There are plenty of practical reasons to be concerned about the environment and unchecked growth.
Sprawl leads to higher taxes. A drained aquifer could lead to water rationing and higher costs. Pollution affects all manner of living things, from plants to humans.
Still, those reasons aren't enough for everyone.
So the Rev. Joel Hunter offers people of Christian faith another reason to care for our natural resources — because God commands it.
"It was our first commandment when we were placed down here: Take care of the garden." Hunter said. "Really, it's a matter of obedience."
The Biblical examples go beyond Genesis.
Job reminds us that all creatures are God's creation. Jeremiah warns of "defiling" the land. Psalms talks of caring for creatures to "renew the face of the earth."
Revelation goes so far as to warn of judgment for "those who destroy the earth."
These words are not vague.
They are a clear mandate for what Hunter calls "creation care."
That mandate is why Hunter — a nationally known and respected pastor who presides over the 15,000-member Northland, A Church Distributed in Longwood — has decided to get more involved.
This month, Hunter agreed to team up with former Gov. Bob Graham as part of a broad and growing coalition of Floridians who are concerned about the continuing attacks on the environment and the laws that protect it.
"I want to be associated with people who have solid thinking and public service — and are willing to reach across party lines," said the man who has prayed with both George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
That bipartisan outreach is a primary goal of Graham's newly formed Florida Conservation Coalition.
In the broadest sense, the group hopes to speak up for the environment — to remind lawmakers that natural resources aren't unlimited and that there are consequences for running roughshod over the land.
In a more immediate and specific sense, though, the group is less ambitious.
"Our first goal is to stop the bleeding," Graham said. "We need a tourniquet."
The last legislative session was widely viewed as the most damaging assault on the environment and growth regulations in decades.
The state did everything from close water-quality offices to dismantle the state's growth-planning agency.
Land-preservation programs were gutted. The Everglades restoration was slowed.
Audubon of Florida described the final product as "the most anti-environment budget this state has ever seen."
And yet the collective response from the Legislature and governor was a big: "So what?"
Well, we're now seeing what.
As a recent series in the Sentinel showed, water is such a concern in this state that private and government agencies are now fighting over it.
Pollution is going unchecked. Spring levels are dropping. The costs of sprawl continue to mount.
Some of the most profound effects of recent changes — making it easier to build on sensitive lands or pollute waters, for instance — won't be felt for years or even decades.
"We're all familiar with the expression: 'If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,' " Hunter said. "Well, if you think it's expensive to take care of our environment, try not taking care of it."
Graham is convinced most Floridians are well aware of the value of protecting the land on which we live. He's seen it in surveys and even green mandates that Floridians have voted into to the state constitution.
"What we need," Graham said, "is for the Legislature to be as aware as the people of Florida."
One of the problems, though, is that development interests have launched an in increasingly successful campaign to demonize people who care about the environment.
Those who speak up for protecting natural resources are blasted as small-minded and obstacles to prosperity.
I have trouble seeing Rev. Hunter as either of those things.
In fact, Hunter's quite convinced that prosperity can happen only when the earth is properly cared for.
And while Hunter doesn't point fingers, he also said one other thing that politicians who tout their commitment to Christ and God on the campaign trail might do well to remember: "You can always tell what you think of the giver by how well you take care of his gifts."
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