by Vincent Mossberg.
In 2013, an IPCC (Intergovernmental panel on climate change) report was published stating that 95 percent of scientists are positive that the climate crisis of today is caused by mankind. Over the past 40 years, greenhouse gas emissions due to human activity have increased by 70 percent. During the same time, global meat consumption has tripled.
The connection between meat consumption and greenhouse gas emissions received increased attention in 2013, when the UN’s Organisation for Food and Agriculture released a report stating that around 18 precent of greenhouse gas emissions today comes from animal agriculture. And even if there would be zero emissions from all sectors such as energy, transport and trade, but not from animal agriculture, this would still not be enough to keep the planet from overheating. The issue of meat production and ultimately meat consumption is one of the biggest environmental issues of our time.
So what is the church’s role in reducing the global meat production in order to steward the planet and the animals that inhabit it?
Christians have an obligation from God to steward the planet and its animals. Up until the flood of Noah, humans did not eat meat, so it was not a part of the original idea for us. After the flood, humans were allowed to eat meat and hunt animals for food. The original mandate for Adam and Eve though, were that they should only eat vegetables and fruits.
There is no obligation for us in the Bible to refrain from meat though. Paul says that all food is clean and for our consumption, so eating meat in itself is not a moral issue. The issue becomes moral as it relates our stewardship of the planet. What is permissible, may not be beneficial.
The issue of meat consumption as a problem for global warming and the climate crisis is one of the issues that have no root in biblical culture or even in church history. The environmental global problem that we are facing right now is a problem that erupted during the past couple of decades.
For humans to steward the earth and live according to our original purpose, we need to adapt to some changes, where meat consumption as a climate problem is one essential issue. But what will this look like? For the planet to be within the environmental boundaries, there needs to be a decrease of meat production of about 50 percent, globally.
Christians have an opportunity to make choices that might seem hard, but that will alter the trajectory of climate change. I think there are two reasons for doing this.
The first is concerning the category of the animal agriculture industry, it is not right to eat animals that have been produced as if produced in a factory. They are a part of God’s creation and we need to steward them better! The second reason is concerning the stewardship of the planet. As stated above, the planet cannot cope with the pressure that humans are creating.
We have all something we can contribute with and everyone can take one step towards greater stewardship. The difference may not happen straight away but changes in our behavior and culture will encourage others to join the movement for the restoration of the planet.
To steward the earth at this point in time is to create a sustainable development for the future, a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. How we steward the earth now is how the future generations will receive it.
Are we ready to lay down our convenience for the sake of our children and grandchildren? Are we ready to sacrifice what is permissible for the benefit of creation?
Vincent Mossberg is a Swedish student with a passion for Jesus and the environment. He has a master’s degree in planning for sustainable development and is currently attending the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, California.
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