For the month of April, we will be exploring the theme “The Spirituality of Stewardship”, looking at issues of sustainability and creation care. Our first post comes from Andrew Fung Yip.
“Let us make humankind…and let them have dominion… Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” – Genesis 1
Christians hold diverse views on how we should treat our world. It has always surprised me that many Christians believe that God gave us dominion and therefore that means that we pump out every gallon of fossil fuel or mass-produce every kind of meat possible on earth. Dominion does not mean domination, but rather responsibility. The earth is a gift from God, and we must treasure and look after it as God granted us this task. Earth may be our first home, and many would say our real home is in heaven, but the Kingdom of God is here right now, on this earth. We not only have the responsibility to look after and tend to the creatures and ecosystems of this world, but we also have the task of making sure our generation and the generations after us are left with the same gift that God bestowed on us. Sadly, what has been left for us is far from the times of Adam and Eve.
Here in Southern California we have the beautiful San Gabriel Mountains. When you look north and see the mountain range in the distance, you’re looking at the San Gabriel Mountains:
Stretching from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino, the San Gabriel Mountains are the recreational “backyard” for more than 17 million Southern Californians. This majestic mountain range is the landmark feature of the Angeles National Forest.
The Angeles National Forest is an irreplaceable natural resource that gives Los Angeles County 70% of its open space, provides 35% of the region’s drinking water, and contributes clean air to a polluted region. The forest serves as critical habitat for many endangered and sensitive plant and animal species including the Nelson’s Bighorn sheep, California condor, mountain lion, spotted owl and the mountain yellow-legged frog. It also defends against climate change, retaining carbon gases within its forests, instead of emitting them into the atmosphere.
There’s no doubt that we are lucky to have such a beautiful mountain range that we can visit and draw our water from, but even the San Gabriel Mountains are under threats of development. Locally, we have many opportunities for us to protect our mountains, forests, and rivers. Did you know that most of the San Gabriel Mountains and surrounding forests are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture? It’s because these natural resources are treated exactly as it sounds: natural resources. They are resources, and it’s not uncommon for the government to sell off parts of the forests for logging and development.
Currently, the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Coalition seeks Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designation for not only the San Gabriel Mountains but also for the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo Rivers. If successful, an additional 121,134 acres of Wilderness-designated areas would be added to the existing Wilderness areas, as well as 52.3 miles of the clear and free-flowing rivers and creeks of the Angeles National Forest.
The San Gabriel Mountains Forever Coalition is also “push[ing]… for a San Gabriel National Recreation Area that will include the mountains”:
A National Recreation Area (NRA) is a designation originally given to lands around reservoirs with water-based recreation. NRAs safeguard recreational opportunities, and help ensure sustainable management.
Why are such designations important? Such federal designations open up funding and resources to help protect our natural wonders. If you have visited the San Gabriel Mountains recently, ask yourself, how many times have you actually seen a Forest Ranger? Los Angeles County contains over 80 urban communities, and allowing a shortage of parks, open spaces, and recreational areas is detrimental to future generations’ experiences with nature. We are losing the connection between the people and the land. Recent data also shows a correlation between child obesity rates upwards of 30 to 40 percent and residence in communities with little to no parks. Our physical and spiritual wellbeing lies in the stewardship of our community spaces. Not only should we treat our natural environments with care, but we also have to protect them.
We need to protect God’s creation so that not only would we be in constant wonder at places like the San Gabriel Mountains, but our future generations would also enjoy them. We live so close to these mountains and rivers, but how entrenched are we in our urban environment that we do not even know these places exist? I ask that, at the very least, take the time and visit these places and support protections. Stewardship isn’t just enjoying the fruit but also tending to the trees. We should enjoy our natural resources, but also ensure that they are protected and taken care of so that it does not disappear in a generation or two.
Please take the time to review the legislation and maps of the proposed NRA designation, and then email your comments to SGRec@mail.house.gov.