Thursday, September 15, 2016

Global warming (aka climate change) or no, we must be nice to the earth

It’s fun to watch survivalist shows on TV, like “Running Wild with Bear Grylls”. A couple of people get dropped into a remote wilderness-like environment and are expected to survive over a few days.

They have no groceries. Maybe a limited amount of water. No tent. No sleeping bag. No nearby mall to go to where they can buy what they need.

Abandoned in nature, they must find food, water, and shelter right there where they are in the wilderness.

And they do!

God’s creation, for those with discernment, is an abundant resource providing everything we need to sustain ourselves physically.

But do we really appreciate what we’ve got?

Hugh Ross writing in his new book Improbable Planet, says: “Of all the things in life we tend to take for granted, our terrestrial residence and our resources might be one of the biggest. We don’t seem to be amazed and astonished by Earth’s beauty and treasures, it’s capacity to support more than 7 billion people and even more billions of other creatures.”

Our big blue superstore

God spoke and by His word all of life sprang forth into being and filled the earth. Lakes, seas, rivers, trees, plants, and on and on (see Genesis 1 & 2).

Nearly all of it renewable, with care, for generations. Why is this important?
  1. First, it’s important because it all came into being by God. There was no random matter colliding in a happenstance moment sparking life. (see John 1:1-4).
  2. Second, it’s important because it speaks to God’s love for humankind. God chose to create the heavens and the earth and you and me! He wanted to. He did not create out of need or boredom.
  3. Third, it’s important because it expresses the logic and intentionality of God. He had a plan and He executed on it. His creation acts were orderly, logical, intentional -- and creative! All of creation was planned, made with intention, and infused with purpose. We are not space/time accidents.

Just as God created the heavens, the earth, and us with a clear plan in mind, even today we can rest assured that He actively cares for us. We are here for a reason and all we need to complete our purpose has been provided to us.

Part of our reason for being is to be good stewards of the earth. Genesis 2:15 explains, “The Lord God took the man [and later the woman] and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (ESV).

Note those two little words “keep it.” That’s the opposite of “trash it” or “exploit it” or “waste it.”

Even though we’re no longer enjoying the delights of Eden, we are still called, commissioned, designed to be good stewards of the earth. Instead, sometimes I think we act like spoiled children trying to get even for being kicked out of Eden.

“Oh yeah! Fine! Keep us out of the Garden!” we wail, wagging our weak fists in the air. “In that case, we're going to really make a mess of things. We'll show You! You...God, You!”

Pretty pathetic, but pretty accurate. The problem is we have nowhere to stomp off to to pout.

A little care can go a long way

In 1962, the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published. The book raised concerns and awareness regarding man’s impact on the environment, especially as related to the damage caused by excessive use of pesticides. Prior to the publication of Carson’s book, pollution was given little thought.

Eight years later, the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. The day brought focus to the need for people to respect the vast resources of creation with care.  Awareness was raised about such things as the damage being caused through litter, poor waste-water treatment, destruction of animal habitats, and lack of emission standards for factories and cars.

As a result of raised awareness, the problems of air and water pollution began to be seriously addressed. Recycling came into vogue. Endangered animal species became protected.

Caring for the earth and all it contains is an essential piece of who God created mankind to be. We are caretakers of His amazing Creation. The earth is designed to sustain us and reveal to us God’s grandeur. Creation is tangible evidence of how valuable we are in God’s sight. Namely because we’re part of it!

Battling over semantics & wasting God’s treasure

The big fight today is whether or not global warming, aka climate change, is a real thing or not. Battle lines are drawn. Harsh words are exchanged. And in the meantime the earth is ignored and abused. Imagine a mom and dad fighting and insulting each other over some trivial issue while their kids huddle in fear at the side of the room. It’s a little like that.

The “scientific community” says global warming is a reality. But I can also understand those who mistrust science. Science isn’t always right. Just recently there was the claim that aliens were talking to us. It turned out we were only talking to ourselves.   

Science can also be skewed to support the bias of whoever is presenting the information. I think that’s what happened with a viral cartoon depicting global warming. It’s generally accurate but has a couple of flaws. Statistics can be bent, information can be condensed, key data points can be obscured all to present skewed “facts” to support whatever our point is that we want to make. This happens on both sides of an issue.

