I write this article with Earth Day just a few days away. The topic of Climate Change or Climate Crisis is heard daily and the challenge to Earth’s citizens to “Save the Planet!” from by our choice of “green” energy over fossil fuels, reusable over disposable products, and the four R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle. But will my driving a Tesla, installing solar panels, using metal straws and cloth napkins really save the planet? Maybe. But maybe what’s more important is living in relationship with the earth the way God intended from the beginning.
In Genesis 1:15 we read, “The LORD God took the human and put the human in the Garden of Eden to till (abad = to serve) and keep (shamar = to protect) the earth.” In other words, every human being has the responsibility to protect and serve creation. And if the planet is too big for us to get our head around, maybe we can start with protecting and serving the portion of creation that impacts our home, our community, our state and our nation. I may not be able to save the planet, but I can begin to consider how my everyday actions either work toward protecting and serving creation or work against it.
For instance, when it comes to caring for my lawn and garden, how might my choices best serve and protect creation and not just my yard? Do I put down chemicals that when washed into the sewer system and flows to local waterways will compromise the health of the plants and fish (and birds that eat the fish) in that ecosystem? In a time when water conservation is becoming a greater imperative of our protecting and serving creation where does having a lush green lawn fall in that imperative to protect and serve creation? Is it more important to plant local and indigenous plants in my garden rather than exotic ones that could become an invasive threat if not properly tended or don’t serve as a food source to local birds and pollinating insects?
We protect and serve creation well when we live a lifestyle that minimizes our impact in landfills. Recycling is the last of the four “R’s” and we would do well to first consider how we can reduce our use of plastics and paper products that go into landfills and then consider how we can reuse or repurpose those products if possible. We rarely need plastic bags when shopping anymore since beginning to use reusable cloth bags for grocery shopping. Individual packaging is a convenience, not a necessity, and often serves our personal wants rather than serves and protects creation. What would it be like to buy in bulk, use cloth napkins, and travel with reusable metal straws?
How does my choice of transportation protect and serve creation? Can I walk or ride my bike to my destination rather than drive my car and reduce my carbon footprint? Sure it may take longer and be less convenient for me. But in doing so I’m be protecting and serving creation. Carpooling with co-workers or classmates or using public transportation to go to work, concerts, or out to dinner may be less convenient and require us to give up control of our schedule to come and go as we please, but we will be protecting and serving creation better by doing so.
How do our actions, and the legislation we support through our elected officials, contribute toward God’s expectation that we protect and serve creation? Earth Day isn’t just one day a year. For Christians who take seriously God’s intention for humanity and our relationship with God, each other, and creation, it’s a focus of our daily living. I can’t save the planet, at least not by myself.
But God didn’t give me the responsibility to save the planet, just to serve and protect the portion of the earth my life impacts. So I think it’s time for me to get my bicycle tires inflated, trade in my dress shoes for walking shoes, and get a Freedom Pass from PATCO as well as start weeding the gardens by hand rather than by Roundup and reconsider my shopping habits. Do my choices serve my personal preferences and conveniences or do they serve and protect the planet as well? Old habits die hard. But thanks be to the God who raised Jesus to new life new habits can lead to new life.