Tag Archives: soil erosion

Proclaiming the Good News to a Forest?

I don’t know many churches that will fight to protect a forest. Until now, I don’t think I knew even one.

But loving God compels us to love the stuff he made.  And loving our neighbors demands that we love the natural world they depend on. In the small Kenyan town of Kijabe, Christians seem to have figured this out, and in the West, we’d do well to take heed.

Kijabe is home of one of the most important mission hospitals in Africa, perched on the rim of the Great Rift Valley, halfway up the steep escarpment that rises thousands of feet from the valley floor into the East African mists. For thousands of years, thick forests have protected the escarpment from washing into the valley during the rainy season, regulating water flows and sustaining the microclimate upon which the community relies for food.

Rift Valley escarpment forests hold soils inplace

Rift Valley escarpment forests hold soils in place

At first glance, Kijabe’s forests still appear lush and green. But a closer look reveals a shocking reality: 80 percent of its forest cover has been destroyed by firewood poachers in the last 30 years.  And in 2012, Kijabe’s church leaders began sounding the alarm. They warned of the threat of catastrophic mudslides and the loss of fertile soils. They warned of crop failures due to a microclimate no longer protected by the felled trees. And they warned of malaria outbreaks in the hotter local weather.

But they were dealing with armed forest poachers, and the entire community feared them. It’s hard to picture pastors and elders rolling up their sleeves to fight for the creation, but Kijabe’s Christian leaders took up the challenge.

“We have to fight, even if it means forgetting that we are pastors and become radicals,” said David Mwangi, an elder in the African Inland Church (AIC) last AprilContinue reading

Why Should Christians Care About Dirt?


“The earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation…. The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that – being content with a frugal and moderate use of them – we should take care of what shall remain.

John Calvin, Geneva

John Calvin, Geneva

Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated.”  John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Geneva, 1554 AD

I can almost guarantee that you haven’t been thinking much about dirt lately, especially as it relates to your faith commitments. But this summer, the American breadbasket in Iowa has lost so much of the life-giving stuff that even city-dwellers are starting to become alarmed.  In one five-day period in May this year, Iowa farms lost 5 tons of topsoil per acre, due to heavy rains and conventional farming practices. That’s 6 million tons of nutrient-rich topsoil stripped off of Iowa farms, and headed for the “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico. In five days. From Iowa alone.

Christians read their Bibles, and find that God placed the man he made in his garden for one stated reason: to tend (“avad”) it, and keep (“shamar”) it (Genesis 2:15). The words – avad and shamar – more accurately mean to serve, and to protect. God placed our race into his creation to serve and protect it, as Reformed scientist Calvin DeWitt so eloquently argues: To serve that garden – the one we now see washing slowly down the river.

And so I take note when an Iowa farmer raises his voice and tells us all that our approach to producing food simply must change. John Gilbert, who raises dairy cows, corn and soybeans in Hardin County, Iowa issued a public challenge to farmers, and I think we should listen in.

We Cannot Continue to Treat Our Soils Like Dirt


John Gilbert, Des Moines Register

Following the worst soil damage in decades and an expanding dead zone in the gulf, Iowans can’t keep farming the same way. What happened all over the Midwest so far this year was some of the worst soil damage in decades, if not generations. Our current situation is not sustainable. We cannot continue to treat our soils like dirt.  Continue reading