A couple weeks ago at my church, we discussed the concept of “creation care,” which simply defined is the concept of taking care of the earth that God has created. One of the questions we discussed in small groups was how we can improve our own care for the earth in practical ways. We mentioned cutting down on the amount of disposable dishes we use (a tough one living in a college dorm), trying not to drive places unless absolutely necessary, and of course recycling the resources we do use.
As I continued my week, I started noticing more and more ways that I and those around me could try and improve the way we are treating the earth. Ranging from wasteful uses of paper towels to professors who insist on having us print out every assignment, I realized many of us are unaware how many resources we use up and how much waste we create. I began to wonder how much the average person impacts the earth with their own use of resources and found some rather startling facts. According to an article by MARCK Recycling called, “What If Everyone Stopped Recycling?” (http://www.marck.net/what-if-everyone-stopped-recycling/), the amount of waste the average person produces in just one day is 4.38 pounds. Considering there are over 7 billion people on earth, that amounts to over 31 billion pounds of waste—in just one day!
I decided to do the math for a whole year and the amount of waste the human population produces in just one year amounts to 11,388,000,000 pounds.
As my friend Lisa said when I told her this statistic: “That’s disgusting!”
And this is purely dealing with the human populations’ production of waste. Not to mention the amount of smog we are sending into the atmosphere, or the oils and other harmful chemicals we are dumping into the sea.
Now, if somehow seeing the numbers here didn’t convince you to start going green, maybe the Bible will. In Genesis 2:15 it says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Here we see that God places humanity over the earth to care for it. Some people I know really like the verse that says that we have dominion over the earth, but fail to read it in light of the call to care for the earth as well.
Recently, Pope Francis released an encyclical addressing this very issue. The following is a quote from this document which touches on the relationship between human dominion and stewardship:
“We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature… we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”
As Pope Francis challenges us to not abuse our dominion over the earth, I want to encourage you to do the same. We have a responsibility as Christians to care for this planet that God so carefully and thoughtfully created. Creation care is just one of the ways that we can practically live out our faith in God who cares for His creation.