Good leaders are good listeners.
We don't always listen like we should.
Noisy conversations online and in the media show that people are anxious to be heard. The demand for good listeners is high, the supply? Not so much.
However, those who want to make a big impact will learn early on that listening is essential. This applies as much to creation care as it does to any other area of life. But where do we begin?
Here are five “voices” we should pay attention to as we seek to make a difference.
Listening to history.
History is full of examples of the rewards and consequences that stem from how we take care of creation.
On one end of the spectrum, we see the damage that environmental mistreatment has created. The decline of societies on Easter Island and Greenland can be linked to a misuse of resources and rampant deforestation. More recent history offers examples like North Korea and Haiti, where deforestation led to soil erosion, with food insecurity as a result.
On the other hand, we can also be encouraged by past innovations and efforts to move us towards better environmental stewardship. The worshipful ingenuity of George Washington Carver or the advocacy of John Muir can continue to offer inspiration. We can gleam positive examples from how efforts in Japan and Germany to promote forest management ultimately paid off. We can learn from Christians like St. Francis of Assisi, who left his mark on the world by considering all of creation as his family.
Listening to other leaders.
Powerful voices that encourage us to care for creation aren’t only in the history books. Many of them actively challenge us to become better environmental stewards, writing books and delivering lectures that can reshape the way we think.
The spectrum of present-day leaders of the Creation Care movement is broad. Writers like Wendell Berry, scientists like Katharine Hayhoe, and pastors like Tri Robinson, continue to shape and inform the urgent conversation taking place.
Lesser-known environmental champions from countries all over the world also work alongside these well-known leaders. Efren Balladares in the Philippines or Jadav Payeng in India advocate and take action to protect their ecosystems. These activists have a lot on the line. Each year, hundreds of environmental activists lose their lives for the sake of their message.
Listening to science.
George Washington Carver described science and nature as a bunch of “little windows through which God permits me to commune with Him,” and that idea led him to becoming an environmental revolutionary.
He is not alone. Today, many biologists and ecologists are drawn to their work due to the awe and wonder that creation invites. That stirs both a desire to take care of the earth, and a better understanding of how we can take care of it.
Science is a constantly unfolding map of the way we understand God's designed creation. We’ll always be a few steps behind, but every new discovery creates incredible opportunities for learning. Understanding how our environment works is therefore necessary as we seek to protect it.
Listening to the marginalized.
In all contexts, we’re called to listen to those on the margins. An overwhelming amount of Jesus’ time on Earth was spent listening to those who were disadvantaged or cutoff by society, and we’re meant to follow that example.
In the context of Creation Care, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations are also the most affected by environmental damage. The devastation that natural disasters bring to Haiti, the hardship of famines in East Africa, and the conflict that breaks out in places where forests are shrinking are no coincidence. Most of the world’s poor live lifestyles that are environment-dependent, therefore their experiences and stories need to inform our outlook.
Listening to Scripture.
The importance of Creation Care takes place all throughout Scripture. After all, everything begins in a garden and ends at a tree whose leaves offer healing to all nations. (Revelation 22:2)
In fact, reading Scripture through the lens of somebody dependent on the environment for survival puts us much closer to its original audience. Much of the crowd that heard Jesus teach directly lived an agrarian lifestyle, and so many of His stories feature farmers and fieldworkers. A little environmental knowledge goes a long way in our ability to relate to Scripture.
All throughout Psalms, creation is a constant reminder of God’s glory. Psalm 148 and other poems talk about how creation was designed to praise by nature. Books of prophecy are even more direct; Isaiah connects a thriving land with people’s well-being as well as God’s plan for restoration. The overarching narrative of the Bible is a story about restoration.
Plant With Purpose has made listening a core component of its work. As we hear from farmers and group participants, we can continue to adapt our program to address current challenges. We also learn from science, data, and other industry experts. This helps us innovate and test new ideas. Ultimately, we take time to learn from Scripture as a team. God's Word moves us to help. Want to learn more about how you can be a part of our work? Learn about becoming a Purpose Partner, and read the stories of our partners to hear what they have to say.