There seems to be more than the usual level of excitement about this year’s Earth Day celebrations.
I’ve never been much an eco-activist, but I was taught from childhood that taking care of the earth is a personal responsibility. I learned about terraces and soil conservation and avoiding erosion when I was barely big enough to hold a hoe and help my father in the garden. I collected empty soft drink bottles from roadsides to earn a little spending money. I learned that there are very few parts of a pig that somebody won’t eat, and the rest is fertilizer.
I was first introduced to ecology as a global issue through a course at the University of Georgia back in 1972, and I’ve been recycling everything I could ever since. Fortunately, the number of things we can recycle continues to increase, and when we put the garbage out each week, there’s often more in the recycling bin than the garbage can.
I have a compost bin in the back yard that grows dirt: chopped up leaves, lawn clippings, and all of our plant-based food scraps go into the pile, where chemical reactions and earthworms turn it all back into rich soil that’s good for the little garden spot that provides at least a little of our own food and keeps a little more from going into the landfill.
It’s always been hard for me to understand how anyone could be so thoughtless as to throw trash on the side of the highway or into a river, and I cringe at the thought of putting an aluminum can or plastic bottle into an ordinary trash can: when I stay in a hotel, I bring recyclables back home with me.
Being environmentally responsible can take some effort, but every little thing makes a difference. Global environmental issues are big and complex and worthy of our attention, but caring for the earth God has entrusted to us begins much closer to home.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.