How Can Energy Stewardship Help the Poor?

Should environmental issues concern the church? Isn’t the church’s role preaching the gospel?

Well, that is the church’s primary role. But it’s not its only role.

Jesus declares that only those who keep His commandments—loving God and loving people—are His true followers. The Apostle John tells us that no one loves God who doesn’t love his neighbor.

One way we love our neighbors is by being good stewards of the environment. God intended nature for man’s blessing, and He commanded us to flourish by developing the goodness nature has to offer.

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Despite our fall into sin (in the Garden of Eden) and the ensuing changes, one thing remained the same: our sustenance comes from nature.

For those of us who follow Jesus, then, Biblical stewardship demands that we harness natural resources without abusing nature. Genesis 1:28 is clear: we are to be fruitful and multiply, subduing and ruling the earth, which means making wise use of its resources.

That’s a no brainer, right? Well, no.

Most of the educational establishment and mainstream media reject this Biblical worldview.

Not long ago, most people considered human beings as created by God and endowed with intelligence to bring order out of a sometimes chaotic world. We considered it a blessing to be able to use our ingenuity to make the world a better place.

Today, most academicians and major media figures picture us as a cancer on the earth. From plastic wastes to air and water pollution, from wildfires to hurricanes, we get the blame.

Such times requires Christians to understand environmental issues through the lens of Biblical stewardship and the call to love our neighbors.

The Crux: Progress through Energy

Despite their crucial role in lifting billions of people out of poverty, fossil fuels, especially coal, now bear blame for supposedly dangerous global warming. Anti-fossil fuel climate policies disrupt economic progress, erecting major hurdles to the conquest of poverty in Third World countries.

For two decades now, policy makers in developed nations have sought to impose on developing nations energy policies radically different from those that made them prosperous. They insist that developing nations depend on less reliable, more expensive, surprisingly toxic “renewable” energy sources like wind and solar that put them at the mercy of unpredictable natural forces.

As of today, not a single heavy industrial zone in the world gets 100 percent of its power from renewables. Even the most “progressive” depend on backup from conventional sources like coal and nuclear.

Germany’s aversion to nuclear is making it hard for it to let go of coal. France and Canada both rely heavily on nuclear energy. The United States has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and turned toward coal and natural gas. Japan is on a coal spree, and the United Kingdom is fighting its Brexit energy wars. Australia continues to be pro-coal.

Among developing countries, India and China (with a combined population of 2.8 billion) are building their coal empires despite contrary pledges at the United Nations. Brazil’s new president cancelled a scheduled climate conference and hints at a coal-friendly future.

Climate Alarmist Energy Policies Harm the Poor

Of all material resources, energy is most vital. Economic progress—in both developed and developing countries—is impossible without stable, time-tested, affordable, abundant energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas. That’s why some of the above-mentioned countries are the biggest users of coal.

Stable energy is all the more important in developing countries, where a slight disruption in energy production can cause a major delay in fighting poverty. In fact, it can be the difference between life and death. In India alone 300 million people (almost equivalent to the population of the U.S.) have yet to overcome poverty. Industry propels the economies of these countries, and energy is its bloodline.

And it is not just energy’s impact on industry that is important. In some parts of China, a temporary ban on coal for residential heating put thousands of lives at serious risk last winter. In African countries, lack of adequate energy is a major impediment to the fight against poverty.

Nonetheless, climate policymakers demand that developing countries replace conventional energy sources with renewables. Such policies impede projects aimed at alleviating poverty.

Churches face a choice. We can supporting restrictive energy policies that trap the poor in their suffering, or we can help people understand the need for abundant, reliable, affordable energy to help the poor.

We must not hide behind the curtains of political correctness. We must not leave the poor at the mercy of cruel climate policies.

Instead, we should learn and practice Biblical stewardship of the environment—rightful access to the resources of nature without abusing them—and use it to help the poor overcome poverty. We should also voice our concerns about local and international policies that directly affect the poor.

Environmental policies based on Biblical stewardship leave people free to access energy resources without abusing them. They celebrate human beings as God’s creation, capable of devising ways to tackle socioeconomic and environmental challenges. They promote the flourishing of mankind and view people as a blessing, not a curse.

Does your standpoint on environmental issues help or hurt the poor? Does it speed the conquest of poverty, or blame humans for natural variations in the earth’s climate?

These questions need to be addressed and discussed by the body of Christ, which is called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Chennai, India.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England) is Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation ( https://cornwallalliance.org ). He lives in Chennai, India.

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