I am sure you have heard about how we can save the turtles by eliminating plastic straws, or that our oceans are estimated to have more plastic than fish by 2050 or that it takes 713 gallons of water to make one cotton T-shirt. Individuals are becoming increasingly aware of the effect humans are having on creation. We each come to the conversation of sustainability, environmentalism and stewardship with a different set of lenses. I think that the condition of our environment is less of a politically charged debate and more of a reality.
I don’t know about you, but my heart aches when I look at the harmful effects that the fashion industry has on the environment, see pictures of beaches that are littered with trash, hear of the devastation to the Amazon Rainforest by wildfires, walk through the Coconino National Forest in Northern Arizona as first responders are working to contain a wildfire caused by lightning or research the environmental impacts of the cattle farming industry in America. My heart aches the most because I know that I have an impact on it all. When I pick up a T-shirt in Target, I am reminded of laborers in third-world countries. I think of beaches or landfills cluttered with trash each time I forget my water bottle at home. I am reminded of the Amazon and Coconino National Forest each time I drive my car or fill it with gas. And each time I eat meat, I think of the mile-long lots packed with cattle in rural Texas.
Last week, as I walked around campus, I stopped students on their way to class, lunch and coffee shops and asked them to share the first word that comes to mind when I said “eco-conscious” and “sustainability.” Students took a second before they responded with an assortment of words: intentional, fish, annoying, turtles, recycling, green, no plastic, hard, clean, thrifting, uhhh, Earth, solar power, polar bears and work. Many more were overwhelmed and had no idea as to where they should start. I see both types of students, because I am both types—both well-read and overwhelmed. I want to let you know that you are not alone in either camp.
You may be wondering why you should be concerned with this phrase I call #EarthWise. As Christians, we need to know what God says about the topic. Genesis 2:15 (NIV) reads, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it”. Within the first book of the Bible, we read about the God-given responsibility to care for creation. God is the Creator and Sustainer of the world, and He has given humans the privilege and responsibility to care for His creation. Care implies consideration for the maintenance or protection of something. However, the fallen nature of humanity has hindered our capability to care for creation. Sin disrupts our relationship with others, God, ourselves and creation. This is not a justification for treating the Earth poorly, but an explanation as to why individuals can approach this topic light-heartedly and/or simply not engage.
My hope for #EarthWise as a column on eco-consciousness is to increase your awareness and show you how to make small changes to your lifestyle in order to live in pursuit of the redemption of creation. This generation of students can have a large impact on how we move forward as a campus, nation, and world. Let’s join together to steward creation well and work to become #EarthWise.