A group of people 800 million strong are critical to solving our environmental crisis.
Our planet is undoubtedly at a critical moment right now. Various reports show that close to a million species are at risk of extinction. Meanwhile, 2030 has been projected as the date by which changes to the earth’s climate will have become irreversible.
These changes will affect everybody. They have already had a harshly felt effect on the most poor and vulnerable populations. Climate change is the second largest cause of migration and displacement right now. This will only grow worse as various island nations prepare for the possibility of sinking below sea levels.
Droughts have created vast food insecurity in regions ranging from Yemen to Ethiopia, Central Africa to Southeast Asia. Record setting temperatures in the summer claimed over 800 lives in the past year.
With stakes this high, the earth can’t afford missing out on any potential lifeline that could help it reverse some of these challenges.
We need every actor at every level of society playing their part.
Unfortunately, every single day, governments, ministries, organizations, and ordinary individuals often forget about one of the most important groups of people in the world when it comes to stopping climate change. This group of people actually makes up ten percent of the human population.
We’re talking about the world’s poor and vulnerable communities in the underdeveloped and exploited parts of the world. The majority of these people have agricultural lives and live in rural areas.
They are the most affected by a changing climate, but they also have the most underappreciated potential.
Major actors overlook these groups far too often.
It’s far too easy to categorize these communities as victims without further consideration. While there is no doubt that they feel the burden of environmental problems most severely, that only tells one part of the story.
These individuals are actually key to restoring the earth and protecting its ecosystems. Here are a few examples of why:
- A big part of the reason that land gets degraded and soil erodes is because of unsustainable farming practices employed by many agricultural workers in poverty. Programs that help farmers understand how to increase crop yields and income revenue through sustainable practices end these practices. They also create an incentive for farmers to share sustainable knowledge widespread, resulting in increased sustainability across entire communities.
- About a quarter of deforestation is attributed to small-scale farmers in exploited countries. In many cases this is a result of desperation. Programs that integrate tree planting into a model that also considers income opportunity help. They increase the potential of these individuals no longer being a major source of deforestation, but reforestation instead.
- A decrease in poverty leads to trends that are good for the global environment. Economic empowerment typically results in smaller family sizes, better waste management, and increased adoption of clean energy. If these behaviors become more common in countries with the highest poverty rates, it will ease some of the current burden. Programs that sustainably reduce poverty also help the environment.
But using outside tools and programs to create these changes is not the most effective way. We’ve found that local leaders who have roots in these communities are the most powerful investment we can make to achieve these outcomes.
Plant With Purpose has seen that local change agents can mobilize entire communities towards tree planting and sustainability in ways that outside actors cannot. The Plant With Purpose model is one that recognizes the value of community involvement.
We need their help and empowerment to protect our planet.
It’s far too tempting and far too easy to begin thinking of oneself as the hero. This is true in the different worlds of nonprofits, environmental organizations, and ministries. One of the many dangers of this is that we sideline some of the most important people in solving major problems.
Responding to our environmental crisis doesn’t call for more heroes. It calls for partnerships. The beauty of a partnership is that it recognizes our need for each other, and that is an inherent value of sustainability.
Creation teaches us this same lesson.
Ecosystems are interdependent and every part has a purpose. Neglecting or underestimating the role of one part denies opportunities for our planet’s health.
Psalm 118:22 reads: The stone that the builders rejected will become the cornerstone. This has most commonly been read to foretell the rejection Christ experienced before his eventual glorification. However, the elevation of people often forgotten about follows the patterns of his teaching and the example of his life. As he later explains, the last shall be first.
From a Christian environmental perspective, imitating Christ’s example includes seeing the God-given potential of those on the margins who are often forgotten about. They merit more than just our material help. They need us to see them as valuable neighbors and co-caretakers of our common home.
Investing in Plant With Purpose’s program is also an investment in rural, overexploited populations. We design our program model to empower local leaders to create sustainable changes in their communities. To become a Purpose Partner just follow this link.