Will Teenagers Save the World?

Science in Action Winner for 2013: Elif Bilgin

While sitting in the dentist’s office yesterday I read this wonderful article about a young teen in Istanbul who has developed plastic from banana peels. As a result she won the Scientific American 2013 Science in Action Award

Bilgin spent two years developing a robust bioplastic from discarded banana peels, enduring 10 failed trials along the way. As she noted in her project description: “Even Thomas Edison said, ‘I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’” Bilgin hopes that her material will someday supplant some petroleum-based plastics. Read the entire article.

The winning project in 2012 was the Unique Simplified Hydroponic Method, developed by 14-year-old Sakhiwe Shongwe and Bonkhe Malalela of Swaziland.

For more inspiration, check out last year’s amazing 13 finalists for the Science in Action award and this year’s fifteen finalists. I particularly loved:

Simultaneous Biopesticide Wastewater Treatment and Bioelectricity Generation in Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) – by a 13 year old in India and  Electricity From Traffic by a 16 year old also in India. These ideas really could save the world.

The amazing creativity and out of the box thinking that has gone into these inventions really impressed me. While so much of the world is saying “We can’t live without petroleum products” or “we can’t feed the world without GMO crops” young people are going ahead and inventing new options. Maybe its because they expect to live in a petroleum free world, maybe it is because they are encouraged to be creative, maybe it is just God stirring new possibilities in minds that are open to change. I don’t know but I do praise God for it.

I would love to hear from others who have seen creative and inventive


Say YES! to This – My Favourite Green Resources

Reaching for Resources

Reaching for Resources

Ever wondered where I find all those interesting articles I post? Here are a couple of places I monitor regularly.

One of Tom’s and my favourtie magazines is YES Magazine and I wanted to share it with you.

The YES website has posted some great articles in the last few weeks on community. Here are my favourites

Ten Ways to Love Where You Live by Ross Chapin

How to build community here and now—because neighborhoods are more than houses in proximity. Read the article here

Cheaper Together. How neighbours Invest in Community by by Miriam Axel-LuteJohn Emmeus DavisHarold Simon.

Cooperative financing and community land trusts keep rents affordable and homeownership within reach. Read here

Inhabitat: Design will save the world is another great site with very innovative housing and environmental designs like this one:  PHOTOS: Get a Sneak Peek of HWKN’s Giant Blue Smog-Eating Wendy Sculpture Before It Opens Next Week | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building

And Grist Magazine is always worth a visit. For example I loved this article Have Sledgehammer will farm

I also love to check out the latest at ECHO, ; Plant with Purpose and A Rocha

Obviously this is only a very short list of possible sites to visit for environmental issues. I would love to put together a more comprehensive list. So what are your favourite sites to visit?

So what are your favourite websites on environmental issues, green living and community?

What Gift Do We Leave to Our Children – A Message from Archbishop Rowan Williams

I was just sent the link to this video which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recorded in advance of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in which he asks “What kind of world do we want to leave to our children?” I thought that many of you would appreciate it.

“All religious people see the world as a gift from God.  And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation?”

In the video, the Archbishop says that this question poses “a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world.”

Viewing our environmental and social legacy as a ‘gift’ to be passed to the next generation, the Archbishop suggests that one such gift is “the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.”

“Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?”

He highlights the key role that both governments and faith communities play in achieving this vision of justice for future generations, working collaboratively for an equitable and inclusive green economy:

“Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this.  Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development.  They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste.  They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide.  And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.”

“Big changes come because small changes happen”

A transcript of the Archbishop’s message follows.

The big question that faces Rio+20 is: what kind of world do we want to leave to our children? And that’s not just a question about what kind of material environment we want to leave – the answers to that, in a way, are quite simple: we want a world that’s free of pollution, a world where everyone has access to clean water, a world where food supplies are secure, a world where people have learned sustainable methods of agriculture and development.

But just as importantly, it’s a question of what kind of habits and what kind of lifestyle we want to leave to our children – what sort of skills we want to see them developing in living sustainably in this world.

