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  • Writer's pictureTom Mohr

Rising Leader Series: Week 35 - Social Sustainability

Updated: Feb 25, 2023


Forgive– I know not what starving children feel

Nor mother, water vanishing from well

Nor father, as crops fail– sheep die– death steals

Nor tribe nor nation caught up in such hell

Nor fully understand the hard transition

That workers by the millions must traverse

as, in a blink, built skills are decommissioned

And the need to start anew nags like curse

I can’t conceive, because I’m born to privilege

Its grease has ever smoothed an uphill ride

Yes or no: will I return advantage?

Heaven awaits upon me to decide.

Yes, my God, Yes: please transform what you gave

Into gifts returned, with love, so to save

Rising Leader,

Last week, I wrote that humanity’s survival depends on creating a sustainable global economy. We need you, good leader, to construct your nation’s economy in such a way that it promotes the healing of our planet-- God's creation and gift. To make the necessary difference, we must do so for every nation, every economy on Earth. But as important as this is, it is not enough. As we execute this sustainable-economy shift, God challenges us to figure out how to bring everyone along.

Rich countries such as ours have historically been the biggest polluters. Today, as standards of living rise around the globe, planet degradation is metastasizing. Just consider the planetary impact of China’s and India’s modernization, each with 1.4 billion citizens on the rise. Affluence is growing, and affluence pollutes.

And yet here’s the sad irony: affluence creates poverty. Whole communities are made poor by the decline of fisheries, rising seas and rising temperatures. And so when an impoverished mother needs to keep her family warm, she chops the last tree down because it is her only available source of fuel. When an impoverished father needs to buy grain to feed the family, he kills the elephant because an elephant tusk fetches good money. Affluence, poverty and planetary degradation go hand in hand in hand.

God willing, soon– over the next decade– the entire world will adopt sustainable economic structures. As sustainability begins to be built into every economy on Earth, the lives of millions will be disrupted. What will happen to the coal miners and oilfield roustabouts and gas station owners and their families when we finally transition away from fossil fuels? Whole sectors of our economy will be taken out of service; new ones will arise. Peoples’ lives will be upended. And so, good leader, it is not enough to create economic sustainability. We must build the infrastructure and support systems to create social sustainability.

This is a human challenge. Every human being is of equal worth and dignity. This is God’s worldview; it should be ours. First-world nations are called to partner with leaders of goodness within third-world and second-world nations, so as to co-create sustainable emerging economies. First-world nations have polluted the most; we must also offer remediation and support to those third-world nations that will bear the brunt of rising seas and rising temperatures.

Leaders throughout the world will need to mobilize retraining programs for workers, on a massive scale. What job options does an out-of-work coal miner have? This is not just the miner’s problem; it’s a problem we all own. That’s what it means to expand our circles of care. If impacted families are to traverse the space between “from” and “to”, they will need both our financial and our emotional support.

None of this is easy. Where will the money come from? How will we ever achieve the political will to spend so much to help disadvantaged countries sustainably develop? How does it square with our need to rein in the national debt? No, it won’t be easy. That’s why we need a new generation of capable, ethical leaders to rise. Good leader, perhaps you are the one called to this noble task. It’s not a job for just anyone; it requires great moral clarity. For if we are to heal our planet and achieve a sustainable world, we will need leaders who can bring the whole human family together. Each of us must help each other along the way.

In this work, we serve the marginalized and dislocated. So it has always been: God’s continuous call is to widen our circles of care; to reach out to those most in need. What would Jesus do? He would go to the need. His path was the descending path. He sought out the poorest of the poor: the widow; the orphan; the sick; the marginalized. He taught his disciples that to love the least is to love Him. Just so, He calls out to you now. Will you go?

Next week, my letter to you will explore leadership within the church.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”-- Matthew 25: 31-40

May you raise the torch of your goodness high, good leader, so all can see the light of your love.


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