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Biodiversity, Population & Climate Change

"The fate of humans and the fate of the animals are the same: as one dies so does the other; both have the same breath."  (Ecclesiastes 3:19)

If we see the natural world, our environment, as valuable simply because our Creator made it, sustains it and loves it, rather  than seeing it only as a world of our own making, then we can understand degradation of the natural world as an ecological, economic, ethical and theological crisis, and that our faith calls us to care for the earth.

This will require that we learn to live sustainably, and that we find a new way ofmeasuring our well-being other than material  consumption. There is not always going to be "more." Three areas of particular urgency are over population, loss of biodiversity and climate change.

How many people can the earth sustain and at what level of consumption?  The earth had two billion people in 1924, has passed seven billion now and is on the way to nine billion by 2050. And the 2.6 million added each year in the United States consume as many resources as the 17 million added in India each year. We in the United States have five percent of the world's population, but consume 25 percent of its energy. We have the ability to alter an economic system based on constant growth to one that is sustainable.

Ecosystems are elegant, interconnected, and thrive on diversity, yet we are losing species at approximately 100 times the background rate, caused by loss of habitat, over-hunting, invasion of exotic species and pollution. An example in the United States is the accelerating loss of species that pollinate 1/3 to 1/2 of our food crops, particularly bats and honey bees. Again, we know how to reverse "bee colony collapse." We can ban neonicotinoids (neonics), a pesticide largely responsible for the plight of our honey bees, if only we have the will. Something to consider: there is no test to determine that a species was critical to our well-being after it is gone. Finally, climate change will, unless mitigated for and adapted to, accelerate species extinction as many species struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. 

Projected changes in temperature, soil moisture, pests and carbon dioxide levels will also threaten crop production in a world where per person production of grain already peaked in 1984 and has declined since. Once again, we have the knowledge to move to an economy powered by clean, renewable energy instead of climate altering fossil fuels.

Our scriptures call us to till and keep creation and to also wonder at and love all creatures.

Written for the Church and Society Committee by Doug Iverson

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