I've just come back from a Biblical Day Conference on the care of creation, in which we were encouraged to reflect on our relationship with creation and what it means to be 'good stewards' of this precious gift. I liked to think I was ahead of the game having just been on holiday in North Yorkshire and coming back on a high having seen some spectacular sights and relished all the beauty that Yorkshire has to offer its visitors - including lavender fields; the Howardian Hills; spectacular water falls; heather on the North Yorkshire Moors as well as some incredible sunsets. We were truly blessed and renewed, although must admit that one family complained that the birds and sheep were waking them up too early in the morning...
I was brought 'back down to earth' during the first session of this Day Conference which sought to 'set the scene'. We were reminded: how some building developments are having a damaging effect on local habitat; the destruction of the rain forest that results in 'acid rain' and the uprooting of indigenous people; the movement away from crops that stabalise the land to more profitable varieties which, in some places, has caused erosion; the heavy reliance on GM crops that are created in such a way forces farmers to purchase seeds at the beginning of every season; the vulnerability of yields as well as the uncertainty of the market; temperatures rising that dramatically effect both the environment as well as living creatures; the escalating decline of the Artic circle - as well as in the uncertain weather conditions even in this country.
One particular concern that was highlighted is that of 'microplastic contamination' as featured in a recent daily newspaper. It appears that scores of tap water samples were taken from more than a dozen countries, which found that, overall, 83% of the samples were contaminate with plastic fibres that may pose a hazard to humans, animals and fish life. It may come as no surprise that the United States had the highest contamination rate at 94%, with Lebanon and India the next highest rate. Amazingly, Britain had one of the lowest levels, but this was still 72%. The article concluded with the words: 'Almost 300m tonnes of plastic is produced each year and much of it ends up littering the air, land and sea... these findings ought to raise a red flag... but more work is needed to find the sources of contamination and evaluate the possible health impacts'. [Guardian 6/09/17]
We were reminded that, in Biblical terms, this is God's earth, and we have a duty to be responsible stewards of the whole of creation. The Psalmist states: 'The earth belongs to the LORD and everything in it, the world and all its inhabitants' [Psalm 24 verse 1], yet scripture also points out that the whole of creation is 'groaning in bondage to decay' [refer Romans 8: 19 - 23] because of our misuse and abuse of the earth's resources, where 'merchants the world over have grown rich on her wealth and luxury' [Revelation 18: 3].
The greatest wake-up call was that I thought I was doing my bit to help alleviate the effects of global warming, by recycling, purchasing energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs; supporting local traders; maintaining a healthy diet; downloading my daily paper onto a tablet; and travelling in the car in such a way to increase fuel economy etc. But we were asked to discover our 'footprint' by accessing www.footprintcalculator.org and, to my utter amazement and shame, I came out with a pretty poor performance, which suggested that if everyone functioned at my level of 'responsibility', we would need nearly three earth's to sustain my kind of living!! (no wonder a scientist last week was commending the exploration of space 'for the survival of humankind')
Having hit us with much doom and gloom, we were asked to take time and reflect on the following quotation: 'we borrow this land from our descendants with the responsibility to pass on to subsequent generations for their enjoyment and blessing' and consider whether we are being too much like goats who gobble up everything in their path and give no consideration to the destruction being caused. Certainly much food for thought!
By the end of the day, we were encouraged to heed the warnings that the earth is clearly communicating through climate change and loss of species etc, and to seek to play a more responsible part in sustainable living for the future welfare of our planet. One simple challenge offered was to adopt the 'THREE Rs' approach to daily living: Reduce - Reuse - Recycle.