02/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Save the Environment, Save People

When people share their stories of brokenness with me, there are usually one of two events that led them down this path. Either someone did something harmful to them (such as physical, mental or sexual abuse) or they made poor decisions that left a destructive wake around their friends and family. While we sometimes like to think that our decisions have little or no impact on others, the stories of people I know bear a different tale.

In exploring the issues surrounding the environment and human injustices, I've discovered just how connected our global world truly is. However insulated we might be from the consequences of our decisions, as a nation we can no longer continue on with business as usual, particularly when it comes to the environment--that is if we have a heart. If we truly are a nation that cares about the rest of this world, we must weigh the consequences of our actions.

As a pastor, I know that the wake of these decisions breaks the heart of God. Those images of brokenness are what drive me to rally the church to care about these issues beyond simple awareness. Knowing these poor decisions are occurring every minute due to a selfish society is the first step; getting people to change their behavior and take action is paramount if we ever intend to make a difference.

When I learned about how a lack of clean water for many in developing nations made women and children in these areas prime targets for human trafficking, I was horrified. A mother sends her 12-year-old daughter to fetch clean water at a well two miles away. Kidnappers hide in the bushes and take her away to be sold to traffickers. The mother will probably never see her daughter again--and this story is played out hundreds of times over.

That scenario is rather benign compared to poor families who sell their kids to traffickers posing as someone promising a great job in a foreign country. These families need food or shelter, and it's the only means by which they know how to get them.

A declining environment has created an unsustainable society whereby millions of people have become desperate--and desperate people do desperate things, like selling their children to traffickers for money or sending their young ones alone to fetch fresh water miles away because they have no other way.

We must awaken to the reality that the lifestyles we have constructed in this country have far-reaching implications on the poor and the helpless around the world. How we got here or who's to blame is irrelevant at this point. Each one of us must take a look at ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves if we're going to be part of the solution or exacerbate the problem.

Many of the poor around the world are becoming victims of a society that either doesn't care about them or relishes the opportunity to make gains at their expense. Their stories of broken lives are less about their poor decisions and more about the environment into which they've been thrust, a physical environment that has been abused and exploited by others.

The environmental crisis facing our world today has become an issue of social justice. Everyone should have access to clean water--and it shouldn't come at the risk of having your children whisked away into the dark world of human trafficking. I hope that everyone in our country--especially the church in America--is willing to make sacrifices in taking an active role to relieve suffering caused by environmental decline. Whether it be by physically helping the poor on relief and aid trips or by changing the way one lives to shrink his or her environmental impact, we must be diligent to make the type of decisions that better all of society and create a more sustainable world.

Tri Robinson is the pastor of the Vineyard Boise Church in Boise, ID, and author of Saving God's Green Earth and Small Footprint, Big Handprint. He lives on a homestead that is almost fully sustainable and blogs about his adventures there at