One Christian may be very concerned about climate change while another is totally unconcerned, so neither should condemn the other. Our main thought and purpose should be sharing the gospel with the lost, so that fewer people need to fear the future because they have the promise of eternal life.
The earth’s environment is certainly a hot topic in our current culture. So how should Christians respond to the many environmental demands swirling around us, and how do we discern what is logical and prudent regarding the care of the beautiful world that God created and what becomes fanatical?
Let’s start with a basic premise outlined at the very beginning of God’s word. As the first two chapters of Genesis describe the process of God creating the world, it makes this statement:
“The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” Genesis 2:15 (NLT)
It appears it was always God’s plan that humanity would be charged with the responsibility to care for His creation. However, what did the first man’s responsibility for tending and watching over the garden entail before any negative influence made its presence known in creation (i.e. the serpent)? That is a question for the ages.
Basic Care for God’s Creation
To start with, there are practical ways for the average person to care for God’s creation. It goes without saying that we must remember the earth has been given to people as a place to live until there is a new heaven and new earth, as described in the book of Revelation.
Basic environmental consciousness does not have to be anything extreme. The earth is our home away from our eternal home, and the average person does not leave major trash and other contamination hanging around at home.
So how does poor management of trash generated by earth’s inhabitants harm our environment? The Earth Day website explains some of the negative effects that result from the plethora of trash that we dispose of and fill our landfills with. It states that one of the largest consequences of the worldwide waste problems is the effects on marine life in our oceans and other waterways.
According to Zero Waste, eight-million tons of plastic find their way into the earth’s oceans each year. This translates into one truckload of plastic waste being emptied into seas every minute. How does this plastic waste find its way into our oceans? Although many people are environmentally aware and do not carelessly toss their trash onto the ground, not everyone is that careful. Sadly, there are those who still carelessly litter.
When litter is either accidentally or intentionally left on the ground , it can make its way into nearby bodies of water, often via storm drains. Additionally, wind or rain may carry litter into waterways, and ultimately, to our seas. Here are a few consequences to marine life when they come across this carelessly discarded trash:
Seagulls can become entangled in plastic six-packs.
Aquatic animals generally cannot recognize food and non-food items. As a result, they consume the trash, which often results in death. Even if death does not result from ingesting the plastic, scientists have found plastic fragments in more than one-thousand marine species.
Additionally, discarded or lost plastic fishing equipment contributes to sea pollution, accounting for approximately 10% of ocean waste. These items can entangle creatures such as crustaceans and whales and seriously harm the underwater environment.
How can individuals protect our seas and waterways?
If you pick up litter, do not leave it on top or beside a full trash receptacle. This will just cancel out your effort if the trash blows away.
Careful handling of trash bins on trash collection day. Always make sure that containers are closed, and do not allow them to overflow.
Organize or participate in community efforts to pick up trash near local waterways.
Even going a step further, those involved in litter collection can record and quantify data regarding the types of trash picked up. The United States Environmental Protection Agency provides a survey tool that can help citizen scientists and other environmental protectors to analyze the types of litter material collected. This Escaped Trash Assessment Protocol (ETAP) is downloadable here.
Additionally, Christians desiring to curb the proliferation of plastic trash, thus lessening the possibility that it will find its way into our seas, can try the following suggestions:
Bring your own bag to the grocery store. (Have you ever noticed plastic grocery bags flying around and getting caught in trees and up against fencing?) One current complication to this proactive action is the fact that during the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of grocery chains would either not permit the use of reusable bags or would require those who brought them to bag their own groceries. Fortunately, many of those restrictions are being lifted now.
Keep a reusable water bottle with you whenever possible.
Minimize the use of brown paper or plastic bags when packing lunches for work or school.
Use reusable straws. The EPA website asserts that disposable plastic straws are among the most common items found in litter. So, because they end up in waterways, they can harm wildlife and fish. Reusable straws are available for sale at most variety stores.
