STEWARDSHIP OF THE EARTH
“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
According to the Scriptures, the land given to our first parents was pure, suitable, pleasant and perfect. It also tells us that he gave him the responsibility of taking care of it as we read in Gen 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”.
As the United Nations celebrates INTERNATIONAL MOTHER EARTH DAY on 22nd April let us reflect on how we can fulfill our role as stewards of the earth.
Down through the ages, in our quest for amassing wealth we have been exploiting the land and its natural resources, leaving it impoverished and giving no thought to future generations. In fact recent research has shown that we have sent so much clutter into space that the risk of colliding with high-flying debris has endangered space exploration. This shows that man is not satisfied just polluting the earth but has even gone after the heavens!
Be that as it may, let us turn our immediate attention towards the pollution occurring right here on earth. When talking about pollution - its causes, its effects, and how to control it, a brief understanding of global warming, ozone layer, acid rains, and ecology destruction would be advantageous as it would facilitate effectiveness in working towards a solution.
Global warming: The drastic increase in the emission of carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels – coal, gas, petrol, and diesel has been identified as the major reason for the change of temperature in the atmosphere.
Ozone layer: The ozone layer prevents excessive and harmful Ultra Violet rays from the sun from entering the earth. Without this protective layer, the UV rays can damage plants and animals and also cause skin cancer, cataracts, and damage to DNA. In fact existence of life on earth is possible only because of the presence of the ozone layer around the earth. The thinning of the ozone layer is primarily caused when the amount of gases that contain chlorine begins to increase in the environment.
Acid Rain: It is a rain that is unusually acidic. It can have harmful effects on plants, aquatic animals and infrastructure. It is caused by pollution in the air, acid gases from factories, cars and homes. It is also dangerous for every living creature.
Ecology Destruction: Forests are being cleared to create land for housing and industrialization, for timber, and fuel. This has resulted in large scale deforestation. This affects nature as it results in soil erosion and also causes the earth’s temperature to rise.
Plastic being non-biodegradable, items made of it, when disposed off carelessly will affect ecology adversely.
We may not be directly responsible for the above nor are we, in our individual capacity, able to achieve much in this area but we can do our part by putting into practice the following steps:
Reducing: (Buying and consuming less)
We are living in an age of obsessive consumption and seductive materialism. In simple terms it means “I must have everything I set my eyes on”. Attractive offers could lead one to purchase more thereby either resulting in buying unnecessary things or wastage or excessive consumption in case of edible items.
The “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality leads us to buy unnecessary things.
Avoiding wasteful use of electricity would certainly ease the pressure on producing it thus reducing the cause of pollution.
Switching to carpooling or using public transport would bring down the number of cars on the roads thereby reducing pollution caused by burning of petrol, diesel or gas. This would also help in decongestion of traffic thus saving time.
These create a false and unwarranted demand which is an incentive for manufacturers to produce more hence putting undue pressure on the resources.
Reducing on our own needs have many advantages:
1) Exerts less pressure created by false and unwarranted demands.
2) We will have a surplus which can be used for the good of mankind.
3) We will not be guilty of wasteful consumption.
Thus we will be living in line with what St Paul tells us in Phil 2:4 “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”.
Reusing: (Repairing instead of replacing)
We know plastic is not biodegradable hence when plastic bags when carelessly disposed they cause blocks in sewage thereby resulting in floods. The good news however is that plastic bags are now being reused to a large extent since they are charged for.
Scriptures also teach us to share things with our unfortunate brothers and sisters (Gal 6:10, Luke 3:11). Along with that we would do well to give away things no longer in use. This must be done while the same are in a usable condition. This will reduce the demand on production and thereby ease pressure on the resources. In both cases we will not be guilty of the sin of omission spelt out by John the Baptist in Luke 3:11, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
Recycling: (Waste not - want not)
A proper disposal of garbage will ensure a clean and healthy surrounding which results in good health. This also helps in recycling the waste such as paper, tins, and glass-items. New food waste recycling methods are being introduced in some countries. Garden waste can be used for creating manure. We would do well to co-operate with municipal authorities, councils or bodies in the proper disposal of garbage. In some countries garbage is collected as ‘dry waste’ and ‘wet waste’ while in other countries different coloured bins are provided for collecting different types of waste. Jesus demonstrates this in the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted."(John 6:12)
By co-operating with the recycling authorities we obey God’s word by not wasting any of His lovingly and thoughtfully provided resources.
Repent: (with repentance comes mercy & healing of the land)
According to Genesis 3, God has cursed the land due to the sin of disobedience but He also promised to heal the land if the people repented of their sins and wrong doings, as we read in 2 Chron 7:14 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land”.
St Padre Pio said “If sin were converted into matter it would form a cloud so thick that it would prevent sunlight from reaching the earth.” So let us therefore repent of the sins of covetousness, selfishness, pride, wastefulness, greed, and amassing wealth which are some of the causes of the crisis we are in.
The challenges before us are:
Can we as individuals with limited reach and influence do anything about this global issue or shall we leave it to the nation-heads and policy makers alone to handle it?
The words of our present Pope Francis who has established a reputation as an outstanding advocate for the environment and Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General provides the answers which are self-explanatory:
“Our Earth needs constant concern and attention. Each of us has a personal responsibility to care for creation, this precious gift which God has entrusted to us.” – Pope Francis
"But the big decisions that lie ahead are not just for world leaders and policy-makers. Today, on Mother Earth Day, I ask each one of us to be mindful of the impacts our choices have on this planet, and what those impacts will mean for future generations." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Do we as Christians have a responsibility in this matter? Should religion be concerned about this?
Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God's ownership of all. We conclude this from the following self explanatory scriptures:
Ownership of God - Deu 10:14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
Stewardship of man - Gen 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it & take care of it.
To look after the Earth, and thus God's dominion, is the responsibility of the Christian steward. Our stewardship of the beautiful world God gave us, and our care for the people in it, express our reverence for God.
While it is our God given responsibility, to nurture and preserve the environment, every action first begins with a thought in that direction. We can only find answers when we begin to ask ourselves, “What can I do to nurture and preserve the environment?”