Dear Umbra,

My class also wants to give a greener gift when we graduate in 2008. We are starting to plan, and though your suggestion of solar power is awesome and very true, that will not be possible at my Seventh-Day Adventist school. We did not receive permission to do anything like that. Is there anything else that we might do to inspire our campus to become green?

Heather Pfeifle
Berrien Springs, Mich.

Dearest Heather,

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I’m torn. Normally I don’t like getting long letters, because of my wee brain becoming overwhelmed, but in this case it would be helpful to know what kind of permissions you do have. Undaunted, I wade into the brevity with mad assumptions about your school.

When it comes to creation, there are
lots of good books.

Photo: iStockphoto

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I did give other, non-solar suggestions in my previous graduating gift column, and unless they are also “anything like that,” they still stand. But my new single-minded idea is for your class to establish a Care of Creation and Environmentalism section of the school library.

Maybe you read the special series on religion and the environment in Grist last fall, but let’s refresh for others who were napping.

Evangelical Christians — including Seventh-Day Adventists, if I understand correctly — believe that God entrusted humans with care of the Earth and all its creatures (see: Bible). This care has not historically been the first priority of the evangelical movement, but some evangelicals are now focused upon this entrustment and refer to their duty as Care of Creation or Creation Care. Care of Creation proponents range from interfaith nonprofits to highly credentialed, conservative Christian activists. It’s not called environmentalism, usually, but Care of Creation does share ideals with the environmental movement — e.g., let’s not treat the planet like a disposable tissue.

The Care of Creation people/movement/community/ists belong to an established activist and intellectual movement. There is a growing body of literature, periodicals, and film that belongs in your school library, where young Seventh-Day Adventists who are interested in environmental issues can read, view, research, etc. I propose that your class gather funds to purchase books, periodical subscriptions, and videos, write a pamphlet with a compilation of web pages, and establish a collection in the library. You could name the collection after someone appropriate, such as a favorite teacher or an admired public figure. This would be a great green legacy for the school.

If you do get permission for something like this, finding the materials for the collection is the next puzzle. The internet is an obvious aide; looking at the organizations and people in the Grist series will get you started, as will punching “care of creation” into a search engine. The Evangelical Environmental Network has suggested reading materials, and would probably be very happy to offer in-person help. Perhaps you have a congregation, principal, parent, or pastor interested in these issues who can help. You should also be able to find reading lists for courses that combine religion and environmentalism online, so keep an eye out for those. For secular environmental classics, see the piece about books I wrote a while ago. Many people wrote in to add their own suggestions, so now there is a substantial reading list. Good luck.