You are one in a billion. This week the total population in the world passed the eight billion mark. Eight billion is a staggering number. The weight of the residents is heavy. The heaviness is not so much the physical weight but the weight in the form of hopes and dreams, pain and possibilities.
The Garden of Eden began with one human. Earth was fresh - succulent with plenty. But the planet was obviously too big for just one person. Its sheer size told it was made for many. Even if Adam wanted the earth all to himself, loneliness would kill him! Company was inevitable because humans are essentially social.
Earth’s systems are interdependent. Adam could not have got another Adam for company. Such a set up would not answer the question of how to fill a vast earth. Only a woman would provide that specialised kind of company that was needed at Eden. Eve thus solves two questions: the question of loneliness and that of emptiness. Eden anticipated all the eight billion of us.
When male and female were licensed to fill the earth, well, the plants and animals seemed to have overheard the Commandment too and obeyed! Interestingly, what was an instruction for humans was an instinct for the animals. People needed to eat which made work inevitable.
Earth is hard
Since Eden was home, tending it as compared to neglecting or abusing it was most sensible. The earth can be wild! As the saying goes “Earth is hard!” The human mind is wired to see how to tame the wild wind into a wind farm. Channel a raging river into irrigation sprinklers. Boil leaves and roots into medicine. Turn the hot sun into power systems.
The Genesis idea points to a life of converting nature into value. But we are no longer harnessing nature but are now harassing nature. This aims at capturing nature and making it a slave serving humankind. But to imagine the earth as passive and accepting to all forms of handlings is to be under-informed.
Wangari Mathai cautioned that “the earth is very unforgiving.” When nature is pushed to a corner, it generates harsh unforgettable lessons that bring sense back to a prodigal world. While the physical earth was made at Eden, the spiritual earth was firmed at Calvary. By coding love as the greatest commandment, Jesus was recreating the human spirit. By hailing love, Jesus was speaking to the violence that put him on the cross. “Forgive them” is both an expression of lifted punishment as well as a chance to begin again.
Jesus dismantled the cluster of people labeled enemies and released them as deserving love too. For a good life on earth, love is inevitable. For the earth to be of value it must rotate on the love axis. That the earth exists necessitates that love exist too.
Hate emissions puncture the very critical love layer, exposing the people and communities to deteriorations that can lead to extinction. The earth needs love to breathe. Increasing the love supply in the community must be part of the vision of the Kingdom of God. A critical part of salvation is understanding the inexhaustibility of divine love and the privilege of becoming its ambassador. Love must be the centre mission of the church.
But many harbour an open optimism that earth is tough and can handle and survive anything. As our mother, earth will find a way of nursing all of us. But this open optimism is beginning to get cloudy. There are signs that the milk in mother earth’s breasts is thinning and receding. Eight billion. Sauti Soul in their song Nerea say that Mungu akileta mtoto analeta sahani yake (every child born comes with their serving of food).
Rule of love is cardinal
We are eight billion with many holding empty plates because we have downplayed the place of love in life on earth. Mother earth is running tired. She is not as limitless and perpetually self-renewing as we would want to imagine. Eight billion is coming at a time when resources on the earth are not adding up. The finiteness of the earth is becoming increasingly visible.
The one resource that can renew all other resources is love. Love and greed are opposites. Greed ruins, love renews. Today’s 8-billion consists of billions suffering from love-illiteracy. They do not know love beyond love for themselves. Selfishness chokes the earth. Love emancipates the earth to bloom in full character. For the earth to host us well, the rule of love is cardinal.
To hate your fellow human is to distress the earth. The earth has to contend with a lot of toxicity. When people hate each other to the extent of spilling blood, the earth groans as it soaks in the blood. It retains that blood which, like the blood of Abel, cries out until humans value love in the full and deep sense of the word. The principle should be tending before taking. If you do not tend you will have nothing to take. Many do not understand the earth as their source. They only know it as their resource. This resource view escalates competition which blinds people from the motherhood of the earth.
Livelihood must be understood from the perspective of motherhood. Disconnecting the two short circuits the quality of life, making life “black outs” a common feature. Eight billion who do not know how to live with each other because we do not love one another. Eight billion who pride in divisions of nationality and undermine the unity in humanness. Eight billion who master the task of taking from the earth without taking care of the earth.
Yet this same earth carries round and round the sun eight billion hopes. Eight billion possibilities. Eight billion stories. Eight billion hearts. Whether we are eight billion strong or weak, love will tell.