Did you know that there is a ministry in environmental protection? Now is time to rediscover the oldest form of ministry, because now more than ever we need to give it our attention. Nature is a ministry not limited in its audience and it has no language barrier. The environment is a topic that when viewed through a biblical lens can reach everyone! Unfortunately this wonderful spiritual connection is being ignored, and abused. We are lied to everyday when we are told there is nothing we can do about it. Nature is the oldest ministry there is because it shares with us a deeply personal connection to our Creator.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.Genesis 2:15 NIV
This involves all of us. On the day the first of humankind was created we were given two gifts. The first gift was free will and the second gift was dominion over the other living creatures on earth. The first gift greatly impacts the the second. When God gave us this significant amount of control over our environment, he also gave us a responsibility to take care of it. Even more, what we do with that authority will forever have consequences. Thankfully this also affirms a truth for us. The lie that we are powerless to make a difference in environmental change is just that: a lie! Government policies are not the environmental save we are all waiting for. What we need are changes in the little decisions we make day to day.
Why Environmental Protection Ties to My Faith
Let’s start by reconnecting with our roots. Let’s look at our ancestry. When God made Adam, He placed him in Eden with instructions to take care of it. In those days humanity was at peace with nature. We didn’t have to build back soil, or worry about bugs and fungi overpowering our food. More significantly, when we had a close relationship with nature we also had a close relationship with God. Imagine knowing God so closely that you can go for a simple stroll just to talk! Adam and Eve had that, walking with God in the garden on a regular basis. In fact, the Bible says that when we know nature we know for certain there is a God.
They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.Romans 1: 19-20
How could we look at creation and not know there is a Creator? So much of nature just works together so efficiently in a way that could only be designed. For example, one of the rumors I remember mentioned by a teacher in high school is that cows are bad for the environment, because they give off CO2. Well, guess what converts any CO2 into oxygen. The pasture the cow grazes on! Letting grass grow to feed the cows gives us more oxygen. Plus, consider the alternative, pastures give us so much more than the CO2 from a gas guzzling lawn mower. God’s design works better than our own every time. It’s even an educational standard in Next Generation Science, used in our public schools. Children are taught to look to nature for design help:
“1-LS1-1 Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.” — Next Generation Science Standards
Nature is not only great on its own, but it is also great for us. Multiple studies have looked into the health benefits of being in nature, finding that regular contact with nature has psychological benefits. Think of God’s original intention for Earth. He was creating it for us and what we as humans need. Two studies, one in the USA and one in the Netherlands, found that time with nature reduces cortisol levels, taking away our stress and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another study in South Korea found that exposure to nature improves cognitive function, helping us think clearly and improving our memory. Plus nature has been seen to have a positive impact on diabetes, obesity, and circulatory heart disease. A daily dose of time in nature is preventive medicine! There are even multiple studies emerging in the topic of “nature-deficit disorder” which suggest that time in nature is not just preventive medicine, but an actual human need. “The Last Child in the Woods” is a book which makes the understandable claim that more exposure to experiences in nature will even improve “behavioral problems” in young children.
Everything about the earth was specially made to sustain us as our food and for our mental health. Taking care of the earth is an extension to taking care of ourselves. I know who made this earth, and I can see Him in the things that He made. However, our daily lives revolve around distractions and it is easy to feel separated from God. Likewise, nature which shows us God, is easy to feel separated from. We have so many man made things to keep our attention such as TV screens, computer screens, money, and all the things we think we need because society says so. Meanwhile, those same man-made things have led us to abuse our natural resources. We cover the world over with concrete, and treat it as disposable. We have the ability, the ingenuity, and the responsibility to take care of our planet.
So What Can We Do?
I’m one of the save the world from plastic types. Plastic is the environmental issue that any individual person can make a difference in. Whether global warming is an issue or not, we have other concerns which require the same response to take care of our planet. We know about the plastic in our oceans. The problem is not just the presence of plastic in the ocean. The problem is that plastic was designed to last. In natural creation plants die and they become compost, animals die and they become compost, even people were made from dust and will return to dust. Plastic does not rot. Nothing is lost in nature because it was designed to repurpose itself, but plastic is man made and here to stay. Every piece of plastic which has ever been made still exists today and we are producing more than we are recycling.
I feel that by respecting God’s creation we are showing Him our respect. I want us to be encouraged knowing we can make changes in how we use resources so that we can give back to God’s green earth. Thankfully there is already a growing number of people wanting to make changes to live more peaceably with our environment. There are small decisions that each of us can make that will provide big changes. In 2016 I stumbled upon the Zero Waste movement, including the whole trash in a mason jar fad. I loved the aesthetic and I binged all the information I could on how reducing plastic will save our planet. What I have learned is there is noticeably more to reducing waste then the mason jar aesthetic. The movement has since been renamed the Low Waste movement, because the first thing to know is that it is not a total elimination of waste. Essentially the call of the movement is to reconsider how we use plastic and avoid purchases of plastic items with a disposable nature. After avoiding the plastic that we do not need, the second part to the Low Waste movement is to add to and go beyond our current methods of recycling. Rather than the 3 steps of Reduce Reuse Recycle there are 5 steps.
More than just Recycling
Reuse and Repair.
Refuse plastic disposable items whenever possible, and look for alternative items which will serve the same purpose. In many cases the solution will be something retro.
Reduce. This applies to all resources and can be as simple as turning off the lights when we leave an empty room.
Reuse and Repair. A lot of the products we buy in plastic today were one of three things in the 1940s. They were made of materials closer to nature such as glass, steel, and wood; such as glass baby bottles as opposed to plastic ones. Perhaps the product was designed to be reusable such as a cloth towel rather than a paper one. In other cases products were repaired; such as mending a shirt with a tear rather than tossing it.
Recycle. Recycling is not perfect, since every item we recycle can only be recycled a few different times. Even still recycling plastic saves money and resources which would have otherwise been spent on producing more plastic. So good job!
Rot. Only a small percentage of our planet has usable topsoil, which we need for growing our food. Composting not only disposes of waste but it builds back our soil.
Kim, Bo-Young, et al. “Horticultural Therapy Program for the Improvement of Attention and Sociality in Children with Intellectual Disabilities.” HortTechnology, vol. 22, no. 3, 2012, pp. 320–324., doi:10.21273/horttech.22.3.320.
Rodiek, Susan. “The Role of the Outdoors in Residential Environments for Aging.” 2006, doi:10.4324/9780203820193.
Berg, Agnes E. Van Den, and Mariëtte H.g. Custers. “Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress.” Journal of Health Psychology, vol. 16, no. 1, 2010, pp. 3–11., doi:10.1177/1359105310365577.
Lachowycz, K., and A. P. Jones. “Greenspace and Obesity: a Systematic Review of the Evidence.” Obesity Reviews, vol. 12, no. 5, 2011, doi:10.1111/j.1467-789x.2010.00827.x.
Olivia is an eclectic creativity enthusiast. A teacher by profession, but an aspiring storyteller on occasion. Her super power is her compassion.