We Need to Appreciate, not Spectate the Environment

Conversation about the environment, and humanity’s relationship to it, is nothing new. This topic is actually moving towards the center of political discussion. Students across the globe in 1700 cities boycotted school on March 15 in a coordinated effort to raise awareness about the tangible effects of climate change, ranging from ravaging fires destroying home to unbreathable air, and what governments and organizations can do to start addressing unsustainable practices. Discussion on climate change has been ramping up in the public sphere. So how does Fresno Pacific fit in this discourse?

The goal of this issue is to start investigating how we conceptualize our individual and institutional relationship to the environment. The temptation, and often tendency, is to reduce nature, the literal physical space we are in and move through, to nothing more than that. Space is a container that we fill. Our relationship to the environment becomes static and passive, even positioning ourselves as the justified dominators of such a space.

Genesis 1:28 mentions dominion over nature when God commands Adam and Eve to “fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (NRSV). Dominion, though, does not call for destruction. Hugh Whelchel, executive director at the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics, says dominion, when read with the larger narrative of Christianity and living in God’s image in mind, is about stewardship: “To fulfill our role we must be prepared to understand that this work of dominion should be expressed as service—sacrificial service that serves God and the common good.”

We want to adopt a position that sees nature as active, alive, breathing, growing and certainly responsive to how we behave in relation to it.”

So how can we orient ourselves to nature into something more involved and truly representative of an actual relationship? How can we move from being passive inhabitants to becoming active appreciators of and tenders to the environment? How can we start thinking about a nature that engages with us and responds to what we do to it, just as in any other relationship?

The first steps may be to simply start paying attention and engaging with it. This is reflected in stories such as that of the Sierra Program (pg 4), bird watching (pg 11) and Blossom Trail (pg 12). These stories are part of critically observing what is already around us on campus, in the Central Valley and in California.

Other stories recognize what we are doing well. The greenhouse story (pg 3) and that on how three students sought to ensure the new Culture and Arts Center (covered in issue 5) recognize the developing infrastructure in FPU that brings a positive understanding to how nature can work with us and how we can work with it in turn.

While recognizing the active steps our university is taking, we also want to highlight areas of improvement that could reflect a serious commitment to approaching the environment actively and with care (as well as perhaps saving money). The lack of any solar installations feels unquestioned and unaddressed; this is odd, considering that many businesses, schools and colleges in the Central Valley area seek to install solar for long term profit rather than environmental purposes. Our story on FPU’s lack of public transportation services (pg 10) examines pragmatic and environmental ways we are behind other universities. When it comes to creation care, it seems FPU often takes reactive steps rather than proactive steps, meeting requirements rather than demonstrating a serious commitment to engaging in a positive relationship with the environment.

Our hope this issue, on an individual and institutional level, is to start transforming how we think of nature. We want to adopt a position that sees nature as active, alive, breathing, growing and certainly responsive to how we behave in relation to it. This, then, places a certain responsibility on us to self-examine ourselves, and reflect about the ways we think about ourselves in our relationship with (not our inhabination of) nature.

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We treat Mother Earth badly because we call her mother