During the ten years since the ELCA adopted Caring for
Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice the environment has taken
a beating. It's not the fault of the statement, which, in and
of itself, it very good. Nevertheless, finite, nonrenewable
resources have been consumed at increasing rates; many renewable
resources have been depleted or obliterated; and a host of
poisonous pollutants has infected the earth.
 We Lutherans carry much of the responsibility for all
this. Oh yes, many of us recycle diligently. But
collectively we pay less attention to Creation than the Bible
does.In its opening story God describes all of Creation as being
"very good." And it closes with a promise of a new Creation.
But we don't have as if we consider Creation as being very
good. We aren't even as good in our "environmental tithing"
as we are in our dismal "tithing" to support the ELCA
 The most serious pollution problem is the constant increase
in the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Glaciers
melt, raising the sea level, intensifying storms, floods and
droughts, shifting areas where crops and trees can grow, and humans
and animals find it more and more difficult to cope with abnormally
high temperatures. There will be a huge wave of environmental
refugees searching for better places to live.
 After over a dozen years of intensive, international studies
by many scientists of various disciplines, it is now apparent that
human activities are causing much, if not all of this global
warming. The warming is due chiefly to combustion of fossil
fuels which releases carbon dioxide that acts as a blanket in the
upper atmosphere, preventing some heat from escaping into
space. It is ironic that the U.S., which has only 4.5% of the
world's population but releases 25% of all the greenhouse gases,
has thus far refused to take any meaningful steps to reduce such
emissions, as most nations are doing.
 Efforts to slow environmental degradation have been negated
by population growth, which has been increasing
exponentially. Whereas world population grew by 600 million
during the 19th century (from 1.0 to 1.6 billion) and by 4.4
billion in the 20th century (from 1.6 to 6.0 billion), it is
expected to grow another 3 or 4 billion by 2050. U.S.
population is growing at a much faster rate than that of any other
industrialized nation, thanks to immigration which has been adding
3 million, more or less, every year. Citizens who have lived
in the U.S. since 1970 and their offspring have seen their
population growth taper off to replacement level.
 Gross National Product (GNP) of the U.S. has increased
steadily as the "needs" of this growing population, accustomed to
excessive consumption, have been met. But this GNP is
deceptive-its calculation ignores the depletion of natural
resources and includes in its total the costs of combating
pollution (e.g. cleaning up after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill) and
medical care for humans harmed by pollution. Subtracting for
such expenses and for the loss of natural resources gives us a more
realistic "Genuine national Product." According to such
calculations, our true productivity has been declining for many
years, a foreboding thought for the generations to come.
 The amount of arable land and the supply of fresh water have
natural limits-we may decrease the supply, but we cannot increase
it. As population grows, these resources, essential for producing
food, have already been declining on a per capital basis. One
way or another, humans are already consuming 40% of what green
plants can produce by photosynthesis. Other forms of life and
natural ecosystems need the rest of the photosynthates.
Scientists understand photosynthesis but have not been able to
increase its efficiency. As population grows, the 40% figure
will no doubt increase at the expense of all other life dependent
 The earth that God created is not like other planets which
exist in a physical equilibrium. The earth depends on
sunshine, soil, water, and atmosphere on its surface to develop the
conditions that support all the forms of life God created. We
call this system the biosphere. It consists of a stupendously
complex array of living creatures, plants and organisms whose
activities are interlocked and dependent on each other, following
precise energy cycles that produce organic matter. This
occurs constantly in a self-renewing fashion. It's a truly
marvelous Creation. It blows my mind!
 If we destroy ecosystems and extinguish species that
comprise Creation, we degrade the greatest benefit that God's earth
can offer us. Thereby we threaten our own existence.
Preserving and protecting God's Creation should be our
environmental ethic - our Christian heritage.