miercuri, 5 octombrie 2011

Spre înnoirea creației (Guest post)

Dintotdeauna, omul a transformat dimineaţa lui Dumnezeu în umbra morţii. Creaţia, pe care Dumnezeu o făcuse atât de frumoasă, s-a transformat curând într-o sălbăticie cu spini şi mărăcini. Pământul care, în ceasul dimineţii sale fusese martorul binecuvântării Domnului, a fost blestemat. Israel, care a rostit cântarea de laudă pe malurile Mării Roşii, a devenit prizonier în temniţele Babilonului, iar pământul a fost lăsat nelucrat şi părăsit sub picioarele asupritorilor necircumcişi. Soarele (Domnul Isus), care în dimineaţa Betleemului s-a ridicat deasupra lumii cu lumina sa, a apus în noaptea Calvarului – din cauză că omul păcătos L-a respins. Acum, acelaşi Isus trebuie să vadă umbrele înserării creştinătăţii care, în curând, va apune la miezul nopţii judecăţii din Apocalipsa. Împărăţia care va apărea ca lumina „unei dimineţi fără nori“, urmează să ia sfârşit în marea apostazie a lui Gog şi Magog, şi în trecerea cerurilor, şi a pământului dinaintea feţei Aceluia care stă pe marele tron alb.
Totuşi, Dumnezeu va menţine dimineaţa unui cer nou şi a unui pământ nou în frumuseţea şi prospeţimea dintâi. În „povestea“ Sa nu vor fi umbre de seară ale stricăciunii omului, nici noaptea judecăţii. Ea va fi menţinută ca o singură zi eternă, al cărei soare nu va coborî niciodată.
De nenumărate ori, Dumnezeu a încercat să facă un nou început, ca atunci în răcoarea dimineţii, dar omul, de fiecare dată, a transformat dimineaţa Lui în umbra morţii. Totuşi, Dumnezeu nu poate locui în întuneric. Prin urmare, deşi omul poate cufunda întreaga scenă în întuneric, El Însuşi va face, din nou, gloria Lui să fie minunată şi bucuria Lui să fie sigură. După ce a chemat lumina din întuneric, la început, în ceasul dimineţii primei creaţii, va păstra eterna frumuseţe a dimineţii celei de-a doua creaţii.

joi, 14 iulie 2011

Reducing Food Waste

According to staggering new statistics from the United Nations Food and Agricultutre Organization (FAO), roughly 1/3 of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is lost or wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tons per year. In the developing world, over 40% of food looses occur after harvest-while being stored or transported, and during processing and packing. In industrialized countries, more than 40% of losses occur as a result of retailers and consumers discarding unwanted but often perfectly edible food.
At a time when the land, water, and energy resources necessary to feed a global population of 6.9 billion are increasingly limited and when at least 1 billion people remain chronically hungry, food looses mean a waste of those resources and a failure of our food system to meet the needs of the poor. The Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the planet project is highlighting ways to make the most of the food that is produced and to make more food available to those who need it.
According to tristram Stuart, some 150 million tons of grains are lost annually in low-income countries, 6 times the amount needed to meet the needs of all the hungry people in the developing world. Meanwhile, industrialized countries waste some 222 million tons of perfectly good food annually, a quantity nearly equivalent to the 230 million tond that sub-Saharan Africa produces in a year.
Unlike farmers in many developing countries, agribusiness in industrialized countries have numerous tools  at their disposal to prevent food from spoiling-including pasteurization and ptreservation facilities, drying equipment, climate controlled storage units, transport infrastructure, and chemicals designed to expand shelf-life.
Nourishing the Planet offers three low-cost approaches that can go long way toward making the most of the abundance that our food system already produces. Innovations  in both the developing and industrialized worlds include:
- getting surpluses to those who need it;
- raising consumer awareness and reducing waste to landfills;
- improving storage and processing for small-scale farmers in developing countries.

