Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sustainable Shalom

The Peaceable Kingdom (De Young Museum)It's often pointed out that while the biblical story of humanity begins in a garden, it ends in a city.

What's being said here is that human culture - city-building - is an integral part of the new creation.  Our destiny is not simply to head back to a hunter-gatherer existence - or rather a "gatherer" existence, for Adam and Eve are not portrayed as hunters - but to be participants in creating a new vibrant reality, a peaceable city in the peaceable kingdom.

This isn't always easy to envision.  Environmentally concerned people - especially if, as with me, one of the roots of that concern is experience of the wilderness - are tempted to think of human influence as largely negative, as a contaminant.  Where is a positive vision of the creation "coming into its own" along with the children of God? 

A friend shared with me a review article entitled Sustainable Shalom: The Hope of Bright Green Urbanism.  The author, Jonathan Hiskes, writes
Our most hopeful response to climate change  echoes a biblical vision: not just abstaining from harmful acts but participating in creative ones.
After sketching his vision (for which he acknowledges a debt to Alex Steffen's Carbon Zero), Hiskes concludes

Right now, we lack imagination. Plenty of people can see that our fossil-fuel economy is sputtering (as every pipeline spill and offshore drilling blowout reminds us). It's just difficult to see what comes next. "We can't build what we can't imagine," says Steffen. And from the Book of Proverbs: "Without a vision, the people perish."

Sketching and building out that vision demands the best of minds. The most exciting dimension of bright green activity is that it's being imagined and tested and tried out by entrepreneurs, home-builders, planners, architects, engineers, scientists, cyclists, gardeners, investors, and others who don't identify as typical environmentalists. Because a climate-resilient world is a more just and peaceable world, we need the help of pastors, teachers, and parents too. We need everybody.
Read the whole article here.

Image: The Peacable Kingdom by Edward Hicks.  Photo by Flickr user jimforest, licensed under Creative Commons. 

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