Hello, Phil Hofstad here again. Before I try to tackle this question, I want to give a caveat. Even within our office, we have a range of viewpoints on just about everything from M&Ms (with or without peanuts) to what defines modernism. This diversity of opinion includes spirituality and religion. We respect and value each others’ experiences and values, as well as those of our clients. I wouldn’t presume to speak for any of them. The following article summarizes my personal thoughts on the issue of sustainability.
At first glance, asking whether or not God cares about sustainability might seem odd or somehow even misplaced. However, it is a question that I am increasingly confronted with. Since our beginning, LOCUS has always sought to be good stewards of the earth’s resources through sustainable techniques that promote the reuse/recycling of materials, the creative and efficient use of space (i.e. do more with less), and energy efficiency. In the last 5 years, LOCUS projects have included a number of churches with varying degrees of interest in sustainable architecture. While we try to incorporate sustainable techniques wherever possible, invariably the client has to weigh the potentially larger up-front costs of a ‘green’ building with the lower life cycle costs associated with energy efficient design. How then should a church client determine what is the wisest use of the church’s resources? Also, how much importance should a church place on environmental concerns? After all, it is my understanding that Muslims, Jews, and Christians all agree that our planet is but a temporary ‘stop-over’ to a final destination in heaven. Is “saving our planet” such an important consideration if we are to spend eternity somewhere else?
It is common knowledge that, as a Christian, I should strive to “love my neighbor as myself”. If you are also a Christian, perhaps you have also heard countless sermons on the subject, most of which rightfully end up defining “neighbor” to mean “everyone on the planet”. As a Christian, I believe that this basic concept of our faith should inform all of our decisions, including what type of buildings we build and use and how much energy they consume. Do we use a wood species that contributes to deforestation of a Brazilian rain forest (our “neighbor’s” back yard) or do we use renewable or even recycled materials? Do we try to limit our waste, or do we not care what ends up in our world’s landfills (in someone else’s backyard, but not mine)? Do we move toward sustainable energy strategies, or do we continue to burn fossil fuels that contribute to green house gasses and global warming? After all, if we consider only our immediate neighbors in Minnesota and it happens to be 20 degrees below zero outside, global warming doesn’t sound so bad…
Two descriptions of Creation are commonly embraced by Christians, the Biblical description of the Creation or what is now commonly referred to as Intelligent Design; both outline how God created the earth for us to live in. Did God give us the earth to use in any way we see fit? Is the earth even ours at all?
I choose to believe that God gave us the earth to live in and USE, but not to OWN. The pastor of my church had a great Minnesota analogy for this, and I’m going to stretch the narrative a bit. Let’s say that you have a good friend who owns a beautiful cabin on a pristine, secluded lake ‘up north’. This friend is going on a trip for a few weeks, and he/she offers you ‘free reign’ of the place. The refrigerator and pantry are well stocked. The boat and all of the ‘water toys’ are ready to go. You simply need to ‘keep an eye on things’ until the next group of people arrive. Now, I for one, would jump at the chance. I’d have a great time with my family and friends, but I would also be on constant alert that nothing gets lost or broken. When my family prepares to leave, we would make sure that the entire place was spotless, we’d even try to somehow make it better than when we first arrived. Finally, since our ‘paradise’ was rent-free, we would leave a nice bottle of wine on the dining room table for the gracious host.
Whether we like it or not, we are not going to be on this planet forever. How should we leave it for those that come after us?