All-consuming attitudes

Creation care means transforming lifestyle

May 26, 2014 by

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North Americans have cultivated an attitude of disregard for our own habitat. We drive the most. We live in the biggest houses. We create the most waste.

People who go against the norms stand out as odd at best, offensive at worst.

When I walked to work in south Georgia, people would stare, slow down and more than once stopped to offer me a ride.

When my parents stopped mowing parts of their two-acre yard to allow a more natural growth pattern — using less gas, avoiding harmful pesticides and providing a habitat for local ecosystems — gossip erupted, inquiries abounded, and a few shouted their horror from passing cars.

When even small adjustments to expected behaviors provoke such response, major change toward sustainability can seem hopeless.

But change is necessary — and attitude adjustment is a good place to start. An annual National Geographic survey of consumer behavior and environmental impact in 17 countries shows the U.S. ranked last every year since the study began in 2008. Americans, it found, regularly felt the least amount of guilt about their impact.

Yet humans are primarily responsible for quickened climate change, according to the findings of the Third National Climate Assessment, released May 6 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. “Precipitation patterns are changing, sea level is rising, the oceans are becoming more acidic,” the over­view says. “The only real surprises have been that some changes . . . have outpaced earlier projections.”

In the past year, religious leaders’ advocacy demonstrated a top-down approach to transforming group thought — and a reason to hope.

One of these leaders is Pope Francis, who took his name from St. Francis of Assisi because he “teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment.” In January, the Vatican announced Pope Francis is preparing a statement on humanity’s defense of nature. The U.N. is expected to back the statement.

Mennonite Church USA delegates passed a resolution in 2013 to encourage members to “commit to growing in their dedication to care for God’s creation as an essential part of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Worship materials, reading recommendations and more can be found at

Resolutions help create awareness and support, but they aren’t enough. We continue to worry first about our own wants. Caring for creation sustainably will require lifestyle transformation.

Doris Janzen Longacre reflected on food resource problems in the More-with-Less Cookbook in 1976. Her words still resonate today: “It may not be within our capacity to effect an answer. But it is within our capacity to search for a faithful response.”

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