I love this time of year
I love this time of year. I love the blossoms on the trees, the bulbs poking up through the soil and blooming with the yellows of daffodils, the pinks and purples of tulips, the Blues and pinks of hyacinths. I love seeing the leaves coming out on the trees joining the green grass that we missed all winter. I love spring.
And so I think it is very fitting that this is the time of year when we celebrate Earth Day. It’s a day when we give thanks for the beauty of this earth, for the abundance which earth supplies to us. And it’s also a day when we reflect on our baptismal promise to care for the Earth.
But this earth that we love is in grave danger. We only have to read the newspapers or listen the radio and television to learn just how fragile life on this planet is.
God’s gift to us
Petra read to us today a paraphrase of that beautiful hymn in the first chapter of Genesis. The Bible starts by telling us that God is the creator of all the beauty around us. And we are called to look after our beautiful planet home. In that passage, God declared Creation to be “good.”
What makes Earth “good”? The Earth provides us with fertile soil, clean water, timber, and food; healthy ecosystems to reduce the spread of diseases and protect against flooding. On a global basis, these ecosystems regulate concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to give us a livable climate. This is indeed a home that has the capability to provide everything we need for life.
Scientists refer to these things as “ecosystem services.” Professor Robert Costanza at Portland State University back in 1997 estimated the value of ecosystem services, converted to today’s dollars, at $44 trillion annually on a worldwide basis. The Earth is indeed a planet of beauty and abundance. It has an amazing capacity to assimilate waste and regenerate resources. But that capacity has limits, and these limits have been augmented rather than mitigated by advancements in technology over the last 200 years. Today, living creatures face unprecedented threats from human activities throughout the world. These activities are beginning to compromise the ability of Earth to sustain life.
But what have we done to our beautiful earth?
We’ve all seen pictures of polar bears whose ice flows are breaking away and casting them adrift and read about many other soecies including Pandas, Penguins indanger of becoming extinct as a result of Habitat loss. There are three major types of habitat loss: habitat destruction, habitat degradation, and habitat fragmentation caused by human activities such as agriculture, urbanization, deforestation, resource extraction, alteration of the sea-floor due to trawling (fishing), or the release of pollutants.
We’ve also watched the news items about forest fires that have engulfed the forests and threatened woodland homes. How about the salmon and lobster in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans who are trying to adjust and adapt to a new reality? And what about the residents of coastal cities, particularly but not only in the third world, who watch the salt waters flood their fields and inundate their homes?
How can we care for the Earth?
There are so many ways in which our world is threatened. But spending time chastising ourselves or our government for how slow we’ve been to understand what is happening and to do something about it is not going to solve the problem.
This is a global problem. It affects the whole world and the solution should be a global solution. But to expect the governments of this world to come up with a global solution is not realistic. It just isn’t working.
So, often, I – and probably you – feel a sense of despair. What can one person, or even a small group of people, do to solve a global problem? But if no one does anything, nothing will get done. If we each do a little bit, maybe something will improve. If enough of us do a little bit, a lot will improve and maybe enough to make a difference.
How do we care for the Earth?
So what can we do? What can you do? What can I do? We can each choose one or two things that can be our contribution to resisting climate change. We all know about taking very simple steps, like installing LED light bulbs in our homes, not using single use plastics and recycling bottles and cans. I hope we all pay attention to these and similar contributions to the global climate problem. I’ll give a few other suggestions that we all can do, but it’s not hard to find resources that will give you other ideas.
What about a meatless day every week? Preferably a plant based day. Avoiding meat and dairy it’s one of the biggest ways to reduce our environmental impact on the planet.
Consumerism and waste
Consumerism and waste also have a big impact on climate change. Consumerism uses a disproportionate share of the world’s resources, and adds unnecessarily to the waste in our land fill sites. We disregard the historic prophetic call to God’s people to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, when we contribute to the profligate, unsustainable consumerism of industrialized countries. Most of us own too much “stuff”. Why not make a resolution to get rid of some of it? Maybe give one item away (or add one thing to the charity box) every day or week? Sharing, making, fixing up, recycling, repurposing and composting are good places to start.
Why not, instead of focusing on possessions, concentrate on life’s simple pleasures – such as spending time in nature, being with loved ones and making a difference to others. These provide more purpose, belonging and lasting happiness than buying and consuming.
And don’t forget food waste. Over a third of all food produced (~2.5 billion tons globally) is lost or wasted each year. Global food waste has an enormous environmental impact. the food rotting in landfills emits methane gas, which is 25 times stronger than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The 2.3 million tons of food Canadians waste each year (63% of it being perfectly edible) is equal to having 2.1 million cars on the road, emitting 6.9 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Reducing food waste could help to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, establish food security, and encourage healthy food systems.
Care for the Earth
So, that’s just a few of the may things we can do to care for the Earth?: meatless meals, less consumerism and waste – including food waste – and getting rid of stuff by giving it a new repurposed life or making it a blessing to someone else.
And if you think that’s just a drop in a huge bucket, if you ask: “How can one person make a difference?”, I remind you what Jesus did. Jesus did not heal all the lepers in Palestine, only the ones right in front of him. He did not heal all the blind people in Jerusalem, only the one or two right in front of him. He did not feed everyone in Judea, only the 4,000 or 5,000 families right in front of him. Our baptismal promise to care for the earth is to care for that part that is around us.
So, on this Earth Day, I ask you to renew you promise to care for the earth, in the words of our Baptismal Covenant. The response is: I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation, and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the Earth? I will, with God’s help.