Sometimes, justice is obvious.
We see those who are suffering from famine.
We see those who are marginalized because of their race.
At other times, justice is far more subtle, like when those suffering from a lack of justice also lack a voice.
Such is the case when it comes to global sustainability, and for Cornerstone professor Dr. Rob Keys, creation care is pivotal to a global understanding of justice:
“Matters of creation care go back to the first mandates God gave to humanity: care for and tend His garden. In the spirit of Romans, Creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to practice what God has called us to do, and when we fulfill that calling, we become an expression of God’s justice on earth.”
Still, just because care for God’s creation reflects a biblical mandate does not mean it is above ordinary action. Dr. Keys notes, “Often we do not even notice the sustainability initiatives serving the earth, or we chalk those efforts up to cost savings.”
Pointing to Cornerstone’s waste reduction, energy saving, eat local and recycling efforts, Dr. Keys emphasizes that these simple measures do in fact lead to measurable change. It is precisely this kind of green living and sustainable awareness Dr. Keys seeks to bring to the classroom for his environmental science students.
In Dr. Keys’ class, students are required to conduct a final project on campus—generating environmental awareness for the larger student body or creating a sustainable practice that can better the Cornerstone community in coming years. The creativity of CU students has both astonished and inspired Dr. Keys. Over the years, final projects have run the gamut, ranging from construction of a campus rain garden to the creation of an hour-by-hour Student Commons update board highlighting the amount of food waste generated by the student body in a single day.
These are realities that often go ignored or unnoticed in humanity’s day-to-day existence. Dr. Keys knows that if he doesn’t empower students to notice, those trends will go unchecked.
“The greatest issue facing the next generation is climate change, which doesn’t get talked about a lot by conservative Christians. However, when you look at other major concerns in our world today—food scarcity, water issues, depletion of natural resources—all of these concerns lead back to the core issue of climate change. The coming generation will be required to recognize that reality. These areas of suffering are actively tied to humanity’s past behavior. As Christians, we have to acknowledge that and work for justice.”
In order to cultivate an understanding of sustainable solutions, Dr. Keys and other CU faculty lead academic immersion trips where students observe communities that have found a way for civilization and the environment to serve one another. For example, Dr. Keys takes a group of students each year to Northern Ireland:
“Northern Ireland has had civilizations for thousands of years. And while things have been modified, there is an enduring symbiotic relationship between humanity and the land.”
In particular, Dr. Keys likes to point out the dunes in Ireland where cattle have grazed for thousands of years. About 30 years ago, conservationists feared the cattle might be leading to erosion of the dunes. However, further research revealed the cattle actually helped preserve biodiversity within the environment. By grazing upon the land in moderation, the cattle served the needs of both the local population and the region’s ecosystem.
This kind of balanced living points to the central lesson Dr. Keys seeks to impress upon all students:
“God didn’t call all of us to be conservationists and biologists, but He did call all of us to be caretakers of His creation. So it doesn’t matter if you are going into business or music production, the way you live is still a reflection of the Creator you serve. At CU, we hope students will incorporate this idea into the very way they live. We don’t want creation care to be a concept in a classroom, we want it to be a way of life.”
When we accept our role in the larger creation narrative, we start to employ sustainable practices, preserving creation for future generations. In this, Dr. Keys believes we embody a form of reconciliation with our original calling.
We must do more than seek justice; we also have to plant and cultivate it.