Obeying God doesn’t need scientific support

It doesn’t take a scientist, rocket or otherwise, to recognize that we, the human race, God’s appointed caretakers of His amazing earth, aren’t doing the best we could be.

Global warming or no, there are actions we can and should take that are positive, earth-friendly, and God-honoring.

Whether we accept or reject the idea of global warming, we can and must find ways to fulfill or duty as caretakers of the earth. Here are just a few examples:

  • Love the bees. A big issue that’s been circulating through the news for years is the ongoing problem of bees dying off. Several problems have been cited. And now, because of Zika fears, hasty spraying to kill off mosquitoes has resulted in millions of bees being lost. As concerned citizens, we need to make it clear to our government agencies that, yes, we want action on problems such as Zika, but the solutions need to be earth-friendly solutions. No bees means no food.
  • Keep your pets indoors. This is a pet peeve of mine. I have cats. They never go outdoors. They don’t need to go outdoors. And when cats are allowed to go outdoors, they needlessly destroy wildlife creating a negative impact on ecosystems. If you care about the earth, want to honor God’s command to be a caretaker of His creation, keep your cats indoors.
  • Plastic may be better than paper. A big deal today is choosing paper bags over plastic bags at the checkout line. Or, better, so it’s believed, is to bring your own “permanent” bag. But are paper or reusable cloth bags really better? Always better? I had a friend who worked in the plastics industry. He frequently lectured whoever would listen that plastic bags were actually more eco-friendly in toto than paper bags. A recent article in The Atlantic backs up his claim. While a supposed “earth friendly” option may be popular, it isn’t always what’s really best for the environment.
  • Produce less exhaust. Smog is real. Pollutants are real. We’ve all seen the images of cities choking on man-made air pollution. This is a serious health issue, especially for children. So if you care about your kids, or just yourself, look for ways to reduce the amount of exhaust you produce. Riding bikes or walking more is a good thing. When driving is necessary, keeping your car in good repair and driving responsibly helps.
  • Stop littering. The world is not our trashcan or ashcan. Litter can harm widlife. Tossed from a moving car, it can cause accidents. Tossed into a river or lake, it can kill fish and create other problems. Throwing cigarette butts around can cause fires and other harm. Cleaning up litter costs billions of taxpayer dollars annually. A neighborhood covered in litter pulls down property values. Everyone can stop littering, encourage others to stop, and engage in recycling.

Simple ideas, sure. But they are examples of how everyone can find a way to engage in godly caretaking of the earth rather than merely being takers from the earth.

Are you a Christian who’s an ardent believer in global warming? Great. Or are you a Christian who thinks climate change is hokum? No worries.

The bottomline for believers is this: Anything that harms the earth or wastefully exploits its God-created resources should alarm and offend us. And as long as this earth is inhabited by sinful men and women (and we are all sinful) then the earth is at risk because sinful people do sinful and damaging things.

Damaging the earth is wrong. Wasting earth’s resources is sinful. When confronted with earth-damaging evil, we should be roused to do whatever we can to stop it, to correct it, to heal it. Just as we seek God’s grace to do in us.

Fighting over the semantics and politics of global warming is a zero sum game. Clearly, there are evidences that the earth is being damaged and much of the damage is our fault.

Henri Nouwen wrote in The Wounded Healer, “Contemporary people realize that our creative powers hold the potential for self-destruction. We understand that vast new industrial complexes enable us to produce in one hour that which we labored over for years in the past, but we also realize that these same industries have disturbed the ecological balance and, through air, water, and noise pollution, have contaminated our planet.”

Allowing the earth -- our home -- to be damaged is to fuel our own self-destruction. It’s to dishonor God by ignoring the role of caretaker He has assigned to all of us. It is to deny the very faith we claim to hold. It is to deny grace to the world.

Additional reading:

Do you believe in global warming/climate change? Why or why not? Should how you think about this issue change how you care for or exploit the earth? What are you doing to care for the earth? Anything? Nothing? Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!

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