Sustainability or Creation Care

Welcome to our website!

Maybe you arrived here with a link to ‘Sustainability’ or maybe ‘Creation Care’?

Whichever it was you are in the right place!

Christopher Weeramantry, former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice said: ‘In an age in which we are denuding the resources of the planet as never before and endangering the very future of humanity, sustainability is the key to human survival.’

Ulrich Grober in his book ‘Sustainability: a cultural history’[1], does not try to find a definition of ‘Sustainability’ as such but paints the picture of its history to illustrate the full meaning of the word. Many people believe the term ‘Sustainability’ is a ‘new’ word being used more and more in connection with all sorts of issues. Many of which confuse the word’s true meaning. It is now used in two ways with two levels of meaning – a deeper and a shallower. The deeper one Grober says, is a political concept incorporating ecological, economic and social dimensions. In the shallow sense, the word really means nothing more than ‘long-lasting.’ Sometimes the two can overlap. Worst of all, is when ‘sustainability’ is turned around against the supposedly exaggerated or unrealistic demands of environmental campaigners: for example when ‘sustainable forestry’ became the battle cry of international timber companies when taking over large areas of tropical rainforest from the indigenous populations.’ As Grober says, once the term has been hijacked and robbed of its substance, there’s not much you can do with it. Or rather, nothing you can’t do. The most mundane of activities, even the most ruthless pillaging of the planet, can be sold under the hollow label of ‘sustainability. Perhaps this is the reason many do not like the term….

The Oxford English Dictionary of 1961 (before the new meaning was created) has several columns on the term ‘sustainability’ and dates it back to the Middle English period (c. 1150-1350). One of the groups of meanings suggests ‘sustain’ means ‘to keep in being.’ Another definition is ‘to cause to continue in a certain state.’ Or ‘to keep or maintain at the proper level or standard.’ And ‘to preserve the status of.’ Grober suggests there is, however, a technical term or blueprint for our modern concept: it originates in the terminology of forestry, when foresters all over the world spoke of ‘sustained-yield forestry when discussing the long-term economic, ecological and social aspects of their work. It was, so to speak, their guiding principle. The term was a translation of the German word: nachhaltig which was introduced some 300 years ago. It literally meant: to hold back reserves for future generations.’

Grober writes about ‘a collection of formulations’ which, together, can help us grasp the idea of sustainability today.

F.1 Brundtland report published by UN in 1987: ‘sustainable development’ as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’

F2. The ‘Triangle of Sustainability’ – widely adopted following the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992. Ecology, economy and social justice form the three points of a triangle; they are interconnected, and should therefore be thought of as a network.

F3: plain and simple: ‘don’t cut down more trees than the forest can re-grow.’ This is how foresters express their own classic conception of sustainability. It offers a way of making the expanded and renewed contemporary conception of it more concrete and easily comprehensible.

F4. To preserve creation, which harks back to the creation story in the Bible and to God’s command, abad and shamar – to tend and keep the Earth. The creation myths of other cultures have very similar commands.

But this website can also be found under the link: ‘Care of Creation’. Care of Creation is the Christian way of formulating ‘Sustainability’. It is more than just ‘preserving’ Care of Creation is at the very heart of Christian Discipleship. Right at the beginning the Bible explains why God made ‘human beings’ in His image. Having created this beautiful planet, he made Men and Women in his image to look after it. Genesis 1:26-27. The words ‘in His image’ speak to us as to how MEN AND WOMEN are to live on this earth. And that is, as God would, to tend and care for every created thing, as God would. It is about loving relationships, relationships between God – people and the rest of creation.

Interestingly, the Bible account tells us that HUMANS weren’t created on a day of their own. They were created on the same day as all the other animals. Humans, too are animals but are also ‘called out’ for a special role. They carry within them the ‘image’ of God and are put in charge of planet earth – to tend and care for it as God would. There is a living, loving relationship between God and his people, between all peoples and between people and the whole created world. And it is this ‘loving relationship’ which makes this possible. However, we also know how ‘humans’ thought they knew best and went their own way – just as they still do today and so God sent his Son to show us the way back to that perfect world. He sent Jesus to heal and restore these relationships. That task was inaugurated by Jesus through his life, death and resurrection and will be brought to completion when he returns again to earth and all will be renewed and restored.

This website has been set up to help people read the Bible and recognise in the Scriptures God’s love for the whole of his creation and to be source of inspiration for Christians as they follow Jesus’ call to radical discipleship. We hope it will become a valuable resource for you.

[1] Grober, Ulrich: ‘Sustainability: a cultural history’ English translation by Ray Cunningham published in 2013 by Green Books – originally published in 2010 in German under the title: Die Entdeckung der Nachhaltigkeit – Kulturgeschichte eines Begriffs