That means, as in so many areas, we have to start small and we have to start local. Big changes come because small changes happen. And in the work I do, I have the privilege of seeing quite a lot of small change going on. Last year in Kenya I was able to see the work done by the Anglican Church there in developing the Umoja agricultural methods, methods that lift people out of subsistence agriculture to real sustainable production of food for themselves, and training also in nutritional information so that agricultural development, food security, and healthcare go together. There are many other such local projects, and I have also been deeply impressed by the way in which people locally across the world have challenged and resisted some of the depredations of the extractive industry, in many areas one of the greatest threats to a sustainable future.

Governments can, of course, and must, play their part in all this. Governments need to give fiscal incentives to green development. They need to promote programmes that encourage us all to reduce our waste. They need to ‘green’ our economy, both at home and worldwide. And we, all of us, not least the faith communities, need to collaborate in that and support governments in that vision.

But at root, the question remains the same: what kind of world do we want to hand on? Imagine that you have a child’s or a grandchild’s birthday coming up. You want to give them a present. You want to give them something that will genuinely mean something to them, that will enrich their lives, that will be part of lasting growth and well-being. And that’s what we’re challenged to do here. It’s a challenge that I think will resonate for absolutely everybody across the world. Simply enough: what’s the gift we want to give? The gift of a world that’s more free from pollution, a world whose future is more secure, a world where more people have access to food and clean water and healthcare? Yes. But also a world in which we’re transmitting the wisdom of how to inhabit a world, how to inhabit a limited environment with grace, with freedom, with confidence.

All religious people see the world as a gift from God. And all religious people are therefore bound to ask: if that’s the gift we’ve been given, how do we make it a gift to others, to the next generation? How do we do justice by our children and grandchildren? How do we act fairly by them? Are we handing on a gift, both material and spiritual, that really will make them live well, live happily, so that their future will be secure and they too will have a gift to give to their children and grandchildren in turn?

Renewal – Students Caring for Creation.

Today’s post in the series on Christian environmental organizations comes from Renewal – students caring for creation. Tom and I had the privilege of speaking at their Renewal Summit last year. It was a great occasion

God’s creation is groaning.
We are answering God’s call for renewal.

Our Creator took chaos and transformed it into indescribable beauty, form and creative order. What’s more, God breathed life into humankind and commanded us to “tend and keep” His blessed creation.

In the past humans have neglected this charge, instead participating in environmental harm that degrades ecosystems, as well as human lives. We have made a mess of God’s creation. But with His strength and grace, Christian students across North America are uniting to work for its renewal.

For the students of Renewal, caring for God’s creation isn’t just a burden and a responsibility- it’s a blessing and an invitation to live in right relationship with our Creator. This means taking care of everything that God so lovingly creates and sustains – the earth and each other.

We aim to expand this vision across North American campuses by inspiring, connecting, and equipping Christian students.

  • Inspiring. We are communicating awareness around the biblical call to care for creation, current environmental concerns, success stories and testimonies of renewal, and other stirring dispatches to keep the movement vibrant and growing.
  • Connecting. We organize regional retreats, campus visits, student conferences and other accessible opportunities for you and others to build community and network around creation care concerns.
  • Equipping. We provide hands-on training, personal mentoring, leadership opportunities, project toolkits, and other vital resources to empower emerging Christian leaders.

With a heart for the poor and a commitment to following Jesus’ call to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ we seek practical ways to care for the earth so that all God’s creatures, as well as future generations, can have a healthy environment in which to live.

We seek to live this calling out through joining together in prayer, service, and action.

  • Prayer. Renewal believes that prayer is central for all of us who seek to reclaim our Biblical calling to care for God’s creation. We invite all Christians to join with us in expressing gratitude to God for the beauty, wonder, and provisions of His creation- and to pray for wisdom and guidance as we work to be better stewards of our imperiled planet.
  • Service. God’s first commandment to Adam is to care for all that God has created. In Genesis 2:15 God instructs Adam to abad and shamar – literally translated ‘to serve and to care.’ We are called to be careful servants in God’s garden- His creation.
  • Advocacy. The origin of the word “advocate” is quite meaningful for those of us engaged in caring for God’s creation. At its root is “voc” which comes from the Latin word for voice (vox). The Latin “advocare’ means “to call to one’s aid.” As Christians, we are called to the aid of those most in need and to add our voices in the call for justice. Renewal seeks to fulfill our Christian calling- of being doers and seekers of justice- by advocating on behalf of God’s people and God’s creation.

