Tending to Eden {Book Review}

haiti_postearthquake05Photo by newbeatphoto

Can you believe it's been six months since the big earthquake in Haiti? I can remember praying fervently as a fellow blogger attempted to get out of the country, forced to leave behind the son she was trying to adopt (he eventually came home to the US thanks to Humanitarian Parole).

The images after the quake were disturbing to say the least. But amidst all the wreckage and devastation we started seeing little stories of hope. One place that I read about hopeful things going on was on the blog of the organization Plant with Purpose.

Plant with Purpose is an amazing organization focused on fighting poverty, primarily through reforestation. We sponsor a village with them in Oaxaca, Mexico, and so while I knew PWP also worked in Haiti, I hadn't read much about their work there.

I soon learned that Plant With Purpose has been at work in Haiti for 13 years and continues to work in the earthquake aftermath by employing farmers through their “Cash for Work” program to plant trees and construct soil conservation barriers, which will provide a vital barricade against impending hurricane storms.

tending to eden

A few months ago, I received a galley copy of PWP president Scott Sabin's new book, Tending to Eden, which was named a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards. In the book Scott reflects on his time in Haiti and the connection he witnessed between environmental degradation and the rural poor.

It not only gives a lot of information on how PWP got started and currently works, but it also serves as a guide to "environmental stewardship for God's people" as the book cover reads. Tending to Eden is an awesome resource to anyone interested in Creation Care.

Here are just a few of the gems that I noted as I was reading...

Sabin focuses a lot on the importance of getting to know the culture and local economics in developing countries, as a way to avoid reinforcing the "lie that the local people are incapable of succeeding." (p. 28), so as to empower the people instead of creating dependency on the aid agency.

Tending to Eden also points out the benefits of organic farming, recognizing that

"farming is complex, and that local farmers, with their intimate knowledge of their own land, know best how to solve their particular problems. Thus, the methods evolve to match the local environment. Building on local knowledge, organic agriculture can revitalize traditional customs and encourage local self-reliance (and self-confidence), contributing to the ongoing process of empowerment." (p. 43)

Something that was relatively new to me is the idea of how economics affect the environment. Often times, short-term survival needs leads to mass clearing of the land, which in turns negatively impacts the environment and the productivity of the land. It's a vicious downward spiral. "People will stay on their farms and reforest the land only if it makes sense economically," says Sabin, "For lasting change, environmental and economic incentives must line up." (p. 48)

"People and creation are part of the same system and are intimately connected. If you hurt one, you hurt the other." (p. 88)

One of the most important aspects of PWP's work is their commitment to sharing the gospel as well. Just like they want to empower farmers, they also want to empower local churches, and therefore partner with them for discipleship and for engaging the community completely.

Sabin reminds us that we need to practice "upstream thinking-- looking at root causes rather than merely symptoms" (p 96) and it really is amazing to see how connected the problems of the world are to the land, and specifically to deforestation.

"Justice for the poor and oppressed should be a seamless part of creation care, just as creation care is fundamental to proclaiming and demonstrating God's kingdom to all of creation." (p. 96)

Tending to Eden goes beyond philosophy and PWP's efforts abroad though, too. The best way we can each be a part of the solution on a daily basis is to simply be a good steward. There are many ways to live out a life of stewardship and I love the ideas that the book points out such as growing a garden, putting up a bird feeder, and more. There are some awesome ideas for how the church can act this out as well.

The idea is to live in such a way as to model: "enjoying creation, becoming more aware of our local environment, and learning to love our corner of it." (p. 123)

Tending to Eden is a really great read and resource. And be sure to check out Plant with Purpose for more ways that you can get involved in their efforts such as sponsoring a village and planting trees.