Forest of Peace

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. — Psalm 85, 11

We recent­ly watched the BBC series Plan­et Oil. An inter­est­ing sto­ry about the his­to­ry of oil, but with a depress­ing end­ing. Our addic­tion to fos­sil fuels has thor­ough­ly dis­rupt­ed the eco­log­i­cal bal­ance of the plan­et. It is frus­trat­ing to see how slow alter­na­tive ener­gy is devel­op­ing, main­ly because noth­ing hap­pens at the pol­i­cy lev­el. In this way, con­cen­tra­tions of CO2 con­tin­ue to break records.

We aren’t done yet. Greater con­cen­tra­tions will be achieved, thanks to all the exist­ing coal-fired pow­er plants, more than a bil­lion cars pow­ered by inter­nal com­bus­tion on the roads today and yet more clear­ing of forests.

Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can, 5 maart 2015

The lat­est report of the IPCC (Inter­gov­ern­men­tal Pan­el on Cli­mate Change) shows that the risks of cli­mate change are not even­ly dis­trib­uted. The peo­ple who are most affect­ed are the dis­ad­van­taged groups in soci­ety. These include small-scale farm­ers in devel­op­ing coun­tries whose exis­tence depends on what they pro­duce on their land. Through droughts and floods these com­mu­ni­ties are dri­ven to the brink of despair. The prob­lems are relat­ed to large migra­tion flows, polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty and armed conflict.

Some­one who per­son­i­fied the link between envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and social devel­op­ment was Wan­gari Maathai. This woman from Kenya was award­ed the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Her orga­ni­za­tion, the Green Belt Move­ment, coop­er­ates with female small-scale farm­ers to improve their envi­ron­ment. Their most icon­ic activ­i­ty is plant­i­ng trees. Through the work of Maathai, men and women became aware that they depend­ed on nature and that they could take action to care of their envi­ron­ment. In addi­tion to their eco­log­i­cal impact, the trees became a sym­bol of peace.


This Lent series is about the fact that Christ is our peace. A lib­er­al or fem­i­nist look at the con­cept of peace includes con­cepts like human rights, gen­der equal­i­ty, democ­ra­cy, eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty, health, edu­ca­tion and envi­ron­ment. It is inter­est­ing that we also encounter this vision in the Bible. Belousek says the following:

Shalom denotes a fun­da­men­tal­ly “all right” sit­u­a­tion in which every­thing has its prop­er place and func­tion; it implies right-rela­tion­ship — each per­son with­in him- or her­self and with one anoth­er, humans with the earth, and humans with God.

This is not a pie in the sky for after the apoc­a­lypse or some­thing. The peace mis­sion of Jesus takes place in the world where I type this now, where 748 mil­lion peo­ple lack access to clean drink­ing water and where Justin Bieber has been cel­e­brat­ing his birth­day for a week. Har­mo­ny seems fur­ther away than ever.

Watch­ing Plan­et Oil once again con­front­ed me with the facts. It seems as though our indi­vid­ual choic­es don’t make a dif­fer­ence. But they real­ly do. We can reduce our own car­bon foot­print. And we can take action to com­pel politi­cians to take con­crete mea­sures. “Faith­full­ness will spring up from the ground” — start­ing in our own backyard!