Prayers for Creation

Lion at Seattle Zoo

Lion at Seattle Zoo

Over the years I have written and posted a number of prayers for creation. Here are some of my favourites that I thought you would enjoy

Prayers for Creation 

For the beauty of the earth we thank you O God,

For the abundance of the garden we thank you O Christ,

For the flourishing of friendship we thank you O Spirit,

For the abundance of life we give you thanks today,

Thanks to the three in One, the One in three.


God may our eyes be opened and our ears unstopped,

That we may see in every sight a cathedral giving glory,

And hear in every sound angels singing alleluia.

May we be awed by the treasure of beauty in a rising moon,

And inspired by the clouded majesty of rainbow colours after rain,

May we look and see the wonder of daffodils lifting bright and shining faces to the sun,

May we look and see each plant, each creature, each handful of dirt,

God breathed, God inspired, God created.

May we behold the beauty and hear you saying it is very good

And walk together into the sanctuary of your creation.


God may we see today that all creation is precious to you,

From the smallest microbe to the largest whale,

You created all to live and flourish together,

An awe inspiring interdependent ecological community of your love.

God may we listen as all creation sings of your glory,

And the whole earth gives you praise.

May our minds turn to you in morning,

And our hearts be filled with your love at night,

May we sit in your presence and find life.


And links to past liturgies:

A liturgy for celebration of Creation

Earth Day liturgy

A Garden blessing for Earth Day

Good Seed Sunday – Celebrate with A Rocha

Today’s post comes from the A Rocha website. We are hoping to partner with them in the future in the conservation of the land where the Mustard Seed Villagewill be built on Camano Island.
Beginning in 1983 with an initial project in the Algarve region of Portugal, A Rocha has been helping to change the face of environmental stewardship–bringing to it our faith in the God who created it, called it very good, and entrusted its care to humankind. They are now at work in 19 countries on five continents. I am particularly impressed with what they are doing for Earth Day this year I particularly love  Good Seed Sunday which A Rocha is doing for Earth Day on April 22nd! Please visit the official Good Seed Sunday website for resources and more information. Below is the bulletin insert that is available on the website

What is biblical care of creation? One of the ways to do this is to focus on our biblical call to stewarding God’s gift of the world to us. Are we careful of this beautiful world? Are we worthy of his trust?

On April 22nd, many of churches will take part in Good Seed Sunday. This initiative from the Christian environment stewardship group, A Rocha, equips the church to care for creation through a resource-based creation care website.

Over the past 5 years A Rocha has worked with over 150 churches across Canada promoting environmental stewardship. The resources for Good Seed Sunday are available with the following contact information: www.goodseedsunday.com, 604-542-9022, or goodseed@arocha.ca.

The link takes you to sections that provide you with resources in the following areas:

  • Church Service Package
  • Bible Study and Small Group Materials
  • Sunday School Teacher Kit (ages 4-11)
  • Action Projects
  • Online Community
  • Living Lighter Resources
  • Daily Reflections and Devotionals
  • Resource Library

Let us all hold this topic wisely, carefully and faithfully, not being embroiled in political issues or in indifferent camps, but rather, honestly doing each of our individual and church community parts, to be responsive and responsible to God for the beautiful world we have been given.

Living lightly reflects joyful simplicity. Be sure to take small steps and make things fun!  Change is maximized when the entire household is on board. Some suggestions for individuals and families:

1. Reduce waste. Try to recycle, compost food waste, and avoid disposables.

2. Clean with care.  Buy environmentally-friendly cleaning and body care products that are biodegradable, safe for the water, and better for your health.

3. Green your yard. Avoid using chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Try reducing the area of high-maintenance lawn in your yard and replace it with native species of trees, shrubs, or grasses, requiring less water. Choose species that attract birds and butterflies.

4. Slow the energy flow. Try hanging clothes to dry, turning off lights, and unplugging appliances and computers when not in use. Choose high-efficiency appliances when buying new.

5. Renovate sustainably. Consider recycled materials and purchase eco-products. Paint fumes, fiberglass insulation, and adhesives can be health hazards.

