Letters December 2011
Kudos to Clearbrook
Re “Grey-haired congregation doesn’t slow down” (P&E, October). Even though 80 percent of Clearbrook MB’s congregation is over 80, the impact of this church truly spans across generations. For five months each year, Clearbrook MB opens their doors to MB Mission’s TREK program, to use as a site for training sessions. The relationship is deeper than simply the use of facility. Members of Clearbrook MB eagerly sign up to pray regularly for TREK participants while on international assignment. The faithfulness, love, character, and relational engagement that members of Clearbrook MB show have a transformational impact on the young adults on TREK. Thank you, Clearbrook MB Church!
Regional Mobilizer, B.C.
Pesticides aren’t the enemy
Re “Riding the green wave” (Features, October). I was very disturbed by this article. From my childhood on a mixed farm in Abbotsford, B.C., throughout my education (bachelors, masters, and PhD in crop science), 27 years as professor and research scientist in crop production at the University of Manitoba, and international assignments, my life work has been to improve food security and financial security for farmers throughout the world.
When I first arrived at the University of Manitoba in 1968, with a concern for sustainable crop production, I began research into zero tillage. Instead of using tillage, vegetation at the time of seeding is controlled using herbicides. Now some 40 years later, my research has impacted cropping practices throughout the Northern Great Plains of Canada and northern U.S.
Although most farmers have adopted zero tillage for economic reasons, the added benefits are reduced fuel consumption and conservation of the soil resource (tillage depletes the soil of the required nutrients for plant growth). To reduce the risk of crop failure, pesticides and commercial fertilizers are now used on most annual crops.
I have no problem with farmers adopting “organic agriculture.” But referring to organic agriculture as more sustainable than conventional agriculture is quite a stretch. My concern with “Riding the green wave” is that it implies to be “biblical” you must be “green,” and that the use of fertilizer and pesticides are a no-no for Christ followers.
Where does that leave the 98.3 percent of Mennonite Brethren farmers who practice conventional agriculture? These are the same farmers who support their local churches, the MB conference, MB Mission, Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and MCC. These are also the farmers who had a vision for the education of their children, and established high schools and Bible schools. I doubt our conference could survive without support from our farm community.
Controversy over climate change
Re “Riding the green wave” (Features, October). For the most part, I agree with Sandra Reimer that Christians should “get on board” and get involved in ecological projects around the world. If we believe that God created the earth, we should treat his creation with respect, care, and wonder.
My problem is Reimer takes for granted that climate change is a process primarily caused by humans and that there is “a strong consensus” on this concept. The consensus isn’t as strong as she thinks, and there remains a lot of uncertainty on just how the climate is changing.
Reimer fails to mention that the most prominent greenhouse gas by far is not CO2 or methane or nitrous oxide, but water vapour. If the temperature is rising globally, it follows that more water vapour will be in the atmosphere. However, from there on, things get complicated: clouds play the dual role of both warming and cooling agents. Furthermore, oceans warm and cool at different rates than air or land. Whatever effect humankind has on climate or weather, I believe it’s more local than global.
I still think it’s good to get involved in caring for the environment. Recently, I participated in helping a group clean up a shoreline in Vancouver. While I don’t have grandchildren (or children), I want to see our young people inherit a world that is cleaner than the one I live in now.
Organic equals starvation
Re “Riding the green wave” (Features, October). What if eating organic didn’t save the planet, but in fact caused mass starvation? This past summer, I had the opportunity to meet and work with a few large-scale Saskatchewan pulse crop farmers, who were passionate about their land and healthy soil. They spoke about the effect decades of poor farming practices had on soil erosion and how good farming practices can reverse the damage and improve the soil. The way they talked, I was convinced they were organic farmers producing some of the world’s best lentils and chick peas. However, I was surprised to learn they were really anti-organic farmers.
Among a long list of facts, one thing they said which completely changed my view on organic farming was this: If everyone in the world ate organic, there wouldn’t be enough food and people would starve. Period.
These pulse farmers said crop yields with organic farming practices didn’t produce nearly the yields that good conventional farming practices did, and they knew from experience. To them, organic farming was a luxury of wealthy, Western societies, and likely did more harm than good, especially to those in developing nations.
What if they’re right? What if my demand for organic lentils meant someone in a developing country went without a meal? There is likely a place for organic farming in certain situations, but it simply isn’t a green wave to ride on.
Small “green” changes not enough
Re Sustainable lifestyles (October). I was excited when I saw the title of the new Herald, but was disappointed with the content. I think it’s great that we, as a church, are finally becoming aware (about 30 years too late) of humanity’s devastating environmental activities. It’s also great to see us talking about orthopraxy instead of just orthodoxy.
Unfortunately, it seems we only want to change our Western lifestyles slightly, and not make full radical changes. Are we riding our bikes to work? It’s meaningless if the rubber on the wheels isn’t organic. Are we reusing paper? That’s also meaningless if we’re still using paper at all! How many trees have been butchered for the MB Herald? I had one person try and tell me that he cares about world justice as he was eating a Nestle chocolate bar! Eating cocoa that hasn’t been fairly traded is the same as stealing.
It’s time to wake up and not let capitalism, materialism, consumerism, individualism, fundamentalism, and neo-conservatism win the day.