Chemicals Entering Our Waterways
Let’s start with a couple of big scientific names of chemical compounds that can enter the earth’s waterways and cause harm to humans and animals. Some of these are called “Per or Polyfluoroakyl” substances (PFAs). Simply defined, they are synthetic organoflourine compounds. According to another EPA, these substances have components that break down very slowly over time.
The major concern with these substances is their widespread use and ubiquitous presence in the environment. Some examples of consumer products using these chemicals include non-stick cookware such as teflon and stain-resistant and waterproof compounds such as 3M’s Scotchgard. While U.S. companies may no longer use these compounds, they are still permitted in imported products.
When considering the issue of why Christians should care about such chemicals being found in any locality’s drinking water, one should consider the harm they cause to humans. Here are just a few examples:
Pancreatic, liver, kidney, and testicular cancers
Weakened childhood immunity
The destructive nature of these compounds became noticeable in Parkersburg, West Virginia in 2001, when a teflon chemical was discovered in the drinking water near a Dupont plant. This resulted in a major scandal there because tens of thousands of people relied on this water. Since that time, the EPA has pressured companies to phase out the use of these chemicals in production. However, the presence of PFAs can still be found in drinking water in localities across the U.S.
Because of the primary responsibility of manufacturers in the proliferation of PFA-type chemicals in the environment, individuals have limited power to control the PFAs. However, Christians committed to limiting the toxins in our water, thus protecting ourselves and others from serious health problems, can take a few actions:
Be on the lookout for any products labeled stain resistant or water repellent. These may appear to make life easier, but considering their potential harm, maybe not.
Skip PTFE-based, non-stick cookware and opt instead for stainless steel or cast iron. (Quite frankly, a lot of those “non-stick” products are not as “non-stick” as they claim to be.)
When choosing personal care products, avoid those with PTFE or fluoro ingredients.
Avoid microwavable popcorn because those bags are often coated with PFA-type materials. Go back to stovetop popping; but for those who have never done that before, be careful not to start a grease fire!
The Big One - Climate Change
This is clearly the most hotly (pardon the expression) debated topics in our world today in both the secular and religious communities. As Christians recognize that God is sovereign, not only over the earth but the entire universe that He created, we may ask how much control does humanity have over the climate?
An article in Christianity.com presents a balanced view of the topic of climate change. The article quotes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) describing this change as “[encompassing] global warming, but [referring] to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet, including rising sea levels; shrinking mountain glaciers; accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica, and the Arctic; and shifts in the flower/plant blooming times.” Furthermore, NASA states that the condition of global warming appears to have been observed beginning in the Pre-industrial Age (from 1850 to 1900). The agency attributes this condition to “human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in the Earth’s atmosphere.”
This is where the controversy comes in. With these science-based assertions, it would seem clear that it is the fault of humanity. However, there is no end to the debate whether or not global warming is the fault of mankind; and some people flat-out deny the existence of global warming.
From a Christian perspective, the article made one central point regarding our approach to climate change, quoting 1 Corinthians 1:10 (NLT):
“I appeal to you, dear brothers, by the authority of Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”
In other words, do not let worldly issues divide us and cause rancor. One Christian may be very concerned about climate change while another is totally unconcerned, so neither should condemn the other. Our main thought and purpose should be sharing the gospel with the lost, so that fewer people need to fear the future because they have the promise of eternal life.
Quite frankly, when people talk about “saving the planet,” believers in Christ know we cannot do that because God has said that the earth and the heavens, as they are now, will not last forever. Instead, God has given us this great and wonderful promise:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared…. I heard a shout from the throne, saying ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people. He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All those things are gone forever.’” (Revelation 21:1 and 3-4, NLT)
With all this in mind, may we Christians do what we can to care for creation but focus on our main purpose to lead more souls to Christ so they too can enjoy such a wonderful future.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ray Hennessy
Cathy Wentz lives with her husband, Brian, in Cedar City, UT, and has been a believer in Jesus Christ for more than 30 years. She has two grown children and four grandchildren, all who live in Cedar City. Her writing experience includes working as a newspaper reporter for eight years, and she currently serves as a public relations assistant for a local orthopaedic surgeon, which involves writing blogs, social media posts and other web content.