6. Be informed. Subscribing  to online newsletters or e-news, like A Rocha’s, can help you stay current on local, national, and international environmental concerns,  celebrate where positive change is occurring, and assist you to make choices that are better for the world community.

7. Live locally. Use public transit, walk, cycle, or carpool where possible. Consolidate trips, and when replacing an aging vehicle, look at fuel-efficiency.

8. Maximize household efficiency. Clean fridge and freezer condenser coils, fix cracks in window and door frames, wash full loads, fix leaky taps, insulate walls and ceilings, and even dust light bulbs!

9. Use “stuff” well. Try to make new things last longer by keeping them in good repair. Donate unwanted stuff to thrift stores. Have a garage sale. Swap meets and thrift stores have great bargains too.

10. Involve the kids. Give each child a special responsibility or chore so they can experience being a part of the action. Or let them inspire you–learn to see the awesomeness of creation through their eyes!

Earth Day Is Coming – Why Should Christians Care?

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day but why should Christians care? Over the next few days I plan to post statements from several different religious organizations that are concerned for creation.

The post below comes from earthministry.org. It very eloquently articulates my own reasons for being concerned for God’s good earth. Earth Ministry is a Seattle based creation care advocacy group. They have initiated the Washington Interfaith Power and Light project which organizes an interfaith response to climate change.

Alaskan landscape

Alaskan landscape photo by Coe Hutchison. Used with permission.


Creation itself inspires us and calls us to care.  Many people have had their most profound spiritual experience in nature. As we behold the power and love of God in a mountain range, a sunset, or in the timelessness of the ocean, we can’t help but be moved.  But creation also includes humans – our families, communities, and created landscapes.  God created all things of Heaven and Earth and God is our inspiration to care for both wild places and our own cities and backyards.


Psalm 24 states that “the Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”  Humans simply hold the Earth in trust for God.  We are tenants here, called to care for the creation on behalf of future generations and all species. The Bible calls us to “till and keep the garden” and names human beings as the trustees of creation. Because God created all the Earth and all of us, creation is beautiful and good and sacred.  We are called by our devotion to God and our love for God’s works to protect it.


At the heart of sustainability is the goal of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In a world of finite resources, those among us who have more than enough must address patterns of consumption so that we can provide for all. Acquiring more “stuff” has a direct effect on the sustainability of the planet and on the quality of life for people around the globe.  The good news is that more and more people are realizing that spiritual emptiness can’t be filled by consumption.  What makes us happy is intimacy – intimacy with self, with others, and with God. In the end, sustainability means seeing ourselves and our neighbors as children of God, not as consumers or competitors for Earth’s resources.


Justice means that in addition to providing aid to our neighbors, we are called to change societal systems that cause poverty, injustice, and environmental damage in the first place. It goes beyond helping to meet physical needs to creating a society with laws and policies that allow the needs of all Earth’s inhabitants to be met. Care and responsibility for the “least of these among us” is a central tenant of Christianity and has a direct connection to environment issues.  The impact of environmental degradation falls most heavily on the people around the world who are least able to mitigate these impacts — poor and vulnerable populations. It also disproportionally affects fragile plants, animals and ecosystems.  Working for justice calls us to channel our faith into power, to call for social and environmental justice at the local, state and national level.

If You Breathe Thank a Tree – Thoughts from Steve Bouma-Prediger

Tom and I have spent the day presenting to administrators from Christian Schools International in Baltimore.  The conference focus for this year is creation care as it relates to their schools.  I particularly enjoyed the presentation by Steven Bouma-Prediger, author of For the Beauty of the Earth.  There are many reasons for us to be concerned about creation care.  Steven talked about the 10 commonest reasons for being concerned about creation, all of which we need to consider as we grapple with our own concerns.

