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Christians Call for Greater Action on Earth Day

Christians Call for Greater Action on Earth Day

More Christian groups and individuals are calling for greater involvement and lifestyle changes this Earth Day, April 22, than in past years.

And many are becoming more active through a number of Green initiatives and campaigns.

"People today are becoming more aware of the urgency involved in restoring our environment, and they feel empowered to make an impact that will last for generations to come," said Scott Sabin, executive director of Floresta ministry, an international Christian organization working with people in rural areas where poverty is caused by deforestation.

Earlier this month, Floresta launched its latest green initiative, "Plant With Purpose," which has two main programs – Grow a Village or Trees Please. Through the latter program, participants can donate anywhere from $1 (for a tree) to $100 (for a forest), which will go toward reforestation and ultimately improving the lives of the rural poor.

"Plant With Purpose provides an immediate opportunity for people to transform the lives of the rural poor by restoring their land and offering them economic opportunities," said Sabin.

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Since 1984, Floresta has already planted 4 million trees and made over 6,500 small business loans worldwide. The organization currently has programs in six countries, including the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Tanzania, Burundi and Thailand.

Meanwhile, there are groups such as humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) that have been working to help protect the environment through the political arena. CWS is urging people to help fight climate change by participating in its national postcard "Countdown to Copenhagen" advocacy campaign aimed at getting President Barack Obama and members of Congress to attend an upcoming global summit on climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

During the summit, world leaders will work on a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement on climate change that expires in 2012.

"For people of faith, Copenhagen, as it is casually referred to, represents a theological and moral dilemma over carbon emissions and the unfettered greenhouse gases from power plants, factories and motor vehicles that are causing the earth's temperature to rise, polar caps to melt, and oceans to rise: formula for an unprecedented human and ecological disaster," said the Rev. John McCullough, CWS executive director and CEO, at the recent Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering in Washington, D.C.

"Americans need to do more than just confess complicity," he added. "When 4 percent of the global population is responsible for 25 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, it means they have the power to affect substantive change."

The CWS campaign urges the Obama administration and Congress to agree to cut carbon emissions and provide fair and just funding to help poor countries dealing with global warming.

Not all Christians, however, believe that humans are responsible for global warming.

While an overwhelming majority (79 percent) of those polled late 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life believe there is solid evidence that the average temperature of the Earth has been increasing over the past few decades, only 37 percent of evangelicals and 48 percent of mainline Protestants credited human activity for global warming.

Furthermore, only 29 percent of evangelicals and 40 percent of mainline Protestants said they believe global warming is a "very serious" problem.

But regardless of whether someone believes that global warming is man-made or not, or whether it's a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem, many "Green" Christians say taking care of the Earth is every person's responsibility.

"Many Christians presume 'going green' means you have to start voting Democrat and dressing entirely in hemp – that somehow being an environmentalist means putting humans second, as if it really were a choice between hating trees or hating babies," Meredith Grady, daughter of Charisma magazine editor J. Lee Grady, writes in a Charisma article for Earth Day.

"This is pretty idiotic, because last time I checked, people live on Earth," argues Grady, who is a senior at Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Ga. "When we protect the environment, we're protecting people. Oil spills and over-farming won't just hurt sea otters and soil. They will hurt us."

The young evangelical is among those who say how Christians care for God's creation reflects their respect for the Creator.

"Going green is about loving and respecting the Creator and our neighbors…So, do some research. Recycle. Raise awareness. Conserve water and electricity. Carpool. Buy organic. Trendy, leftist activities they may be, they can also be acts of worship – steps that prevent the Earth from becoming a dump," Grady concludes.

More than a billion people are expected to observe Earth Day this year. The day was created by U.S. Sen. Gaylor Nelson (D-Wis.) in 1970, but has now spread around the world and is marked by about 175 countries.

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