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on February 23, 2010
What is the best way to help the rural poor in the neediest parts of the Earth? Start with the earth itself. This book shows how poverty is rooted in broken relationships: people and the soil, people and institutions, people and their community, people and God. The people we meet in the book, the rural farmers and business owners are warm, witty, talented and frequently, desperate. Scott Sabin and his organization, Plant with Purpose, come alongside and walk the eroded hillsides with them. As the people are empowered to care for their land an amazing thing happens: as the land heals, it begins to produce enough for families to meet their needs in a sustainable way. As relationships are healed, communities become healthy and people's faith comes alive. The writing is warm and personal, very easy to read and engaging, technical without being intimidating.
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on March 12, 2010
Interestingly Tending to Eden begins not with a lengthy proof for creation care, but with a call to justice. Scott walks the reader through part of his journey into Guatemala and how that helped him understand God's concern for the world. It was not his intention to work in an environmental area. In fact, he was uncomfortable with it at first. He wanted to help the poor, the hungry. However, through his own journey Scott helps the reader to understand how caring for God's creation is caring for the poor. He employs "upstream thinking" to address root causes rather than mere symptoms. He demonstrates this connection clearly using the example of deforestation.

Scott then spends some time talking about reversing the vicious cycle that often traps them in their circumstances and exchanging it for a virtuous cycle of reforestation and economic empowerment. In this he emphasizes the importance of helping the poor understand their own value. He notes, "but if we do for others what they can and should do for themselves, we rob them of their dignity and reinforce the lie that they have nothing to offer. We create dependency." He then brings the reader into a couple ways that Plant With Purpose and others are able to help while allowing the poor to utilize their gifts, namely through sustainable agriculture and helping businesses.

Scott then focuses on the importance of sharing the gospel in the process. He highlights the idea that without God there will not be transformation. Sharing the gospel is a key part of loving and caring for the poor.

He then steps back to take a more global perspective on all this. Here some of the key ecological issues (such as deforestation, biodiversity, and climate change) are discussed with exceptional clarity. The ecological problems are neither left with the poor, nor at a vague, global level. Rather, they are tracked all the way into our own backyards.

At this point Scott turns to the church. Here he points out the biblical basis for caring for creation as well as some of the church's history doing so. He says, "The biblical account is not just the story of God's love for his people and the redemption of humankind through Christ. It is that, but is also the story of God's love for everything he has made." People are hungry and Jesus offers hope and redemption for all things. The book concludes with a discussion as to how to get involved both globally and locally, how to "get in the game."

But wait there's more! (read that with your best infomercial voice) If this wasn't enough, the book also includes a small group study at the end, not to mention the ideas for making an impact as an individual, family, or church and a list of creation care resources.

There is much to like about this book. First, Scott does an excellent job of making very complex topics clear. This alone may be worth the price of admission. Not only does he explain what things like deforestation are but he helps you to see how these ideas connect to the poor and our faith. Sometimes I think we like that we do not understand such problems let alone their broader impact. It allows us to be ignorant. But once we understand them and their impact of God's children and His creation it is hard to sit idly by.

Secondly, the link between a broken creation and the poor is well connected. Scott connects the plight of the poor (both globally and locally) to environmental problems. Caring for creation becomes a matter of justice. For some caring for creation comes at the expense of ignoring the poor. Scott points out that caring for creation actually is caring for the poor.

This leads me to another point I liked about this book: upstream thinking. Scott does not settle. He does not merely target symptoms. Instead, he seeks out the root causes. In the case of the poor, a broken environment is often a major contributing factor. To settle for feeding hungry mouths alone, is to create dependency. That's not to say that there's not a time to feed the hungry. By all means there is. But we must also target the factors that keep them hungry. I quite appreciated this reminder to think upstream.

Fourthly, I enjoyed his point that all of creation worships God. Since reading this book I have paid particular attention to how many scriptures and worship songs say that all of creation worships God. There are a ton! Yet, that is often removed from our thinking. I appreciate that Tending to Eden reminded me that in caring for God's creation I am caring for fellow worshippers of the Almighty God. What a critical idea!

