Yesterday I rode my bike twice, I guess that makes me a recycler.

Earth Day.

Before I mention anything else about Gaylord Nelson's attempt to inspire and bring awareness for the Earth and its resources, I must insist that you glance at this brilliant
post first. You'll be glad you did. Don't worry about my ego, I'll wait here until you come back.

Great, wasn't it? I knew you'd agree.

To be honest, I'd love to tackle the issue of Governor Pat Quinn's proposed download tax, or Blagojevich's appeal to subpoena President Obama, but I have this nagging feeling that I should briefly take on this hot-button issue of Earth Day.

Let me first say that I am by no means a
hippie, traditionally speaking at least. Granted, I have at one time owned a beautiful Volkswagen Bus, grown my hair out longer than boarding schools would allow on a number of occasions, maintain a perceptible aversion to shoes, and thoroughly enjoy the likings of The Who, Hendrix, CCR, and a slew of other artists typically associated with the hippie movement. I do my best to shop locally, purchase second-hand, and have been without a television for almost five years. I try very hard to walk or cycle when I can, and am a firm believer in the use of mass transit and sustainable transportation. I believe in the beauty of the stoop, neighborhood barbecue's, radical communal social justice, and equality across all social, ethnic, and economic lines. I believe art should be shared as well as displayed, that music can transcend words, that all truth is God's truth, and that as Christians, we have the responsibility of stewardship with the blessings He has given us. I've outgrown hemp bracelets, tie-dye clashes with my complexion, and showers are still acceptable to me. However, I still enjoy flannel, aviator sunglasses, granola, and headbands.

But I am not a hippie.

I don't say any of this to brag, or draw attention to myself by any means. I am just simply trying to communicate where it is that I'm coming from in he hopes that such information will be helpful to you, the hypothetical reader.

I believe that if anyone should be leading the way towards living simpler lives that consume less and more in tune with the physical creation, it should be believers. For far too long, followers of Christ have hidden quietly and even taken part of destructive habits and lifestyles, and I would assert that many of us have missed a large part of what it means to live in harmony with our Creator.

And there is a propensity on days like today, to simply throw around daunting statistics in the hope that we can scare humanity into making more responsible decisions with how they live. I don't intend to do that. I still plan to share some information that I think is relevant and helpful, but I won't start there.

I'd like to start at the beginning. Genesis to be exact.

Read what Genesis 1:26 says about our role:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

So at the very beginning of the story of humanity, you have God delegating responsibility for humankind to rule over, take care of, and be in relationship with the creation He so graciously provides.

Consider Genesis 2:15:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

The word "work" in this passage is the word "abad", which means "to dress, to serve, or to cultivate." It carries with it the connotation of "serve and protect", much like the mantra for most law enforcement establishments. The phrase "take care" is the word "shamar", which literally means to "protect, attend to, or watch over." You get a sense pretty quickly that the responsibility we are given over this gift of creation is something that God takes seriously. God is the one who serves, so in turn we too serve. His intention from the beginning is that we take care of what He's given us.

All throughout scripture there are references to God simply basking in the wonder of what He's made, and encouraging His people to do the same. His posture towards the Earth seems to be celebration, rather than consumption. Obviously consumption is necessary and certainly a part of its purpose, but God doesn't seem to dwell on what the Earth and these humans can produce, but more so pleasure, and the beauty of what He's made (See Job 38).

The story goes on. Fast forward a bit to chapter eleven.

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Gen 11:1-9)

In this brief story, we get a glimpse of the origins of human innovation, of progress. Notice that this group of people put their heads together and invented the brick. They had been using stones, which can cause a number of issues when trying to build anything. Stones are uneven and often disproportionate to the task. So they decided to develop a more effective method.

Now creativity and innovation are certainly good and of God. Design and growth is a part of His plan. But the question needs to be; 'Does this innovation create a greater harmony with God, or is it birthed out of arrogance and an appetite for independence?" The issue isn't the brick, the issue is what you intend to do with that brick. I would take it one step further and say that it may not even necessarily be what we do with the brick, but what the brick does to us. It's all about the size of our towers. This is a story of our posturing towards our God.

