Finding ways to reduce our consumption,reuse items, and recycle are practical ways in which each of us can care for the environment. As a bonus, these simple measures will often help trim household expenses.
Waste reduction starts when you’re shopping. If you regularly throw away spoiled or out-of-date food, you’re buying too much. The same applies to the meals you prepare. If you often throw away leftovers, cook less.
Avoid buying items that you expect to use onlya few times. Rent or borrow instead, when possible.
As I was growing up,my parents taught me good habits such as conserving electricity and water, not being wasteful with food, and finding new uses for items that had outlived their original purposes. Our family didn’t have a lot of money, so taking good care of the things we did have was a logical, practical choice. It never occurred to me to equate these practices with environmentalism.
As a teen, mostly through my love of reading the newspaper, I sometimes became aware of environmental issues, but usually only when activists did something extreme to draw attention to their cause or to “right a wrong”—theft, arson, violent demonstration, and so on. To my teenage mind, those issues seemed far less important than the wars, crimes, and other violence being reported on those same pages. Asa result, I associated environmentalism with only the more radical elements, and the term “environmentalist” with those who engaged in bizarre vigilante activities. I continued with the commonsense practices I’d learned as a child, but still didn’t connect this with taking personal responsibility for protecting our environment.
Sustaining the environment has become a serious concern of nearly every nation,and debates on how to best achieve this are continuous and often contentious. Overwhelmed by the complexity of the issue, most of us look to scientists and others with more knowledge and resources to find solutions.
Abdul Kareem is one man who hasn’t waited on anybody else. If you were to visit him at his home in southern India, you would see acresof rich forest with abundant wildlife. In a part of the world where water is often in short supply, his land and the villages around it have no such problem. But it hasn’t always been that way. Twenty-five years ago, the area was a series of dry, rocky, lifeless hills.
The Bible tells us that when He had finished creating the heavens and the earth, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”1 Then God appointed humanity to care for His creation and to manage its resources, not as owners, but as stewards. “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.”2
But when God looks at His creation today, I’m pretty sure He is far less pleased than He was in the beginning. Much of the world is still beautiful and functioning the way He intended, but parts have greatly deteriorated. Natural forces have taken their toll, but we humans have also played a part. Many of the earth’s ecosystems are failing, animal and plant species are becoming extinct, and resources are being depleted—and it is largely because of humanity’s failure to live up to our commission to “tend and watch over” what has been entrusted to our care.
I can still remember the first time I discovered what a few minutes in God’s creation can do. I was in grade school and was frantically searching for a misplaced workbook that I needed for class the next day. The more I searched, the more confused and frustrated I became. I was exasperated and on the verge of tears when my mom came into the room. Seeing my dilemma, she suggested I go outside for some fresh air and sunshine. “Perhaps it will give you new energy and refresh your mind,” she said.
Month by month, season by season, the view from my window is constantly changing.
In January the trees are bare and the grass is faded, stubbly, brown.
In March there is evidence of new life. Tiny buds have appeared on branches. Flowers struggle to poke through rain-sodden soil still tinged with early morning frost. Birds have returned and are busy searching for food and building nests. The distant hillside has a faint green tint—new grass growing through last year’s brown remains.
The issue of climate change is a charged one, but also one that can’t be ignored. We can debate the causes and culprits till the cows come home, but the fact remains that this planet is our collective home for now, and we each share in the responsibility for it.
I’ve read articles by several Christian writers who have, I think, taken a sensible and scriptural approach: God has appointed us stewards over His creation, and it is our responsibility to care for it and manage its resources.1 On the other side, I have read what I think is an irresponsible approach, based on a skewed application of certain other Bible passages. It goes like this: Earth’s surface and atmosphere will one day be destroyed in a global conflagration, and God will create a new and better world on the remains of the old,2 so it doesn’t much matter what we do to it now; it’s all going to burn up anyway. Why bother ourselves with trying to preserve it if God has other plans?