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It’s important to look at the causes of deforestation, which are often specific to certain locations. Clearing forests for the production of beef in Brazil or palm oil in Indonesia are some of the most high-profile causes. Limiting our use of these products can help curb the demand that drives deforestation in these particular places. Wildfires are another reason forests might be reduced by large numbers.
A common cause of deforestation in Plant With Purpose’s program communities is ultimately poverty. From Haiti to Mexico to Burundi, we see many community members harvest trees that can be turned into charcoal and sold. This can provide immediate cash in a desperate situation but ultimately worsens poverty and soil damage. Reversing poverty can help eliminate the burden many families face that drives them to remove trees in their area.
God created the Earth and declared it good. Our environment reflects the characteristics of its Creator in many ways: it is oriented toward relationships, it is abundantly generous, and it is powerful and incredible beyond human comprehension. The earliest commandment given to human beings was to be caretakers of the Earth, making environmental stewardship one of our primary callings.
Christ also reminds us that our greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. Because the environment is directly linked to the livelihoods and well-being of some of the most vulnerable communities on the planet, our ecological stewardship is a dimension of the way we love our neighbors on this Earth.
Globally, 8-in-10 people living in poverty live in rural areas. This means that their livelihoods revolve around agriculture. The crops they grow serve as both their food and income. Environmental degradation depletes soil, increases vulnerability to natural disasters, and intensifies the impact of climate change.
When people cannot grow sufficient food, many are forced to make difficult choices like taking children out of school or moving to a city to look for work. The good news is that this cycle can be put in reverse. Replenishing ecosystems allows people to grow better livelihoods, develop savings, and invest in the health of their community.
Psalm 24:1 teaches us that “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” At the end of the creation story, God looks over everything and declares that it is good. An appreciation for the sophisticated intricacies of our planet’s ecosystems can stir up worship in our hearts and teach us many things about God.
God’s vision for this planet is that of abundance. Genesis 1 describes a scene where biodiversity flourishes as God declares “let the earth put forth vegetation,” and “let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind.” This vision of abundance is reflected in Christ’s declaration that He has come so we may have “life and life abundantly.”
The short answer is yes! Trees absorb carbon, making forests an important carbon sink. While the number may vary a lot by species, age, and location, one study approximated a mature tree could absorb as much as 22 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. The restoration of tropical and temperate rainforests are legitimate climate solutions. Unfortunately, 80,000 acres of forests are removed from the planet every day.
It should be noted that tree planting alone should not be considered the singular antidote to climate change. There are limitations as to how many trees can actually be planted, and planted in the right place. Tree planting must be done carefully and combined with other actions that rapidly reduce emissions.
A Christian perspective on the environment approaches the issue through a biblical lens of worship, stewardship, and service.
1) Worship - Creation teaches us so much about its Creator. Romans 1:20 tells us “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When we honor creation, we bear witness to the Creator.
2) Stewardship - In the Parable of the Talents Jesus shows us that we have a responsibility to faithfully steward that which we are given by God. Environmental stewardship has been our call from the very beginning (Genesis 2:15). The first commandment given after the creation story is for humankind to protect, care for, and responsibly use the world God created.
3) Service - In Matthew 25 (parable of the sheep and the goats) Jesus clearly reminds us that loving our neighbor means caring for the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our world. Abuse of the regenerative natural systems God created results in the suffering of people around the world. Drought, deforestation, food insecurity, and the increasing severity of climate-related events affect developing nations and vulnerable communities most severely. We serve “the least of these” when we are committed to healing the Earth.
In the U.S., many international environmental or development orgs are simply referred to as, “nonprofits,” but internationally these organizations are referred to as “NGOs.” NGO stands for non-governmental organization. These are private groups that seek to protect and support the environment outside the context of government. Environmental NGOs may work directly with specific ecosystems or may support the environment through activities like research and advocacy.
Environmental NGOs can be found in nearly every country. Plant With Purpose is an example of an environmental NGO that works in multiple countries where environmental problems are directly linked to poverty.
Environmental NGOs may work in a variety of ways. Some work directly with communities to heal ecosystems. Others protect specific sensitive areas of land or threatened species. There are also environmental NGOs that invest in the research and development of new solutions to help maintain a healthy climate, biodiversity, and ecological flourishing.
Plant With Purpose works by equipping rural community members with the tools to transform their own ecosystems so they can flourish for generations in the future. By combining activities with a straightforward environmental benefit, like tree planting, with an emphasis on letting local communities lead these efforts, environmental protection becomes an embraced value rather than a one-time activity.
While it may vary from one to another, environmental organizations exist to protect ecosystems and species. Some organizations may focus on a specific location, like a river or a national park. Others may focus on certain types of locations, like kelp forests or mountains. Some focus specifically on a certain species, while others work to support these efforts through research, advocacy, or awareness raising. Ultimately, however, all life is connected, so all these efforts ultimately are as well.
Plant With Purpose integrates its efforts to restore the environment with advancing the livelihoods and spiritual lives of people living within watersheds. In this regard, it is both an environmental organization and a development organization.
Environmental nonprofits are important because the environment is important. With each week that passes, climate change puts more communities, species, and ecosystems under threat. We need an urgent response from people to drastically curb environmental damage while healing the ecosystems that are already under stress.
Nonprofits play an important role in the process. These organizations can connect people who care about making effective and sustainable change with the program and methodology to make it happen. An environmental organization like Plant With Purpose is a concerned person’s vehicle to have a positive impact on a climate vulnerable community.
Our calling is to love and serve those who are afflicted by poverty. Proverbs 14:31 challenges us by saying “whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” In Matthew 25:31-45, Jesus links our treatment of those in need to our relationship with Himself: “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
While we have a devotion toward serving the least of these, we can also rest assured that the burden of completely solving poverty and related problems is not on us. As the Plant With Purpose CEO often says, “we already have a Savior!” We can grow closer to our Savior by joining this mission.
Absolutely! Our environment is shaped by our actions and the strongest influence on our actions is our sense of identity. 84% of the world adheres to a religion, and it is a core component of the identity of many individuals and cultures.
The world’s major faith traditions all have something to say about the value of caring for our natural world. One impressive example in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the tradition of preserving a church forest. This centuries-old discipline provides a valuable sanctuary for biodiversity in today’s world. Plant With Purpose partners with many churches across Ethiopia to enhance these efforts.
Nonprofit organizations can be a powerful vehicle for ecosystem restoration. Many nonprofits, including Plant With Purpose, work at a grassroots level with communities around the world. Relationships with community members (who are also part of the ecosystem!) can help catalyze restorative activities like tree planting, the promotion of regenerative agriculture, and the abandonment of destructive practices.
Nonprofit organizations can also create change through advocacy and awareness. Effective campaigns that help shift behaviors at scale can result in positive ecological change. Building momentum toward certain causes can also help create the public interest in broader changes that impact ecosystems.
There are many benefits of planting trees. Some of the most noticeable are that trees provide shade and attract moisture. This helps bring down temperatures and reduces drought. Trees have a powerful effect on the soil, helping it retain nutrients and stabilizing it to prevent runoff. Trees also generate a variety of products and are home to a number of bird, insect, and animal species, which helps to promote biodiversity.
When it comes to human flourishing, trees make a big impact. At least 1.6 billion people rely on forests for their livelihoods. When planted on farmland, trees can help support the growth of other crops, making them a great solution in places where food insecurity is a major concern. These are the areas where Plant With Purpose works, which is why to date we’ve planted over 50 million trees.