Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Earth Stewardship in Norway, Part 1: All His

Editor’s Note: When we asked for ideas for the blog on Facebook, Joanna Bjerga reminded us that “not all of us are in the US” and asked if there could be an international perspective. So we naturally asked her to write something. And she graciously agreed! Here’s the first of two posts from Joanna, an LDS Earth Stewardship member from southwest Norway. Part 2 is here.

Each January I choose one little word. It wasn’t my idea, but it has stuck. Over the years I have had a variety of words: Peace. Selfless. Today. Breathe. You get the idea. My one little word is supposed to help me focus on an area of my life that needs improving, or to remind me of what I want my focus to be. This year my one little word is His.

It is meant to be a reminder that quite literally everything under the sun is His.

The earth He created. Every living creature. Even me. All His.

Knowing it is one thing. Creating a life that reflects that knowledge in every aspect is a very different story.

My one little word may be “new” to 2015, but my love and concern for God’s creations go back as far as I can remember.

I was born in Nigeria but raised in Europe (England, Switzerland, and Norway)—and I believe my lack of geographical roots has instilled in me a deep sense of belonging, not to any particular country, but to the planet earth itself. Borders and nationalities are, after all, human inventions.


The view in Bjergøy, Rogaland. Photo by Joanna Bjerga.

The southwest coast of Norway is the place I now call home. Land of fjords and mountains, Aurora Borealis and the midnight sun. Of clean water, fresh air, and pristine national parks. We joke that when God had created the west coast of Norway, he looked down on it said: “This is so beautiful! I’m going to wash it every day!” (We get a lot of rain, which is also why it is so green.) But Norway is also one of the countries in the world whose economy is not only lubricated by oil and gas, but almost completely dependent on it. Still, Norwegians in general, myself included, like to think of ourselves as environmentally conscious. (And I even work in the oil industry. . .)

It was one of our previous prime ministers, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who coined the phrase “sustainable development” in 1987, in the United Nations’ “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future.” The definition Brundtland gave is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

On the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) website we read:

All definitions of sustainable development require that we see the world as a system—a system that connects space; and a system that connects time.

When you think of the world as a system over space, you grow to understand that air pollution from North America affects air quality in Asia, and that pesticides sprayed in Argentina could harm fish stocks off the coast of Australia.

And when you think of the world as a system over time, you start to realize that the decisions our grandparents made about how to farm the land continue to affect agricultural practice today; and the economic policies we endorse today will have an impact on urban poverty when our children are adults.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious at the immensity and complexity of the global environmental issues we are facing. It would be a perfectly natural reaction to bury our heads in the sand, ostrich-like. And many do. But as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a particular responsibility to face the facts, and act. Quite simply because we know better.

The final verse in the Old Testament is usually used in the context of family history: “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” I like to think it also applies to our earth stewardship. Are our hearts turned to the future generations, and are we doing all we can to leave them with a planet that is still viable? I strongly believe that our final accountability will include how we took care of the planet with we were entrusted, which we have been commanded “to dress . . . and to keep” (Moses 3:15).

With our knowledge of the creation and the plan of salvation, we should be the most passionate and vigilant people on earth in our efforts to preserve and conserve. Not just because we know, but because we have a deep desire to show our infinite gratitude to Him who “made all things; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). All His.


  • Søren Simonsen says:

    Tusen takk or vel sagt Joanna.

  • Søren Simonsen says:

    I grew up in central Texas, and was raised in a home with a mother, particularly, who distilled in me values of conservation—she recycled long before it was popular, I walked and rode my bike far more than she drove me around, and I was taught to turn off the lights and the faucets. These were practical ways to use resources wisely. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is not so different in principle than “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

    It was, perhaps more than any other, my two years of living in Norway as a missionary, being in a place of incredible and diverse beauty, and among a people, as Joanna says, who share a certain environmental ethic across the political spectrum, that truly inspired me to care for His creation.

    Thank you for the wonderful reminder Joanna.

  • PeterA says:

    Thank you so much for your observations from Norway, and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I’m especially struck by your suggestion that your itinerant life is instilled in you a sense of belonging to the planet, rather than to any particular place. That’s a provocative idea, and I’ll have to give it some thought.