luni, 11 iulie 2011

Religious Leaders and Climate Change

Many of the GOP presidential candidates are seeking the votes of church-goers and religious conservatives by presenting themselves as strong defenders of their faith. While candidates mostly agree with their respective churches on issues like abortion and same-sex-marriage, they are mostly silent  when it comes to environmental platform, in which they deny climate change science, call for elimination of Environmental Protection Agency, and support the deregulation of the oil and coal industries.
In contrast, their churches call for environmental stewardship and creation care. Their faith leaders have advocated support for  the EPA, greater education  on environmental care, and policies to reduce air toxins and lower emissions from power plants.
Newt Gingrich, a Catholic, denies the urgency of the global climate crisis and has called for elimination of the EPA. When asked about his position on climate change and the threat that it poses, Gingrich said that it is an act of egotism for humans to think we are primary source of climate change. Another Catholic candidate, Rick Santorum, calles climate change junk science and argues that it is a beautifully concoted scheme from the left.
However, the Catholic Church has long encouraged stewardship of the environment  and has undertaken numerous renewable energy projects. In May, the Vatican released a report on the urgency of the global climate crisis and recommended action steps. In addition, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently supported the EPA's proposed standards to reduce mercury and other air toxins in order to protect public health.
Evangelical Tim Pawlenty, once a strong advocate for environmental protection has changed his beliefs. He now accuses climate scientists of data manipulation and controversy and casts doubt wheather changes in climate are man-made.
These views are out of step with the vast majority of evangelicals, 90% of whom say that Christians should take a more active role in caring for creation. Michele Buchmann, a Lutheran, is another climate change denier. She has called global warming voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax. In the recent New Hampshire debate, Bachmann called the EPA the job-killing organization of America. Baptist Heman Cain recently called global warming poppycock and told a radio interviewer that there is no such a global warming crisis. But he is also out of step with other southern Baptists who see the environment as a high priority.
When it comes to climate change, Gingrich, Santorum, Pawlenty, Bachmann, Cain and others are out of step with their own churches. And they are also out of step with the people they represent.

