Inspired and informed by our two distinct wisdom traditions, we are led by a shared goal: the healing of our planet. We write together as a scientist and a pastor seeing our earth suffering from multiple perspectives. We can see that our health is deeply intertwined with the health of our earth. We recognize our shared belonging and connection to the land and water, be it through our understanding of ecology or our interpretation of theology. Science and religion both motivate us to create sanctuaries: places of safety for people, animals, and all of life. That’s why we’re writing together, as a scientist and pastor, in support of California’s newly released 30x30 Conservation Plan and the proposed Chumash National Marine Sanctuary.
The 30x30 plan is a global initiative to protect 30% of the earth by 2030. Currently, 15% of the earth is already protected and the 30x30 initiative aims to expand this protection. In order for the State to work towards meeting these goals, California will work closely with indigenous communities, fishers, farmers, and local community members to conserve, and coexist within, these sacred land and waters. This work of healing the earth demands collaboration between countries, cultures, religions, and occupations. The final 30x30 pathways strategy provides a stronger definition of conservation, highlights the importance of biodiversity, and emphasizes the need for equitable, inclusive ocean access. The strategy is a great start, and we pray that California will back up its ambition with action.
As a pastor, I (Rev. Daniel Paul) see the care and preservation of our natural spaces as a call to action from our Creator. I understand our earth to be inherently valuable, beyond resources and recreation. Out of my window at The Christian Church of Pacific Grove, I can experience the beauty of creation in the diverse plant and animal life that blesses Monterey Bay. We have a moral and a spiritual duty as stewards of God’s creation to protect the habitat for these creatures.
As a scientist, I (Pat Rutowski) support the 30x30 initiative as a way forward in this time of environmental degradation. From biodiversity loss to ocean acidification, we are in need of a plan to tackle California’s most pressing ecological issues. The implementation of highly and fully protected marine areas is necessary to protect our oceans from extraction—a qualification outlined in the final 30x30 pathways document. Stronger, more complete regulations are needed within our marine sanctuaries to protect these environments. Additional protections for our marine life are vital to the health of our ocean. For example, the proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary will be the first tribal-led marine protected area, and will prohibit oil drilling, encourage habitat restoration, and with additional protections for biodiversity, can support recovering wildlife populations. Its proposed boundaries will protect the gap on the California coastline between the Monterey Bay and Channel Island Marine Sanctuaries – a necessity in controlling drilling and other sources of pollution and habitat destruction that are not limited to one body of water.
The California coast is endlessly valuable, both intrinsically and because of all that it provides for us. As members of a faith community, the coastline serves as a spiritual sanctuary. As scientists, we value the importance of our diverse ocean ecosystems. Marine Sanctuaries throughout the United States bring these different users and communities together to help protect the use of these marine resources for all people, expanding access to public lands and waters for disadvantaged communities while we expand protections.
Through collaboration with California locals, scientists, faith leaders, and indigenous communities, we can approach environmental conservation through an array of perspectives. With a shared desire to protect the ocean, we can take action to care for our ocean while connecting people to our coastal environment. Together, we strive to uplift conservation efforts and delve into action with our minds, bodies, and spirits. Motivated by a theology of creation care and a commitment to furthering our scientific understanding of the natural world, we support the 30x30 initiative and look forward to a strong implementation to achieve its goals. May we work together to create sanctuaries where life abounds.
Co-Authors: Pat Rutowski (Marine Biologist) and Rev. Dan Paul (Christian Church of Pacific Grove)
By Gabrielle Poli (CJM's Blue Theology Fellow/CCPG Member)
Wisdom from CHOW 2022
Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) 2022 has come to a close. This year’s theme was Sea: The Future and was filled with lots of wisdom and actions we can all take to further ocean conservation. God’s marine creations that reside within the ocean are majestic and often mysterious. Those creations are in trouble. Increasingly, as climate change worsens, we see less and less of God’s marine creations near us.
Each year the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation hosts Capitol Hill Ocean Week the first week of June (National Ocean Month). Throughout two days, there are panels of speakers revolving around a set theme. Speakers include federal agency and administration staff, legislators, and members of the ocean conservation community. CHOW is convened to bring policymakers, scientists, managers, business leaders, conservationists, educators, students, and members of the public to engage in dialogue and debate on significant issues that impact our ocean and Great Lakes and to propose innovative policies and partnerships to address these issues. CHOW 2022 is open to the public and free to attendees. The Foundation relies on the generous support of sponsors to host CHOW.
In the wise words of Dr. Kelsey Leonard, University of Waterloo Canada, Member of Shinecock Nation, “We don’t have a crisis in climate, we have a crisis in human.” Dr. Leonard reminded us that mother Earth is capable of healing. In 2020, the world saw that lessened human activity allowed for the space that God’s creation needed to start healing the damage humans have done. As we have done this damage to God’s creation, we are responsible for taking a step back to look at our own behavior. We do indeed have the ability to aid God’s creation in healing, but not necessarily in the ways we have previously thought.
Multiple speakers across panels during CHOW pointed out inefficiencies in the ways we look at conservation. Violet Sage Walker, Chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, has pointed out, “We need to stop thinking about a sustainable ocean, but a thriving ocean, because sustainability will only allow our standards to go down.” This thread of thought was continued by Patuxent Riverkeeper, Fred Tutman, the longest serving riverkeeper in the Chesapeake Bay Area, “Performing ‘as well as can be expected’ is not enough. We need better ‘best practices’ for our legal system. Paradox between everyone following the rules and the water is still dying. How do we go about designing these projects so that they will not be ineffective?” These words were particularly significant to me.
Slightly better than horrible is still bad. Violet and Fred made excellent points: we have to set our standards high and look at how to enforce the measures put in place to care for God’s creation. The speakers not only pointed out areas of where we needed to improve, but talked about the areas where they are already making progress. Two of those people were Imani Black of Minorities in Aquaculture and Feini Yin of Fishadelphia.
These two organizations are doing incredible work at the intersection of sustainable eating and ocean sustainability. Minorities in Aquaculture teaches people in the Chesapeake Bay area where their food comes from and Fishadelphia is a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) that works to distribute fresh, local seafood to the community at subsidized rates for those in need. Each of these organizations is making strides in their communities that they hope will be replicated in other parts of the country. When looking at the mission statements and achievements of these organizations, I think of the saying, “Think globally, act locally.” I was inspired and refreshed by this year’s CHOW and can’t wait to act with the new knowledge and wisdom I’ve gleaned.
About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.