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Changing Our Culture of Conservation


17 April 2023

By Rick Bunch 
Earth Stewardship Team lead 

On 22 April, as 2023 World Conference opens, Community of Christ will join more than 190 nations in celebrating Earth Day. 

The event will mark more than a day on the calendar. It has become a symbol calling people to action in recognition of a sacred trust to conserve and preserve Earth’s precious natural resources. 

The international organization, Earthday.org, has adopted “Invest in Our Planet” as the theme for 2023. The theme suggests we act (boldly), innovate (broadly), and implement (equitably). Faith communities, business groups, governmental bodies, and citizens—everyone accounted for and everyone accountable—are urged to create a partnership to restore and preserve our planet. 

On 22 April, as 2023 World Conference opens, Community of Christ will join more than 190 nations in celebrating Earth Day. 

Printed resources, posters, and tool kits are available at Earthday.org. 

The church’s Earth Stewardship Team has supported this celebration. One must realize, however, that the effort and program are facing challenges on several fronts. The challenge involves much more than weather or plastic bags. It begins with an awareness and attitude at home, and it is perhaps reminiscent to our celebration of New Year’s Day. We tend to revel for one day, list our resolutions for the year, then set them aside until the next year. 

Earth Day is one day, and we have good intentions. But we—the Earth—cannot afford to neglect our commitment to stewardship. It’s imperative that we develop a culture of education and understanding that results in conserving and wisely using Earth’s resources. It is an ongoing process which must become a way of life. 

We need to face at least five major, interrelated crises: 

  • The air we breathe. 
  • The desecration of oceans and forests. 
  • Food to feed a hungry world. 
  • Water that rapidly is becoming a commodity, rather than a human right. 
  • Plastics, which not only originate in fossil fuels, but involve chemicals harmful to human health. 

These crises are not unrelated to justice for the Earth and its eight billion human inhabitants. 

We recognize that change is a constant. Change certainly relates to climates, which have been in motion since Earth’s beginning. At no other time, however, have eight billion people been pumping carbon dioxide and waste into the air, our rivers, and oceans. Yet many fail to acknowledge a problem exists. 

Let’s begin with air. The world’s industrial nations are releasing gases into the atmosphere that are causing the temperatures to increase. Many people face respiratory challenges. 

These crises are not unrelated to justice for the Earth and its eight billion human inhabitants. 

Sadly, many developing nations suffer results for which they are not responsible. Much of that carbon is absorbed in Earth’s forests, which are being destroyed at an alarming rate. A great deal more carbon is absorbed in the oceans. The results are that ocean temperatures are rising. As the heat rises, the volume of water expands, inundating low-lying lands. The combining of carbon with water also produces a form of acid. Combined with rising temperatures, it’s destroying many of Earth’s coral reefs. Those reefs are home to plant life that would further absorb the carbon dioxide and release precious oxygen in return. 

Earth’s oceans are responsible for feeding a large portion of human population. The temperature and chemical increases are imperiling large populations of sea life. In addition, overfishing and destruction of fish populations are affecting the availability of food. 

Thus, food becomes an issue. In addition, the oceans are responsible for many weather patterns that are becoming increasingly harmful. They’re damaging structures and bringing loss of life to humans, plants, and animals. 

With major flooding in many places and increasing drought in many others, feeding Earth’s populations increasingly will be a challenge, especially for those vulnerable to these factors. Famine, disease, and starvation already are resulting in massive loss of life, especially in low-resource settings. 

Equity then becomes an issue. A further problem results from plastic waste creating at least five formations in Earth’s oceans. Sea life often mistakenly consumes plastic particles, which can bring death. In addition, minute plastic particles increasingly are present in the air we breathe. 

Then there’s clean water for consumption and sanitation. It increasingly is becoming a major crisis on almost every continent. For some, storms and floods bring too much water. For others, there is too little, and new weather patterns are resulting in a major shift in water’s availability. 

Major river systems are drying up. In turn, that affects much agricultural production. In the USA alone, the Department of Agriculture estimates that as much as 80 to 90 percent of consumptive water use goes to agriculture, either for irrigation or meat sources. 

Growth of grain to feed livestock uses huge amounts of water, as do the livestock that eat the grain. It has been suggested we consider a more plant-based diet. That, too, becomes a consideration for water. In many locations, climate and seasons often dictate when plant products are available. That results in transportation services relating to use of fossil fuels. 

All of these factors are interrelated, and no easy solutions exist. This has caught the attention of Pope Francis, who with conservation professionals across the world suggests that strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and protecting the environment. 

Make every day an Earth Day. 

That brings us back to the way-of-life suggestion and a sacred stewardship, incumbent on the people of our faith. God does not ignore the vastness of nature because of our preoccupation with so-called spiritual concerns. Our prayers, our meditation, and our fasting reflect our connectedness with creation. When we acknowledge the presence of an all-encompassing Spirit, resident in every entity of created existence, that recognition makes all of creation sacred. We echo again the injunction to Moses—take off your shoes, for you are on holy ground. 

Our solutions begin at home. Some suggestions: 

  • Use water judiciously. Use water-saving devices such as a faucet aerator and other low-flow sources. Consider landscaping that requires little water. 
  • Choose products wisely. Select sustainable material and consider buying food and products produced locally. 
  • Save energy. Use energy-efficient appliances and products. Consider using solar power or other renewable energy sources. Drive less. Carpool and use public transportation when possible. 
  • Reduce-reuse-recycle. Reduce the trash you put into landfills by recycling, composting, and drinking from reusable bottles. Eliminate plastics and Styrofoam. 
  • Inspire others to care about nature. Take friends and family to special outdoor places. Teach your young people and others to love and care for nature. Plant trees. 
  • Support political representatives who understand and support climate-effective policies. 
  • Volunteer for community cleanups. 
  • Get off mailing lists for unwanted mail and unsubscribe to unwanted catalogs. 

The Earth Stewardship Team has been active in producing lessons relating to environmental challenges. These include climate issues, combating poverty, water justice, plastic pollution, and ocean health. 

These lessons are suitable for Christian education for adults and youth. They also suggest resources for further exploration and study. These lessons are available through HeraldHouse.org. Check them out. 

Make every day an Earth Day. 

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