miercuri, 6 iulie 2011

A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change

Southern Baptists have always been a confessional people, giving testimony to our beliefs, which are based upon the doctrines found in God’s inerrant word—the Holy Bible. As the dawning of new ages has produced substantial challenges requiring a special word, Southern Baptist churches, associations and general bodies have often found it necessary to make declarations in order to define, express and defend beliefs. Though we do not regard this as a complete declaration on these issues, we believe this initiative finds itself consistent with our most cherished distinctives and rooted in historical precedent.
The preamble to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (BFM 2000) declares: “Each generation of Christians bears the responsibility of guarding the treasury of truth that has been entrusted to us [2 Timothy 1:14]. Facing a new century, Southern Baptists must meet the demands and duties of the present hour. New challenges to faith appear in every age.”
We recognize that God’s great blessings on our denomination bestow upon us a great responsibility to offer a biblically-based, moral witness that can help shape individual behavior, private sector behavior and public policy. Conversations like this one demand our voice in order to fulfill our calling to engage the culture as a relevant body of believers. Southern Baptists have always championed faith’s challenges, and we now perpetuate our heritage through this initiative.
We are proud of our deep and lasting commitments to moral issues like the sanctity of human life and biblical definitions of marriage. We will never compromise our convictions nor attenuate our advocacy on these matters, which constitute the most pressing moral issues of our day. However, we are not a single-issue body. We also offer moral witness in other venues and on many issues. We seek to be true to our calling as Christian leaders, but above all, faithful to Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, our attention goes to whatever issues our faith requires us to address.
We have recently engaged in study, reflection and prayer related to the challenges presented by environmental and climate change issues. These things have not always been treated with pressing concern as major issues. Indeed, some of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that these are real problems that deserve our attention. But now we have seen and heard enough to be persuaded that these issues are among the current era’s challenges that require a unified moral voice.
We believe our current denominational engagement with these issues have often been too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice. Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better. To abandon these issues to the secular world is to shirk from our responsibility to be salt and light. The time for timidity regarding God’s creation is no more.
Therefore, we offer these four statements for consideration, beginning with our fellow Southern Baptists, and urge all to follow by taking appropriate actions. May we find ourselves united as we contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. Laus Deo!
Statement 1
Humans Must Care for Creation and Take Responsibility for Our Contributions to Environmental Degradation.
There is undeniable evidence that the earth—wildlife, water, land and air—can be damaged by human activity, and that people suffer as a result. When this happens, it is especially egregious because creation serves as revelation of God’s presence, majesty and provision. Though not every person will physically hear God’s revelation found in Scripture, all people have access to God’s cosmic revelation: the heavens, the waters, natural order, the beauty of nature (Psalm 19; Romans 1). We believe that human activity is mixed in its impact on creation—sometimes productive and caring, but often reckless, preventable and sinful.
God’s command to tend and keep the earth (Genesis 2) did not pass away with the fall of man; we are still responsible. Lack of concern and failure to act prudently on the part of Christ-followers reflects poorly to the rest of the world. Therefore, we humbly take responsibility for the damage that we have done to God’s cosmic revelation and pledge to take an unwavering stand to preserve and protect the creation over which we have been given responsibility by Almighty God Himself.
Statement 2
It Is Prudent to Address Global Climate Change.
We recognize that we do not have any special revelation to guide us about whether global warming is occurring and, if it is occurring, whether people are causing it. We are looking at the same evidence unfolding over time that other people are seeing.
We recognize that we do not have special training as scientists to allow us to assess the validity of climate science. We understand that all human enterprises are fraught with pride, bias, ignorance and uncertainty.
We recognize that if consensus means unanimity, there is not a consensus regarding the anthropogenic nature of climate change or the severity of the problem. There is general agreement among those engaged with this issue in the scientific community. A minority of sincere and respected scientists offer alternate causes for global climate change other than deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels.
We recognize that Christians are not united around either the scientific explanations for global warming or policies designed to slow it down. Unlike abortion and respect for the biblical definition of marriage, this is an issue where Christians may find themselves in justified disagreement about both the problem and its solutions.
Yet, even in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make informed decisions about the future. This will mean we have to take a position of prudence based partly on science that is inevitably changing. We do not believe unanimity is necessary for prudent action. We can make wise decisions even in the absence of infallible evidence.
Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out of hand on either scientific or theological grounds. Therefore, in the face of intense concern and guided by the biblical principle of creation stewardship, we resolve to engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or our responsibility to address it. Humans must be proactive and take responsibility for our contributions to climate change—however great or small.
Statement 3
Christian Moral Convictions and Our Southern Baptist Doctrines Demand Our Environmental Stewardship.
While we cannot here review the full range of relevant Christian convictions and Baptist doctrines related to care of the creation, we emphasize the following points:
  • We must care about environmental and climate issues because of our love for God—“the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver and Ruler of the Universe” (BFM 2000)—through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is not our world, it is God’s. Therefore, any damage we do to this world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16). We share God’s concern for the abuse of His creation.
  • We must care about environmental issues because of our commitment to God’s Holy and inerrant Word, which is “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds and religious opinions should be tried” (BFM 2000). Within these Scriptures we are reminded that when God made mankind, He commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, our motivation for facing failures to exercise proper stewardship is not primarily political, social or economic—it is primarily biblical.
  • We must care about environmental and climate issues because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us and to protect and care for the “least of these” (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46). The consequences of these problems will most likely hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected are in the world’s poorest regions. Poor nations and individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. Therefore, “we should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy … [and] the helpless” (BFM 2000) through proper stewardship.
Love of God, love of neighbor and Scripture’s stewardship demands provide enough reason for Southern Baptists and Christians everywhere to respond to these problems with moral passion and concrete action.
Statement 4
It Is Time for Individuals, Churches, Communities and Governments to Act.
We affirm that “every Christian should seek to bring industry, government and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth and brotherly love” (BFM 2000).
We realize that we cannot support some environmental issues as we offer a distinctively Christian voice in these arenas. For instance, we realize that what some call population control leads to evils like abortion. We now call on these environmentalists to reject these evils and accept the sanctity of every human person, both born and unborn.
We realize that simply affirming our God-given responsibility to care for the earth will likely produce no tangible or effective results. Therefore, we pledge to find ways to curb ecological degradation through promoting biblical stewardship habits and increasing awareness in our homes, businesses where we find influence, relationships with others and in our local churches. Many of our churches do not actively preach, promote or practice biblical creation care. We urge churches to begin doing so.
We realize that the primary impetus for prudent action must come from the will of the people, families and those in the private sector. Held to this standard of common good, action by government is often needed to assure the health and well-being of all people. We pledge, therefore, to give serious consideration to responsible policies that acceptably address the conditions set forth in this declaration.
We the undersigned, in accordance with our Christian moral convictions and Southern Baptist doctrines, pledge to act on the basis of the claims made in this document. We will not only teach the truths communicated here but also seek ways to implement the actions that follow from them. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort. Laus Deo!