  1. If you breathe thank a tree – the first and most self centred reason for concern about creation is self interest.  If we don’t care for creation Steve said, our existence is imperiled.
  2. Consider the consequences to the seventh generation.  What difference would it make to our decisions if we considered their impact on our children and their children down to the seventh generation?  We not only inherit the earth from our ancestors he reminded us we borrow it from our children
  3. Live simply that others may simply live.  This adage from the seventies is still true today – more is not necessarily better – living with simple elegance is more joyful then living caught in our consumer culture (Bill McKibben).  A simpler way of life liberates us to no longer need to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
  4. Racial oppression and eco-justice are interwoven.  The racial composition of a community is the single variable that best explains the existence or non-existence of commercial hazardous waste facilities in that area.  We must make the link between environmental pollution and issues of racial and social equity, they are interwoven.
  5. The animal rights argument.    We should care for creation because certain kinds of non-human creatures are entitled to such care.
  6. Creation is valuable for its own sake – God created our world and all that is in it and therefore it has intrinsic value for its own sake
  7. We are all in this together –  All creatures are bound together in such a way that their flourishing is interdependent.  The way to tell if something is right is by whether or not it preserves the entire ecological community.
  8. Our job as humans is to serve and protect God’s creation.  Care of creation is part of our responsibility as Christian disciples.
  9. Care for creation is part of how God rules.  We are made in the image of God and therefore should be concerned about those things that concern God.  God rules by looking after the marginalized, seeking justice, showing compassion and caring for creation and so should we
  10. For the beauty of the earth.  Care for creation is a fitting response of gratitude for creatures like us who experience God’s bountiful and gracious provision.
So why do you care about creation?  How would you encourage others – in church, in your loval community, in your local or state government – to care for God’s creation?
If you would like to learn more about what Steven shares in his classic book For the Beauty of the Earth you may appreciate this video interview
And to finish off it seems appropriate to share this beautiful rendition of the wonderful hymn For the Beauty of the Earth hear sung by the Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School

Is Your Cell Phone Drenched in Blood

this morning I received an email from one of my favourite environmental organizations suggesting that I change my cell phone company away from the big multi national corporations to one that they approve of.  What does this have to do with my previous post on Who Is Jesus, you may wonder?  Well the email really bugged me because I know that elements of most of our cell phones are produced by slave labour and very destructive mining methods issues that as Christians we should be concerned about.

Cell phones were once a luxury, something that people thought were sort of frivolous. But in today’s age of ever-advancing technology, we’ve come to consider them an absolute necessity. Now practically everyone owns one – and we replace them with new ones every 1-2 years. But at what cost? It turns out that a vital raw material used in many cell phones is often mined illegally, and by slave labor.  read the entire article

I know it is easy for us to get overwhelmed by the extent to which our world is corrupted by greed, injustice and atrocities.  Slave labour is not confined to the making of clothing and the production of food.  The mining of gold and gemstones is very dependent on slave labour as many became aware through the film Blood Diamond.  But cell phones – that cuts a little too close to home.  They have become the air we breathe and the lifeline we depend on for many of our culture.

Ironically in the very countries that mine coltan essential to cell phone production numbers of entrepreneurial small businesses have arisen in which people provide cell phone access to their neighbours as this article Upwardly Mobile in Africa suggests.

I still have a cell phone, but I think that this is another issue that we all need to be aware of and if possible do something about.

Time to Turn, a Netherlands based Christian advocacy group did just that in 2008.

We asked people to write a postcard with a personal message to the cellphone industry. We collected those cards and offered them – as a text message bundle – to representatives of the phone & electronics industry, that met in Washington on November 19th, 2008.   Read more

What do you think?

The Future of the City – is it Sustainable?

We all know the verse from Jeremiah “Without a vision the people perish.”  I just came across this fascinating vision of what our cities could look like in the future – if we had the vision to believe that it was possible.  Sustainability will always seem unattainable unless we have a vision of what it could look like.

This is only one of the cool images on the Green Building Elements website that come from an exhibit that will be shown in New York later this year.

Ten of the world’s leading architects show how the integration of urban planning and transport can enable cities to thrive through population growth in a new exhibition at the Center for Architecture. “Our Cities Ourselves is a partnership between ITDP and some of the world’s most innovative architects, to help us imagine our cities freed from the devastating effects of accommodating rapid motorization,” says Walter Hook, Executive Director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

You can read the rest of the article and view the other architectural drawings here.  There are some very creative ideas here that really help us to envision a different type of city and a different type of world that is far more sustainable than our current practices.