Finally, I was so excited to see Scott point out the hope that we have through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, this is often left out of creation care literature. Or at least it takes a back seat. At Creation Hope, this is a core part of what we believe. So, when I saw that Scott gets it, I was overjoyed.

You might be wondering if this is the perfect book. No, it's not perfect. But what is? There were times where the structure of the book seemed a little hard to follow. Also, the section on the biblical basis for creation care was fairly short. That said, there is a whole Bible study in the back which certainly helps fill in gaps. But these and other minor issues are dwarfed by the great value to be had in this book.

If you are wondering about the link between the poor and the environment, if you feel like you don't totally get what we are talking about, if you want a book that is not a textbook but is seen through the lens of someone's life and work, if you want to better understand how to approach environmental issues from a Christian perspective, perhaps you should consider picking up Tending to Eden.
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on June 22, 2010
Scott Sabin "messed up".

Yep. I think he should have titled his new book "Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty" instead of "Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People".

Why? Because Scott's book isn't just about being good stewards of God's creation - it is a book geared towards getting past the symptoms of rural poverty and focusing on the root causes. It is a fantastic book showing the holistic nature of poverty and all the factors attributing to it.

For example, farmers in Haiti can no longer grow crops on their land due to the land being depleted, which leads them to cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell in town. The removal of the trees weakens the soil, leading to erosion that further destroys the land which washes downstream to the ocean, where it becomes a `hazard to fisheries and coral reefs.'

Meanwhile, the deforestation of the area leads to a decrease in rainfall and changes in precipitation - not to mention the fact that if there are no trees, then the water in the ground cannot get filtered properly, leading to polluted drinking water. Polluted water in turn causes sickness and disease which places more pressure on the farmer to find some kind of income in order to buy food and medicine for his family. Putting us right back to the beginning of the cycle.

The crazy part is that these farmers know what they are doing. They know that by cutting down the trees they are causing long term problems. But they also have a proverb, "Either this tree must die, or I must die in its place" (Haitian proverb).

In an effort to break the cycle, Scott and Plant With Purpose (the organization he leads) focus on repairing five different relationships:

"To heal humanity's relationship with creation, Plant With Purpose encourages reforestation and sustainable agriculture. Providing economic opportunities by encouraging local enterprise creation addresses the relationships between people, as it levels the playing field for the disadvantaged and helps families stay together. Discipleship focuses on our relationship with God. By helping others follow Jesus and obey his commandments, thus fulfilling the Great Commission, we help to create a foundation upon which future development can be built."

In a nutshell, if you are interested in thinking upstream and seeing how rural poverty can be stopped, then I would recommend reading Scott's book "Tending To Eden." Then I would pick up Jayakumar Christian's "God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power and the Kingdom of God." Read those two books and you will have a good foundation.

After that - well, go DO something.

* Go help those in your community that need help (i.e. food banks, homeless shelters, community gardens, etc).
* Support those who are both sharing God's message of hope and thinking upstream (i.e. Plant With Purpose or other such groups).
* Be radical and change your lifestyle from a consumer driven one to a more sustainable one (i.e. buy less, use less, be happier)

And above all, pray. Pray for those in need and for those working along side them. Pray for His rule and reign to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Please note that I received this book free of cost from Plant With Purpose. I was not required to write a positive review - meaning that all opinions expressed are my own and where not influenced by Plant With Purpose or Scott Sabin. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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on July 8, 2015
We cannot abdicate our responsibility to our earth by apathy, ignorance, or laziness. It is spiritual to care for the Creator's earth. Scott Sabin does a good job of helping us with this issue. Good Read.
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on July 1, 2011
I just finished Scott Sabin's excellent book, Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People, for the second time, and will surely read it again in the future. I have been a supporter of Plant With Purpose (formerly, and still known in some international programs as, Floresta) for a dozen years, and can say with sincerity that their ministry has been to me the most meaningful of any I have encountered in my life.

The continues to exist a rift between the evangelical church and the 'environmental' movement; I am, however, very glad to be able to say honestly that I think that rift is narrowing, and not without significant influence from Plant With Purpose. Environmental is in quotes because it is my stance that humankind and the church, from the beginning, having been charged with the stewardship and keeping of the earth in the Genesis story, and are the original environmentalists who have lost their way.

