The sabbath and jubilee laws of the Hebrew tradition remind us that we may not press creation relentlessly in an effort to maximize productivity (Exod 20:8-11; Lev 25). The principle of sustainability means providing an acceptable quality of life for present generations without compromising that of future generations.
Protection of species and their habitats, preservation of clean land and water, reduction of wastes, care of the land–these are priorities. But production of basic goods and services, equitable distribution, accessible markets, stabilization of population, quality education, full employment–these are priorities as well.
We recognize the obstacles to sustainability. Neither economic growth that ignores environmental cost nor conservation of nature that ignores human cost is sustainable. Both will result in injustice and, eventually, environmental degradation. We know that a healthy economy can exist only within a healthy environment, but that it is difficult to promote both in our decisions.
The principle of sustainability summons our church, in its global work with poor people, to pursue sustainable development strategies. It summons our church to support U.S. farmers who are turning to sustainable methods, and to encourage industries to produce sustainably. It summons each of us, in every aspect of our lives, to behave in ways that are consistent with the long-term sustainability of our planet.
We pray, therefore, for the creativity and dedication to live more gently with the earth.
from the ELCA Social Statement on Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice