Four things to remember when environmental issues seem overwhelming

How can we prevent a mass extinction event? Can we remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to avoid irreversible climate change? Can we protect and restore the forests we have left?

It can be so easy to get overwhelmed by the daunting nature of protecting our planet. Maybe it isn’t so surprising that many people try to look the other way. Thinking about the challenges we face for too long can be exhausting.

While the urgency is very much real, so are the following reminders:

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Dozens of highly effective solutions are out thereand most of them save us more money to implement than they cost!

There is no singular solution to the environmental problems we face. There are multiple actions! And each one is worth some of our attention and energy.

One of our favorite resources is Project Drawdown, which ranks the top 100 solutions for climate change. The comprehensive project includes an appraisal for how much each solution would cost, how much money it has the potential to save, and how many megatons of CO2 it would eliminate from the atmosphere.

One exciting find is that the benefits of these solutions far outweigh their costs.

For example, farmland restoration has the potential to offset 14.08 gigatons of CO2. It would cost $72.24 billion to fully invest in but would ultimately save $1.34 trillion. Clean cook stoves could offset 15.81 gigatons of CO2. The benefits surpass the costs by $94.12 billion.

Other studies, like the Climate Change Roadmap yielded similar findings. That one highly emphasized the value of clean energy as a solution and the fact that it would ultimately be more costly to stick with no renewable energy.

Our partners in villages around the world have taught us time and time again that you don’t have to choose between a healthy environment and a robust economy. Often, the financial benefits of sustainability are felt widely.

A regenerative forest in Mexico.
A regenerative forest in Mexico.

The Earth was created with an incredible ability to heal.

When we visit a more established Plant With Purpose community, one where trees have been replanted for sometime and have had a chance to grow, community members excitedly tell us about all the positive changes they see.

“These birds I haven’t seen since I was a little boy are here again,” said Bobby, a local to the Kilimanjaro area of Tanzania. “I can feel cool in the mornings. So much has changed.”

We’ve read stories of reforestation projects in Brazil that have brought back wildlife, beach cleanups in India that have led to sea turtles thriving, and forest protection efforts that have led to cooler temperatures in drought-prone Ethiopia

Even fairly simple human efforts to protect parts of the planet are rewarded abundantly by the Earth’s resilience. Creation is designed for life and abundance, and when we show respect for life and practice stewardship and responsibility, we can visibly see the effects.

Isidro farms in the often overlooked area of the Dominican Republic’s border with Haiti.

When it comes to protecting the planet… there have been big wins.

In the 1990s, Taiwan had a few serious problems. One was trash. An inefficient waste management system led to the accumulation of refuse in very visible places. Another problem was pollution. As a densely populated and industrialized island, emissions from cars and other activities resulted in thick pollution around its cities.

Over the years, the country has made strides.

Cities like Taipei developed highly sophisticated systems for recycling and waste management, and the local population quickly adopted new practices. They also began to invest more seriously in public transport options, building well functioning railways and bus lines.

The result? Clean streets, clean air, and a sense of what can be accomplished when sustainability becomes a priority.

This is just one example that reminds us of what can be done. We work with villages that have restored their surrounding forests. We’ve met people in watersheds that have banded together to protect rivers. There are a lot of victories.

A lot of environment news stories focus on what needs to change. And that isn’t necessarily wrong or inaccurate, but it can be demoralizing when all you see are losses and insurmountable obstacles. The reality is that there are plenty of wins all around.

For this reason, we celebrate when we see Ethiopian communities break tree planting records. We are thrilled to hear about the rebound of the Bengal Tiger populations. We rejoice with the men and women who have access to clean water for the first time.

Our partner Duang Dee reminds us of our role as caretakers of creation.
Our partner Duang Dee reminds us of our role as caretakers of creation.

We aren’t meant to be the planet’s saviors, just to play our part.

This is a very big value of Plant With Purpose, and it’s safe to say that might make us a little different in the environmentalist community.

We actually try to avoid talking about “saving the world,” as common as that phrase is among the planet’s defenders. We appreciate the enthusiasm signaled by the phrase, but there is a difference between saving the world and stewarding it with love.

Our belief as a Christian organization is that our planet already has a Savior.

That doesn’t let us off the hook to be careless with the planet. That also doesn’t mean we can’t act with urgency and strive for effective results.

What this mindset does do, is allow us to focus on playing our part while surrendering the results to a higher God. There’s an adage among farmers—you can plant the seed and till the soil, but you still need to pray for rain. As we try to continually listen and learn from farmers, we realize it’s very important to do as much as we can and to surrender what we can’t.

We hope these reminders are as encouraging for you as they are to us, time after time. To learn more about how you can participate in solidarity with our partnering communities, follow this link.

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