I watched three young teens race their bikes down an alley and hurl their left over snack packs onto the ground as they sped away. Plastic bags, Styrofoam containers, chicken-bone wings, fries, paper napkins, half-used plastic cups with dipping sauce – abandoned. Things like that aren’t hard to clean up despite the negligence of these boys.
Our oceans are another matter. 80,000 tonnes of floating plastic has been photographed swirling around the Pacific – making up a mass larger than France, German and Spain. And it likely isn’t only our youth contributing to this mess which now drifts in five large masses – one stretching to 1.6 million square kilometres.
Youth may be part of our hope as they become passionately engaged in environmental concerns. An 18-year-old Dutchman named Boyan Slat started a group called Ocean Cleanup several years ago to deal with this catastrophe labeled the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. His organization estimates that eight million (out of the 322 million tonnes produced annually) end up in the oceans every year.
Most of us might ignore this out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue until we realize that some of that plastic is being swallowed by the fish we eat. Large tangles of lost fishing net are caught up in this mass, trapping passing sea life like turtles.
Saving the planet is something Christians tend to think is something Jesus did some 2000 years ago. We genuflect to the cross and empty tomb. We say a prayer of gratitude for the eternal life we gained but we don’t necessarily connect that our role may go beyond loving God and loving our neighbour.
Jesus reduced all commands down to the one of loving each other “as I have loved you.” The New Testament is an application and commentary on how we do that. A key piece we may miss is that demonstrating love for you may be demonstrating respect and honour for the place you live and grow – this planet.
As we move into spring and summer the beauty of the world is taking shape all around us with little help from us. What are you doing to keep that beauty from diminishing? What are you doing to help with saving our planet? Yes, the people, but also the place where all these people live.