“I want to say something to the young people,” Prince William began. “In the next 10 years, we are going to act. We are going to find the solutions to repair our planet. Keep learning. Keep demanding change. And don’t give up hope.”
That speech on Oct. 22 came just before the Royal Family gave five recipients the first ever “Earthshot” awards – one million pounds each ($1,694,000 CAD) for innovation and future research in sustainability. Founded and currently managed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Earthshot prizes seek to equip and empower individual innovators in environmental issues, resource management and other disciplines, with the ultimate goal of improving our planet. The winners are inspiring and diverse – from two men who have figured out how to grow coral on land in order to transplant it onto dying reefs to the entire Republic of Costa Rica, whose reforestation policies have doubled the nation’s forests over the past 30 years.
It’s heartening to hear stories of those in power utilizing their resources to assist brilliant minds and sustainable governance. On its website, Prince William states that Earthshot’s goal is to “turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change.” Like biodegradable cornstarch bags and metal straws, the innovations funded by Earthshot give an impression that the efforts and ideas of humanity can somehow reverse the climate crisis that we find ourselves in. Unfortunately, the truth is a lot more complicated.
According to the 2017 Carbon Majors report, only 100 companies are responsible for producing 71 percent of global emissions. The United States Military is one of the largest single polluters in the world, having produced 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions since 2001. Oceana, a not-for-profit dedicated to ocean preservation, estimates that Amazon is responsible for 465 million pounds of plastic waste, 22 million of which is currently polluting the world’s oceans and waterways. An individual can choose to eat less meat and thoroughly scrub the peanut butter jar before they put it into the recycling, but surely even someone as brilliant as Solomon would struggle to save the planet in the face of such insurmountable pollution.
One might ask, then, what is the point of organizations like Earthshot? What is the point of funding innovation when corporations and governments remain unaccountable for the destruction of our planet? For Christians, the “point” is two-fold.
Stewards and sacrifice
First, we have been commanded by God to do more than try – we have been commanded to be stewards of the land he has entrusted to us. As Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” and we have been tasked to keep it. Good stewardship involves utilizing resources wisely, in order to multiply and maintain them for the future. Notable environmental activist Greta Thunberg iterates that society must adopt sustainable practices “for the generations to come,” but as Christians, we are also sustaining this earth for the glory of God, under his command.
Secondly, God teaches us that our individual actions have value, even up against insurmountable obstacles. He commands us to live his gospel in a world corrupted by sin, to live countercultural lives that, from our perspective, may seem small and insignificant. In doing so, we reflect his glory. The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t need our action, yet he calls us to be a “living sacrifice” as our “true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1). Despite how ineffective we may feel sometimes, God assures us that he treasures the actions we take to please him.
Organizations like Earthshot champion the concept that well-implemented ideas are capable of saving the earth from corporate greed. It’s commendable – even important – but as Christians, we don’t just have optimism, we have the assurance that, no matter how bleak the future of our planet may seem, God holds the universe in his hands.
Earthshot prize winners:
– Vidyut Mohan of New Dehli has developed technology that converts agricultural waste, that would normally be burned, into sellable bio-products like fuel and fertilizer. (Winner of the Clean Our Air prize)
– The City of Milan has launched Food Waste Hubs that collect and redistribute an estimated 130 tonnes of food per year, equivalent to 260,000 meals.
– Enapter, founded by Vaitea Cowan, converts renewable electricity into emission-free hydrogen gas, which can then be used to fuel vehicles and heat homes. Enapter’s vision is to account for 10 percent of the world’s hydrogen generation by 2050.
– In the 1990s half of the forests of the Republic of Costa Rica were destroyed. Together, the nation planted and protected trees and doubled its forest in size. (Winner of the Protect & Restore Nature prize)
– Coral Vita in the Bahamas is growing coral on land (Winner of the Revive our Oceans prize).
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