As responsible human beings we should be concerned always about doing harm to this planet we inhabit together. As a Christian I believe people of faith have a sacred responsibility to engage in creation care – never treating the earth or its atmosphere as though it is ours to do with as we please. It is God’s creation and He has commanded us to be good stewards of it.
Sometimes, however, in our eagerness to do good, we act in ways that have a very negative impact on our fellow human beings. Such is the case with the rush to biofuels. An article in Wednesday’s (Oct 8, 2008) New York Times, U.N. Says Biofuels Subsidies Raise Food Bill and Hunger by Elisabeth Rosenthal, highlights that the road to catastrophe is often paved with the best of intentions.
The article does not bury its lead:
“A United Nations food agency called on Tuesday for a review of biofuel subsidies and policies, noting that they had contributed significantly to rising food prices and the hunger in poor countries.”
The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization did not pull its punches. It points out that over the past decade, out of legitimate concern over carbon emissions, many countries in the developed world have created incentives and subsidies to encourage the biofuel industry.
Unfortunately, the result has been huge increases in worldwide grain prices with a decidedly harmful impact on the food intake on the poorest and most economically marginalized people in the developing world.
In addition, the report notes that the emphasis on government-subsidized biofuel has actually harmed the environment – forests have been cleared in developing countries to produce crops for biofuels.
This story of the unintended human consequences of the government biofuel initiatives should serve as a caution to all of us. We must seek always to discern what the impact on other humans will be (particularly the most defenseless and marginalized) of any and all environmental policies. We owe that to our fellow human beings with whom we share this small planet.