Half an hour into initial greetings and talk about an upcoming concert they mentioned the development of a Tallahassee plot of land. Apparently some developers scraped over some beautiful rolling hills and plucked a few pines from the earth for a new apartment complex. Then, one of the men said, “We pave paradise to put up a parking lot,” (a reference to an old Joni Mitchell song titled “Big Yellow Taxi”) and that initiated a conversation about what it means to be a good steward. In our book Wise as Serpents Mark and I make reference to the same Joni Mitchell song,
DDT and the spread of malariaThe World Health Organization estimates that over 1 million people die from malaria every year. Most of these deaths occur in Africa among children under the age of 5. What we know is that there exists a relatively safe chemical that is highly effective in malaria control. That chemical is DDT, and it disappeared from the world over several years in the 1970s due to environmental concerns, primarily related to raptor birds.Hey farmer farmerPut away that DDT nowGive me spots on my applesBut leave me the birds and the beesPlease!
------------Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow TaxiOnly in the past few years has a principled debate begun over whether the initial environmental concerns were correct or overstated, whether other anti-mosquito strategies such as netting will or will not be equally effective, and whether there might be some compromise level of use that will balance environmental concerns with the potential reduction in deaths. This is the direction taken by the World Health Organization which has approved limited DDT spraying for indoor use.
The point of this example is not to settle the question of DDT control and malaria, although there is no doubt that the opportunity cost is not simply birds and bees but human lives. Rather we wish to point out that as missional Christians become more involved and more intensely involved in local and international humanitarian activities the stakes involved grow beyond those that might be encountered in the familiar one week congregational youth group mission trip. Missional Christians may find themselves sitting at a table with the representatives of the local health
organization, the head of the agricultural producers export committee, the local
representative of a environmental organization, all saying a different version
of “OK, here it is, your choice, it’s them or us”