The author, with meticulous care and patience, explains cause, effect and solution regarding a holistic paradigm of human brokenness that affects all of creation. There is, of course, a distinct focus on rural poverty and ecology to the book, and Sabin goes to great length to explain how ecology can never function apart from economics, society and spirit. The answer to the liabilities born by our broken world cannot be mended solely through philanthropic programs, but only through an approach that is environmental, economic AND spiritual in nature.

Though in certain ways (quite) differently, Lynn White Jr.'s famous article "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis" came to similar conclusions. White's article focuses more squarely on ecological crises, namely how Western Christianity is to blame for them due to the popular (and not totally untrue) notion that it saw/sees the world as existing solely for the exploitation and benefit of man. A clear disagreement with Sabin, who makes a strong case using plenty of evidence, including numerous biblical references (quoting Job, Psalm, Isaiah), that the earth is in fact God's and that it has been entrusted to mankind as a gift and resource to be cared for and sustained; the entrance and continued presence of sin in the world, however, precipitated and perpetuates the crises now plaguing our world.

So both White and Sabin, and all but the most ignorant among us, agree that there is an ecological crisis at hand, and in the end both White and Sabin agree that it is spiritually - rooted at a fundamental level. Though their roads diverge, often and widely at times, yet reconnect at certain critical junctures. Perhaps the most important of these is where they agree that, if our ecological crisis is a fundamentally spiritual one, then its solution too must be spiritual. A new kind of spirituality is what is called for; one that that embodies a deep care for the earth, for each other, and for a life of responsibility and modesty.

Plant With Purpose, as their organization is subtitled, provides "environmental solutions to humanitarian problems." Though having begun their ministry in 1984 mostly as a Christian agroforestry (the growing of trees as crops for wood, fruit, and fuel and as a soil - conservation measure, helping to restore eroded farmland) organization, they now incorporate biointensive gardening, rainwater harvesting and water storage, small - scale animal husbandry, microenterprise and business training and spiritual restoration into their programs. All of what they do can be considered a "permaculture" approach; permaculture being a comprehensive sustainable design system and philosophy applicable to all aspects of the development and maintenance of human settlements, developed in Australia in the 1970s and now used by NGOs around the world.

In sum, Tending for Eden is a treatise that offers insight into some of the most crucial issues that converge amidst matters of ecology, economics and the spirit, offering practical solutions accessible to individuals, small groups and the church. I highly recommend it to all, and consider it to be one of the prime resources of its kind available.
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on February 13, 2016
"Tending to Eden: Environment Stewardship" is an excellent read. The author has experience overseas and education on the environment and the poor. It is an interesting and inspirational read! Would recommend it to anyone!
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on March 8, 2010
In Tending to Eden Scott Sabin presents a compelling primer covering the insights and experience he has acquired during his eighteen years at Plant With Purpose. Sabin tells us why "in many ways rural poverty is worse than urban poverty" and how--in a vicious cycle--deforestation and poverty are inextricably linked.

In response Sabin sets forth a comprehensive, long-term approach, starting with reforestation (leading to soil stabilization and cleaner water), proceeding through sustainable agriculture, community development, and micro-loans, all of which is centered around our right relationship with God. In this way the vicious cycle is transformed into a virtuous and victorious cycle. He points out that many well-intentioned gifts of the American church address only the symptoms of poverty and quickly fail. They illustrate the devastating effects of unintended consequences: "We bring used clothes that put local tailors out of business and give away free food that undercuts the local farmers."

Tending to Eden is an inspiring and important book, theologically based and also candid and eminently practical. Sabin writes with great clarity, passion, respect, and humility. All in all, the book puts forth the challenge to us of the Creole proverb, "God says to you: do your part, I'll do My part."
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on November 14, 2010
Environmentalism and Christianity do have some crossover. "Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God's People" discusses being an environmental steward as well as a Christian. Many Christian leaders chime in throughout the book on their own experiences of blending faith and helping the environment and give readers powerful message. "Tending to Eden" is a fine collection, and is highly recommended.
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