Integrated Solar Cooking: An Underutilized Solution

By Arveson, Paul | Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Integrated Solar Cooking: An Underutilized Solution


Arveson, Paul, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith


In 1970, Francis Schaeffer published a paperback with the depressing title, Pollution and the Death of Man. (1) Although Schaeffer is widely known among evangelical Christians, this is not one of his more widely known books. It was one of the first books by an evangelical on the subject of "ecology" (actually, environmental ethics or what today is often called "creation care"). In it, Schaeffer recognized the serious problems of environmental damage in modern life, which cry out for solutions that can harness our Christian zeal in order to reduce pollution and rescue the environment. I was reminded of Schaeffer's book while reading Jack Swearengen's comprehensive book, Beyond Paradise: Technology and the Kingdom of God. (2) Schaeffer challenged the church to act as a "pilot plant," to set an example of environmental stewardship to the world. Stewardship should inspire Christians to practical action, both locally and glob ally, (3) and it should lead them away from eschatological fatalism. (4)

The Challenge of Environmental Stewardship

It is not just about us. As Americans, our thinking about creation care naturally tends to focus on issues close at hand. We consider the fuel economy of cars and the cost of utilities for our homes. We worry about contamination of our food, excessive use of pesticides, and the reliability of electric power for our freezers and computers. These are the problems of a developed country. Mean while, there are billions of people around the world who live in comparative poverty. They are vulnerable to their environment in many ways, they suffer greatly, and we live alongside them on the same planet. This is an area in which scientists and technologists can intervene to offer innovative and appropriate solutions-especially when motivated by an ethic of other-centered Christian compassion. (5) But to be appropriate, interventions need to be carefully considered from the bottom-up viewpoint of the recipient. Thus, a first step in planning aid pro grams is to visualize in some detail the actual situation of the person in need. Constructing scenarios of people different from ourselves may lead to a better understanding of their needs. Such a scenario is pro vided in the example below, based on a compilation of field data.

A Day in the Life of Sarah

Sarah lives in a very sunny and warm part of the world. She lives with her husband in a stick-and board house in a small village. It has a bedroom and a kitchen. They grow enough food to subsist, including beans, squash, and tomatoes, and Sarah trades some of these for corn and meat at the village market place. The family has to drink water from a muddy creek, because they often cannot afford to buy water from the tank truck that occasionally comes through the village. Sarah cooks in the traditional way. She moves three large stones together, then lights a fire in a pile of sticks and sets a pot over it. Sarah and her children are always coughing due to cooking smoke from burning sticks and dried dung. One of her children died of a lung disease last year.

Sarah's husband works in a field all day. For this, Sarah is grateful; many men have either left their wives or spend the day drinking and hanging out. They have four children. The older children stay around home and play; they cannot afford to buy the uniforms required to go to school.

Sarah gets up about 5:00 a.m. and lights a fire of sticks. She boils some water and makes hot cereal for breakfast. Sarah also makes a lunch for her husband to bring to the fields. Next she feeds her children, and then herself. After cleaning up, Sarah gathers clothes that need cleaning and walks to the creek to wash them, with one child strapped to her back and escorting a toddler. She brings home the wash and hangs it up to dry in the hot sun.

Her children help in gathering sticks for firewood. They sometimes have to walk several miles to find sufficient wood, and then they must carry the load back on their heads. …

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Integrated Solar Cooking: An Underutilized Solution
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