Christian teachings say that God’s children are to be stewards of their environments. Some subgroups even go so far as to label themselves “Green Christians,” who practice “creation care,” which basically means caring for God’s creations. The bible repeatedly tells us to rule over the land and all living things in it, but reminds us that it is not ours to keep. Just as you are supposed to return something in better condition than you borrowed it in, the same goes for the world.
In Judaism, environment is viewed similarly. Since God is the Creator, and what He created was good, then we have a responsibility to care for everything that was made in the first 6 days. God owns His creations, and we are here to care for them. Tikkun Olam—the perfecting or repairing of the world—is a Jewish concept which compels us to always be building, planting, and caring for our surroundings.
Though caring for nature seems like a common-sense issue regardless of faith (or lack thereof), it has become increasingly political and polarizing over the last few decades. The arguments surrounding global warming have separated liberals and conservatives.
The issue of whether global warming is happening or not should come down to facts, not politics. Oceans are warming, the ozone layer is shrinking, and the polar ice caps are melting, causing water levels to rise. These facts are hardly debatable, but they seem to be used as issues for political gain.
While the government has a role in caring for the environment, the very question of whether or not to do so is a human concept, not an institutional one.
As humans with common decency, it is our job to care for the environment around us. In America and other developed countries, we have access to systems that keep our environments sanitary. While they could use some improvements, we have functional systems that keep our neighborhoods clean, keep our water safe to drink, and keep sewage from flowing down the street. After travelling to a third world country, I realized that these services aren’t a given, they are something that people and government came together on and decided to implement. Now we expect these minimum standards.
But what about the systems that nature already has in place? If you’ve ever been in a forest, you know that it doesn’t need humans to come in and clean up after it. It’s a system that works just the way it was created. It lives, breathes, and dies every year.
Spring is like the birth, Summer is the prime of life, Autumn is the decline, and Winter is the death and dormant stage when all the waste is processed and used to bring the forest back to life in the Spring. The seasons do their job in nature without our interference. But the vast majority of people don’t live in completely natural settings, we live in cities and towns that have been developed and changed.
Because we have created environments for ourselves that defy nature and are structurally opposed to it, we have a duty to not destroy the natural systems, but rather to sustain a balanced and harmonious relationship with the world around us, the one God created as He saw fit.
We should recognize the impact that our daily choices have on our environment.
This isn’t always an easy task. Unless you make the environment a main focus of your life, some choices may be unavoidable. Most people will compromise a bit between the environment they live and function in, and the natural environment that they are trying to protect.
As humans, I believe it is our responsibility to make conscious choices whenever possible, such as using recycled and recyclable materials, reusing containers and other disposable household items, conserving water, and avoiding litter. We may still drive gas-powered vehicles and use paper napkins, but we can choose to do simple things daily to counter those actions. We can purchase from companies that use sustainable practices and don’t harm the environment. We can support—with our words and our wallets—companies and products that have a negative footprint, meaning they do more to build up the environment than they do to poison it.
It is close to impossible to live in the modern world and not leave some type of footprint behind, and I think it’s important to not judge others for their practices. So regardless if you’re a Christian, a Jew, an atheist, or something else, it should be a daily practice to bring positivity and healing to the world around you. If we don’t leave this place in a better state than when we came, then have we fulfilled our roles as humans?
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on the environment from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.