I would argue that our technology and our innovation can isolate us from the cost and the consequences of our consumption. Consider the findings of Roger Gottlieb:

In 2005 a study of the umbilical cord blood of ten randomly chosen newborns in the United States was tested for toxic chemicals. A total of 287 toxic chemicals were found, with the average for each individual infant being two-hundred. Nearly three-quarters of the chemicals were known carcinogens, and the rest were identified as threatening the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems

The decisions we make have very real costs and consequences. Now, the cost isn't always something as alarming as the above findings, but often times there are innumerable costs that we, the consumer may not ever see. Costs of shipping, packaging, and labor. Living in Chicagoland, I have the luxury of being able to walk into any grocery store in the middle of January and purchase any fresh vegetable I please. It's safe to say that tomatoes are not "in season" in mid-January in Elgin, Illinois, and yet, into my cart it goes.

Consider this:

The average food we eat, from pasture to plate, travels 1,200 miles to get to your plate.

Beyond even the raw materials needed to ship such products to me, as Christians we must be willing to ask questions like:

"Was the farmer that grew this paid a fair wage?"
"Can the truck driver who drove this across the country send his child to college?"
"Do these employees get health insurance?"
"Are they able to take a Sabbath?"

I would argue that the further and further we step away from creation, we will also begin to isolate ourselves from the source. The mystery of the God who gives and brings life becomes surprisingly less mysterious, less sacred. My wonderful cousin said yesterday:

"I now have dirt in my socks and under my fingernails and feel almost human again." -Reeni
I often hear people talk about how disconnected they feel, and yet we live in such separation from the natural world we live in. Pick whatever example you prefer -the hours we spend on Facebook instead of face-to-face conversation, our commute from air conditioned house/car/office and back again, our need for immediate gratification, our posture of entitlement, and the list goes on. The reality is that I am far more connected to the God who gives life when I spend time with and in life. The closer you are to the source of creation, the more your soul will connect to the mystery of the God who brings things into existence in the first place.

When was the last time you walked outside for more than five minutes, or actually had the time to examine and appreciate the beauty of something in nature you noticed?

Are Christians known for consuming less? Are we characterized by our willingness to engage creation, to live more simply, to have less, and exist in greater harmony with the Earth we've been entrusted with? May we remember that this creation is God's first, and may we find greater community and joy by engaging more fully with the beautiful mystery of what we've been given. God, please keep us connected to the humble reverent feeling of being connected to who you are. Help us to truly "consider the lilies" by choosing to live life at a sustainable pace, with a deep longing to connect more deeply with you and your creation.

Lev 25:23 -" 'The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

Some resources that you may find helpful:

13. [cleaning supplies]


• For the Beauty of the Earth by Steven Bouma Prediger
• Saving God's Green Earth: Rediscovering the Church's Responsibility to Environmental Stewardship by Tri Robinson
• Serve God, Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD
• Living the Good Life on God’s Good Earth by contributing authors, edited by David Koetje

Facts to Consider:

4.6 million people die every year due to air pollution.

America produces enough trash to fill 63,000 dump trucks every day.

If every household in America switched out one compact fluorescent bulb it would reduce energy consumption as much as taking a million cars off the road.

If our recycling rate increased from 30% to 60% we would save 315 million barrels of oil in a year.

One ton of recycled paper saves:
17 trees
3 cubic yards of landfill space
7k gallons of water
4200 kw hours of energy
390 gallons of oil
Prevents 60 lbs of air pollutants

If every family in America ate one locally grown meal a week, would save 800 million barrels of oil.

2,500 gallons of water = 1 pound of beef
25 gallons of water = 1 pound of wheat

1 comment:

  1. Good post cuz. I've been reading along- you're very good at this :) I quite agree that we all need to get in touch with our roots as human being. In fact, I want a farm. I think that would help. :) And thanks, so proud to have made your famous blog. I, myself, experience God so strongly in nature and sometimes I learn the most through the simplest of tasks (weeding, don't even get me started on everything I learn about my spiritual life by weeding and/or not weeding). Love ya! Keep up the great blogging!