I had an amazing opportunity on Wednesday to be a panelist for a group of young Christians exploring the connection between environmentalism and spirituality. Young compared to me; they were college age. My co-panelists were the incomparable Kachina Katrina and the dynamic cross-country bike-campers Ryan and Mandy.
These students have been spending the summer in service at various social justice, racial reconciliation and stewardship projects around the area. I'm a pretty unique fit to talk with these kids; most of the permaculture community around here roots in the pagan/earth worship/goddess traditions, and I'm firmly in the Christ as the Way camp. You might imagine some of the fun conversations I get into with my peers! I could talk from experience about faith-based stewardship and community building.
Josh Harper is the administrator, and he's done far more work at the doctrinal level about reconciling earth care with God's Word. I've come at it from an internal direction, and we've both ended up at a real similar place. One of the questions for the panel was "Why do you care about environmentalism?"
Kachina spoke passionately about being a voice for the voiceless: the animals and the trees. Ryan spoke of growing up near open places and falling in love with them but also identifying his need for community. It took me a while to identify my story, but I finally realized that I don't care about the environment per sé. I care about harmony among people, and I've noticed that when I use more than my share, when I damage the resource stream so that someone else suffers, that I am sewing seeds of abuse and violence. And I don't want to do that, be that, live that.
The students were very welcoming and receptive, as we talked about living environmentally aware lives, socially just lives, and working to create healing where we could. They got really animated as we talked about closing the resource stream cycle; pee-pee ponics got mentioned, and it became a great tool to address many of the things going on in the world, from women who carry water 5 miles a day to fossil-fuel based nitrogen fertilizer to meditation communities to cultural standards about sanitation.
Kachina and I are already a pretty good fit as co-presenters. Her positivism is a great antidote to my angsty "Am I really doing God's Will yet?" questioning, and Ryan and Mandy had lots of liveliness and great stories. We blended so well. I know we pleased Josh. I know we inspired many of the students. I know we overwhelmed a couple of them, too, but we kept reminding them that small slow change wins out overall.