The spiritual case for sustainability

A Christian Science perspective: Some spiritual insights on finding sustainable solutions for the world's energy needs.

The Monitor's cover story this week— Energy efficiency: How the Internet can lower your electric bill— highlights several American technology companies that are working to enable greater energy efficiency. And at the heart of this subject lies a deeper principle – sustainability – that has environmental, economic, and spiritual dimensions.

In 1987, a United Nations report titled "Our Common Future" defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Since then, many academics and thought leaders have defined sustainability as the intersection of ecological, economic, and social value. Today, the term is integral to the vocabularies of environmentalism, social responsibility, and international development.

The underlying principle of sustainability, however, finds support from much older sources – including the Old Testament, which suggests that we were meant to treat our environment with a sense of stewardship, not destruction.

The very first chapter of Genesis establishes humanity's dominion over the earth: Having created men and women, God "blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (see verses 25-28). Dominion and stewardship go hand in hand, for without dominion, stewardship is impossible; and without stewardship, the thing over which we are supposed to have dominion could not continue to exist.

Scripture also inspires in us an appreciation of the beauty and wisdom of nature. Job encourages us to "ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee, or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee" (12:7, 8). Job reminds us that the earth was made by God, "in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind" (12:10).

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, offers a vision of dominion when she writes in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Tenderness accompanies all the might imparted by Spirit" (p. 514). As we pray to express more tenderness toward our natural environment and our fellow man, we'll perceive solutions for energy and resource management that bless the earth as well as each individual – meeting our food and housing needs without causing degradation.

As we pray to be better stewards of God's creation, we can remember that He inspires sustainable solutions – those creative, just ideas that allow us to "replenish the earth." Each of us reflects divine intelligence, which allows us to create, invent, and thrive; we reflect Love, which teaches us to love our neighbor and our enemy alike; we reflect Truth, which helps us perceive perfect solutions for preserving both economic, ecological, and social value. And we're always guided by God in these honest endeavors: As Mrs. Eddy writes, "Love giveth to the least spiritual idea might, immortality, and goodness, which shine through all as the blossom shines through the bud" (Science and Health, p. 518).

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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