The International Union for Conservation of Nature reports species extinction rates that are between one thousand to ten thousand times the natural background rates (the natural rate without human interference). According to their research, we are currently facing the possible extinction of 12% of birds, 22% of mammals and 30% of amphibians worldwide.2 These are staggering figures that should raise alarm bells for all who believe that creation is the handiwork of a loving God.
But environmental degradation does not just affect the fish, birds and beasts, as Hosea so aptly points out. Humans suffer too. The UN recently reported that “environmental refugees” (people who are displaced because of environmental degradation) already outnumber those who are refugees as a result of conflict. Conflicts will, in fact, be increasingly driven by the scarcity of natural resources.
In our experience with A Rocha [a Christian environmental stewardship organization working in conservation, environmental education and sustainable agriculture], it is our brothers and sisters in the developing world who understand the dire implications of degraded ecosystems best and are calling us to change. Our friend Stella Simiyu, a native Kenyan and a Senior Research Scientist in plant conservation at the National Museums of Kenya, writes this about the predicament of the poor:
If you look at Africa, the rural poor depend directly on the natural resource base. This is where their pharmacy, supermarket, power company and water company are. What would happen to you if these things were removed from your local neighbourhood? We must invest in environmental conservation because this is how we enhance the ability of the rural poor to have options and provide for them ways of getting out of the poverty trap.3
Stella and her countrymen and women are calling us to what God has called us all to: “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8) They are calling us to acknowledge that when we in the industrialized West tug on the thread of our extravagant consumption, the web quivers all over the planet in the form of species extinction and social injustice.
Edited excerpt from Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling and Community, a book by Leah Kostamo, who along with her husband Markku co-founded “A Rocha Canada”