The following Blog article is written by Jenny Arnold. In this article Jenny calls the church to step up and consider the destruction of the earth’s rain forests, and is a call to action for Christians in response to this crisis:
God Created Rain Forests
On Thursday and Friday mornings, I volunteer on a telephone help line for people who are living with severe anxiety issues. During my Friday morning shift, I was struck by one caller’s view of her current situation in isolation. She compared herself to that of a caged bird she had once owned, doomed to spend its life in captivity without either freedom or the companionship of its own kind.
But this article is not about the Lockdown isolation of the past 3 months because, as I was praying and debriefing from that particular shift, another image came into my mind. The image memory was of a lone orangutan clinging pitifully to a defoliated tree somewhere in Indonesia. The leafless and solitary remains of that tree with its distraught orangutan were the sole living things amidst a sea of devastated, burnt and lifeless dystopian landscape.
Romans 8:19, ‘For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.’ The Passion Translation says, ‘The entire universe is standing on tiptoe, yearning to see the unveiling of God’s glorious sons and daughters!’
As the children of God, I wonder what are we doing about the large scale destruction and despoiling of God’s Creation?
For many years now, the tropical rain forests of Malaysia and Indonesia have been destroyed along with their vastly and almost unimaginable, and in many cases unknown and as yet undiscovered, flora and fauna.
And it has not just been happening in this region but in the vast Amazonian Rain Forest too, and for far too many years. And not just there either. West and Central Africa has already seen huge tracts of tropical rain forest degraded by slash and burn techniques.
Relatively recently, the vast tropical forests of the Congo Basin have come under threat which will impact the flora and fauna of this area with the added implication of food and water shortages for the human population too. The Democratic Republic of Congo has already seen years of Civil War because of which many have died.
In the world’s ever growing demand for cheaper and cheaper food and materials we think we cannot live without, these areas are being destroyed and being replanted with cash crops which make money for big business and feed consumer demand globally for ‘stuff.’
Why the Destruction
In the Amazon Basin, the clearances are mainly due to the expansion of cattle ranching and the growing of soy. The demand for soy bean has risen exponentially with the increase in vegetarianism and veganism in the West. There has also been a large rise in the demand for beef from those countries which have not, in the past, placed much emphasis on meat consumption such as in Asia, the Far East, China and the Middle East.
Illegal logging of hardwoods in West and Central Africa has long been an issue and this wood feeds the West’s demand for items such as garden furniture, household furniture, kitchens and more ‘stuff.’ However, those now governing these countries seem to be cashing in on the Oil Palm cash crop.
In South East Asia the cash crop is mainly Oil Palm Trees. This species of tree native to Africa produces several crops per year of a red fruit which when crushed produces palm oil. Palm oil is now found in over 50 per cent of goods OFFERED FOR SALE in any supermarket. Ready meals, biscuits, snacks, chocolate, ice cream, oven chips, cakes, soap, shampoo, lipstick, facial make up and lotions, moisturisers, cook in sauces, curries, toothpaste – yes, you name it, it probably contains palm oil.
The fact that Oil Palm trees crop several times a year is the fundamental reason for its appeal in food and cosmetic production. Traditional oils used in food production – sunflower, rapeseed, olive – crop only once a year, as do the oils traditionally used in cosmetic such as almond, avocado, grape seed, jojoba. A commodity which can be harvested several times a year will obviously be much cheaper than one which can be harvested only once a year.
Whilst ROSPO (Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil) would have us believe that most palm oil is responsibly sourced. The World Wildlife Fund would debate this as would many other groups trying to protect the rain forests so don’t be fooled by a ROSPO sticker on products – the chain between the plantation and the final wholesaler IS simply far too LONG and complicated to be absolutely sure that the oil is responsibly sourced.
Human Destruction of the Rain Forests
But that’s not really the point. In the last century the world has lost half of its rain forests. 28 million hectares of rain forest have been destroyed every year since 2016. In the last 40 years a forest area the size of Europe has gone. These are shocking statistics which should cause us all to question why it is happening…
Please have a look at the following link which focuses on this terrible issue – https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/forests-and-deserts/rate-of-deforestation
The Amazonian Rain Forest is the largest tropical rain forest on earth and contains around 10 percent of all currently known species of both flora and fauna. A small corner of the Peruvian rain forest for example has around 4500 species of butterfly – compare that to Europe’s mere 400 species – and you will see what is at stake.
I could list here the names of all the animal, insect, bird, reptile, plant, fruit, nut and tree that is under threat of extinction or which is already extinct but instead I would urge you to research this for yourself.
The degradation of God’s earthly Creation does not stop here. Vast amounts of carbon are held in vegetation – trees, shrubs, bushes, etc – and when these are burned massive amounts of carbon ARE released into the atmosphere. Scientists believe that this massive release of carbon is the single most contributing factor in climate change.
We Need Rain Forests
The rain forests, in essence, are a vital part of God’s Creation designed to stabilise global weather conditions and to provide shelter, food and an abundance of life to mankind, flora and fauna alike. And so the madness continues today…
Back in the 1990’s under the dictator Suharto in Indonesia, ordered more than a million hectares of pristine peat bog rain forest in Borneo to be destroyed and replanted with rice fields. The rain forest was cleared and burnt releasing hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. It was only after this wholesale destruction that they found that rice does not grow very well at all in peat as the soil is too acidic…so the project was abandoned.
According to Rain Forest Alliance, the Indonesian government are about to do it again…, a new industrial rice project on hundreds of thousands of peat rain forest in Borneo. Please visit the Rain Forest Alliance website for more information on long term sustainability initiatives they are running worldwide https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/impact
It has been suggested that insanity is repeating the same action again and again and expecting a different result.
What Can Christians Do?
As Christians we often label ourselves as ‘Kingdom people’ praising Almighty God for the wonders of His Creation in song and scriptural readings. We and our children watch delightful animal programmes on TV and enjoy giving our children cute little soft animal toys. But animals are neither toys nor entertainment to be exploited for our own amusement. Or are they…
In the West in particular, but increasingly worldwide, we enjoy the cheap food abounding in our Supermarkets and shop until we drop for cheap clothing, cosmetics and decorate our comfortable homes with ‘stuff’.
But may I suggest that if we are truly Kingdom People, truly worshipping JHWH in Spirit and in truth, should we not be more aware of the food and products we consume, their sustainability and their origins?
May I suggest that if what I have written does not cause you any guilt or grief over the suffering of Creation the hands of Humankind that you meditate on the Scriptures below.
We may not be directly responsible but we are all complicit either through omission of finding out the facts of what we consume, or in the disregard for His Creation in what we do consume. Either way, might it not be contemptuous and unconscionably arrogant? God is calling us to listen and to act…
Genesis 1:1, 31, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.’
John 1:3, ‘Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.’
1 Chronicles 29:11, ‘Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all.’