advent (which began this past Sunday) is a season of watching and waiting, expectation and anticipation. I love that, for the Church, our calendar is not set by the madness of Black Friday. No, our year begins as we prepare the way of our Lord, as Christine Sine explains in this wonderful post about Advent. The Advent season reminds me that business is not as usual and that I am being called into a different rhythm.

I recently joined the Junky Car Club. From their site: “Junky Car Club members are learning to live with less so we can give more. We’re a bunch of happy drivers who are politely rebelling against consumerism by driving junky cars. We encourage our members to use their dough to support social justice causes instead of making fat car payments. We believe in environmental stewardship and hanging onto things a little longer. Junky Car Club members sponsor kids living in poverty through Compassion International.”

I love that phrase, learning to live with less so we can give more. It reminds me of a great GK Chesterton quote I read in Al Hsu’s The Suburban Christian:

There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.

It’s easy to rant about Jesus being the “reason for the season” or to denounce the commercialization of Christmas. Learning to desire less stuff — that’s where life happens. The Junky Car Club is a fun way of promoting the transformation of hearts & minds and making a difference in the world. And, as an Asian American, I love the idea of subverting our car-obsessed culture. Seriously, how many Asian American youth pastors have had students hold down a part time job just to support their body-kit habit on their perpetual work-in-progress Honda Civic? Imagine what would happen if we, collectively, decided to ditch The Fast and the Furious for simple, authentic love, mercy and justice.

In a small way, joining the Junky Car Club has become part of my personal liturgy during this Advent season. Instead of a self-indulgent holiday filled with more and newer, just a little bit of self-control (because, really, simply owning a car at all — no matter how beat-down or busted — makes us rich in a global perspective) can point me towards the heart of Christ during Advent. Jesus came to serve, not to be served; and He calls us to the same. If I can live with just a little bit less, there will be that much more to give.

Christ has come; Christ is coming! Prepare the way of the Lord!

As Eugene Cho wrote recently in southern california is burning, it can be hard to actually enter into another person’s experience. Even for us, right in the midst of the firestorm and its aftermath here in SD, there can be a strange disconnect. Like others around the nation, we’ve been watching the firestorm from the television. As Shane Hipps comments, “The screen always wins.” I mean, we are here and it wasn’t even a week ago that we were grabbing only the essentials as we evacuated through the smoke and sirens early in the morning and yet watching the constant news feed has a strange, dulling effect. The sense of being “informed” creates a false sense of understanding, which can easily create a barrier to actually engaging the reality of individual people’s lives.

Sometimes it takes just being there to feel and understand it. During our return back to San Diego, we drove past the Camp Pendleton fires which created a menacing black cloud through which we had to drive. This junky cell phone photo (which, not to worry, were taken by my wife from the passenger seat!) shows how powerful one small brush fire can be — the hills and valleys in the immediate vicinity were, at the time, pretty well ablaze, so you can imagine what the larger scene looked like:


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However, more than just driving by, what brought home the impact of these fires for me was helping a church family try to deal with the aftermath. This particular family lives in one of the hard-hit neighborhoods and were just able to re-enter today. After much worrying and wondering, they were relieved to find their home in good condition. Their neighbor five houses, down, however, was not so fortunate:

I have heard about the random nature of fires — one house will be perfectly fine, the next completely leveled. But it is an altogether different experience to see it with my own eyes. We spent most of the afternoon trying to clean up the ash and soot that covered most of everything and to try to make their place livable again.

On Monday, while were still greeting evacuees at our church, a stranger wandered into our education building. After talking for a bit, finding out some of his story and giving him some bus fare, he said (regarding the wildfires), “You know, people call these kinds of things ‘acts of God.'” I told him I didn’t think that was an accurate description of what was happening. As much as we’re all grateful that God has spared our homes, can we really say that we out-prayed or received more favor from God than those who lost their homes? I don’t think this is a straightforward one-to-one proposition — otherwise, we’d all end up losing our places, wouldn’t we?

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After cleaning the front of the house and the garage, we moved to the backyard — which, if we didn’t realize it before, definitely put into perspective how close they came to losing their house. One family member saw the garden hose in the back and didn’t remember leaving it out, and then we saw this burnt out palm tree, not even ten feet from the house:


We could only guess that either a firefighter or neighbor who stayed behind saw the burning palm tree and doused the flames with the garden hose. Just beyond the white fence is the ravine through which the fire cut a brutal path — embers kicked up from the Santa Ana winds must have caught the house five doors down.

However, the street just across the gulch was hit much harder. I passed house after house that looked as if some angry, mythic giant had just stomped on them; but there was the same randomness — one house was hit, the next three were fine, and then two in a row were gone. News crews were out in full force (I saw at least three), chronicling the heartbreak of families trying to salvage whatever they could.


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My daughter attends the preschool of a church in this community in which 57 families lost their homes. Tonight, they hosted a gathering of worship, prayer and sharing. It did our hearts good to stand with others in our community who have lost it all and yet can say, “We are survivors; God is with us” as we did as a modified benediction today. Reading Scripture together, seeking God and interceding on behalf of others, sitting together in silence. The old hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” came together with a new resonance tonight.

We realized tonight that, in our longing for connection, community is not going to come to us — we have to pursue it, build it wherever we are. If you are in the San Diego area, there are plenty of people in need. Some need help sifting through the rubble, some might need special expertise navigating the maze of FEMA and insurance, and some might just need you to listen to their stories and weep with them. Let’s be the body of Christ to a hurting world. Or, as Donald Miller writes, followers of Christ are called to live “as if something was broken in the world and we were supposed to hold our palms against the wound.”