When we live sustainably, we live compassionately.
Sustainability is both and act of selflessness and humility. When we choose to practice sustainability, we do so realizing that the things we do affect far more people than ourselves. It invites us to consider our own interests less than the interests of others, which is a great act of humility.
Paul Hawkens once famously stated, “sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.”
In its truest form, sustainability isn’t something we seek to do to prove ourselves better than others. It also isn’t something we do out of guilt. Sustainability is an act of compassion, realizing that it is an opportunity we’ve been given to boldly impact the lives of others.
Sustainability is compassion for all forms of life.
While sustainability benefits all living things, a good portion of them are not even human. Wildlife- including animals, plants, insects and other forms are created to live in harmony with each other, where chains and cycles allow for the continuation of diverse life forms. These all glorify God through their existence.
The first job ever given was that of a gardener and animal keeper: taking care of other living beings central to humanity’s role in God’s design. Being given a special role shouldn’t cause us to feel like an exemption from the nature, but more like a guardian of it. The role that God gives to Adam in Genesis is one full of benevolence.
Sustainable living seeks to remove threats to wildlife survival, like contaminated oceans or dwindling habitats. The more we do this, the further God’s artistry can be fully enjoyed by all.
Sustainability is compassion for the poor.
An unhealthy environment affects us all, but it harms the poor first and it harms the poor most severely.
The areas where the environment is most threatened often go hand in hand with areas where poverty is rampant. The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries and hosts one of the most rapidly shrinking forests. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has one of the most notorious cases of soil erosion. Ethiopia, Somalia, and its neighbors feature high incidences of hunger related to famine and food insecurity.
To truly have an impact on poverty at a global level, its environmental factors must be addressed. If the sensitive ecosystems in Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and along the Indian and Pacific Oceans were improved, it would make a profound improvement on the lives of the poor.
Sustainability is compassion for those yet to be born.
When we visited Ah Jee’s community in Thailand, it became clear that the connection between sustainability and compassion was obvious to them.
He explained to us simply the importance of leaving behind something healthy and sustainable. “If we take care of what we have here, we can share with other people.”
“We work together. The first group that arrived protected the forest for us. Then we protected it for the volunteer generation. Next, they will protect it for my grandchildren’s generation. Passing on the knowledge from generation to generation.”
To Ah Jee and his neighbors, their relationship with the environment does not exist in a vacuum. He realizes that we will one day pass on this world to a next generation. Until that happens, it’s on us to make it a better place.