JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Psalm 24:1. Colossians 1:16. Genesis 2. These are just some of the verses that the Rev. Mitch Hescox, the president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, refers to when he says that the Bible has an ecological message. He argues that Numbers and Leviticus from the Old Testament have some of the first sustainability measures ever written. And he believes that because the Earth belongs to God, then man must care for it.
“The idea that we’re supposed to care for something that doesn’t belong to us is really rooted in Christian scripture,” Hescox says. “We have a commandment to care for the Earth, to be stewards of it, and there’s no ifs, ands or buts to do that.”
That’s why Hescox and his organization have teamed up with Renew Missouri to push for policies that will increase sustainable energy, reduce pollution and bridge the gap between conservatives and liberals on environmental policy.
Hescox, a lifelong conservative Republican, acknowledges that the fight for the environment usually comes from left-leaning organizations and groups, but he insists his conservative ideals compel him to action. He visited the Missouri Capitol Thursday to deliver letters to Gov. Jay Nixon, House Speaker Todd Richardson and Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard signed by nearly 20,000 pro-life advocates that also support a healthier and cleaner environment.
The pro-life angle is important, Hescox says, because environmental abuse results in health issues that affect children more than adults. China, with its urban areas that sometimes swim in smog and pollution, has provided perhaps the starkest example of that reality, but Hescox says that problems like that occur in Missouri as well. Counties fail to meet standards for ozone pollution. Mercury levels in Missouri’s freshwater streams and lakes are sometimes too high for regular consumption of the fish that live in them, especially for pregnant mothers.
Thus, stopping pollution is a way of helping the unborn, infants and children live healthily.
“Millions of children already suffer asthma,” he says. “We know that air pollution causes birth defects and pre-term births, all things that Christians are concerned about.”
The attitude is not one that anyone would expect to hear from a man born and raised in coal country and a 14-year veteran of the coal industry. However, he says growing up among the blasted out mountains and hills of slag in Southern Pennsylvania exposed him that kind of thinking.
“The older that I got at recognizing that the orange and purple puddles that I played in as a kid that were filled with malformed tadpoles, I started to think this wasn’t right,” he says.
So for nearly two decades, much of Hescox’s ministry has contained the message of caring for the environment, which works out well for Renew Missouri who feel that message can broaden their base of support.
“For whatever reason, we don’t always have the best communication with rural Missouri or with the evangelical community,” says Mark Walter, the deputy director of Renew Missouri who accompanied Hescox to deliver the letters. “So sometimes, it’s beneficial to work with people as great as Mitch and the Evangelical Environmental Network to advocate for these kinds of policies.”
While Hescox believes in conservative, market driven economics as well, he says that the market has to keep up with the times. Just as cars became more favorable than horses for transportation, new energy sources should eventually fade out the old even if keeping our current way of life is easier.
“All of us want to preserve what we have, but we’re moving past the fossil fuel era of dead fuels to living fuels and renewables,” he said.