marți, 5 iulie 2011

The New Geopolitics of Food (6)

With grain stocks low and climate volatility increasing, the risks are also increasing. We are now so close to the edge that a breakdown in the food system could come at any time. Consider, for example, what would have happened if the 2010 heat wave that was centered in Moscow had instead been centered in Chicago. In round numbers, the 40% drop in Russia's hoped-for harvest of roughly 100 million tons cost the world 40 million tons of grain, but a 40% drop in the far larger U.S. grain harvest of 400 million tons would have cost 160 million tons. The world's carryover stocks of grainwould have dropped to just 52 days of consumption. This level would have not been only the lowest on recort, but also low below the 62-year carryover that set the stage for the 2007-2008 tripling of world grain prices.
There would have been chaos in the world grain markets. Grain prices would have climbed off the charts. Some grain-exporting countries, trying to hold down domestic food prices, would have restricted or even banned exports, as they did in 2007 and 2008. The TV news would have been dominated not by the hundreds of fires in the Russian countryside, but by footage of food riots in low-income grain-importing countries and reports of governments falling as hunger spread out of control. Oil-exporting countries that import grain would have been trying to barter oil for grain, and low-income grain importerswould have lost out. With governments toppling and confidence in the world grain market shattered, the global economy could have started to unravel.
Ww may not also be so lucky. At issue now is weather the world can go beyond focusing on the symptoms of the deteriorating food situation and instead attack and underlying  causes. If we cannot produce higher crop yields with less water and conserve fertile soils, many agricultural areas will cease to be viable. And this go far beyond farmers. If we cannot move at watertime spead to stabilize the climate, we may not be able to avoid runaway food prices. If we cannot accelerate  the shift  to smaller families and stabilize the world population sooner rather than later, the ranks of the hungry will almost certainly continue to expand. The time to act is now.    

vineri, 1 iulie 2011

The New Geopolitics of Food (5)

After the carnage of the two world wars and the economic missteps that lead to the Great Depression, countries joined together in 1945 to create the United Nations , finally realising that in the modern world we cannot live in isolation. The International Monetary Fund was created to help manage the monetary system and promote economic stability and progress. Within the U.N. system, specialized agencies from the World Health Organization to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) play major roles in the world today. All these have fostered international cooperation.
But while the FAO collects  and analyses gloval agricultural data and provides  technical assistance, there is no organised effort to ensure the adequacy of world food supplies. Indeed, most international negotiations on agricultural trade until recently focused in access to markets, within the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Argentina persistently pressing  Europe and Japan to open their highly protected agricultural  markets. But in the first decade of this century, access to supplies has emerged as the overriding issue as the world transitions from an area of food surpluses to a new politics of food scarcity. At the same time, the U.S. food aid program that once worked to fend off famine wherever it threatened has largely been replaced by the U.N. World Food Program (WFP), where the U.S. is the leading donor. The WFP now has food assistence operations in 70 countries and an annual budget of $ 4 billion. There is little international coordination otherwise. The French president Nicolas Sarkozi is proposing to deal with rising food prices by curbing speculation in commodity markets. Useful though this may be, it treats the symptoms of growing food insecurity, not the causes, such as population growth and climate change. The world now needs to focus not only on agricultural policy, but on a structure that integrates it  with energy, population, and water policies, each of which directly affects food security. But this is not happening. Instead, as land and water become scarcer, as the Earth's temperature rises, and as world food security deteriorates, a dangerous geopolitics of food scarcity is emerging. Land grabbing, water grabbing and buying grain directly from farmers in exporting countries are now integral parts of a global power struggle for food security.