Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty

Scott SabinScott Sabin  “messed up”.

Yep. I think he should have titled his new book “Thinking UpStream: Fighting The Causes Of Poverty” instead of “Tending to Eden: Environmental Stewardship for God’s People.

Why? Because Scott’s book isn’t just about being good stewards of God’s creation – it is a book geared towards getting past the symptoms of rural poverty and focusing on the root causes. It is a fantastic book showing the holistic nature of poverty and all the factors attributing to it.

For example, farmers in Haiti can no longer grow crops on their land due to the land being depleted, which leads them to cutting down trees to make charcoal to sell in town. The removal of the trees weakens the soil, leading to erosion that further destroys the land which washes downstream to the ocean, where it becomes a ‘hazard to fisheries and coral reefs.’

Meanwhile, the deforestation of the area leads to a decrease in rainfall and changes in precipitation – not to mention the fact that if there are no trees, then the water in the ground cannot get filtered properly, leading to polluted drinking water. Polluted water in turn causes sickness and disease which places more pressure on the farmer to find some kind of income in order to buy food and medicine for his family. Putting us right back to the beginning of the cycle.

The crazy part is that these farmers know what they are doing. They know that by cutting down the trees they are causing long term problems. But they also have a proverb, “Either this tree must die, or I must die in its place” (Haitian proverb).

In an effort to break the cycle, Scott and Plant With Purpose (the organization he leads) focus on repairing five different relationships:

“To heal humanity’s relationship with creation, Plant With Purpose encourages reforestation and sustainable agriculture. Providing economic opportunities by encouraging local enterprise creation addresses the relationships between people, as it levels the playing field for the disadvantaged and helps families stay together. Discipleship focuses on our relationship with God. By helping others follow Jesus and obey his commandments, thus fulfilling the Great Commission, we help to create a foundation upon which future development can be built.”

In a nutshell, if you are interested in thinking upstream and seeing how rural poverty can be stopped, then I would recommend reading Scott’s book Tending To Eden.”  Then I would pick up Jayakumar Christian’s “God of the Empty-Handed: Poverty, Power and the Kingdom of God.” Read those two books and you will have a good foundation.

After that – well, go DO something.

  • Go help those in your community that need help (i.e. food banks, homeless shelters, community gardens, etc).
  • Support those who are both sharing God’s message of hope and thinking upstream (i.e. Plant With Purpose or other such groups).
  • Be radical and change your lifestyle from a consumer driven one to a more sustainable one (i.e. buy less, use less, be happier)

And above all, pray. Pray for those in need and for those working along side them. Pray for His rule and reign to come on earth as it is in heaven.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Please note that I received this book free of cost from Plant With Purpose.  I was not required to write a positive review – meaning that all opinions expressed are my own and where not influenced by Plant With Purpose or Scott Sabin. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”