August 20, 2012

One Cup at a Time...

“I used a paper cup yesterday,” my coworker told me guiltily. I couldn’t’ judge her. I use paper cups often to get coffee from the parish hall in the church where I work or when I order coffee from the coffee shop. But that day, I used the reusable mug I have in the office. The fact that she cares about waste reminds me that I do too, even if I often forget.

It’s not easy to be conscious of the environment all the time. Many of us, especially middle class Episcopalians, live in a culture that is expert at hiding our waste, at separating us from how the way we live affects the world we live in. We can’t see the ice caps melting or the landfills filling with our unnecessary waste. And there will all be other problems that seem more pressing or immediate.

But we are called to be stewards of God’s creation. In an interview I did with Bill McKibben a few months ago, he said, “God gave us this sweet planet and his very first instructions were to take care of it, to exercise dominion over it, which to my mind is not the same as saying trash it.” While changing our behaviors individually or within our small communities is not enough to fix all the problems we face, I think it is part of the solution.

The church can help its community members, and the larger culture, remember that how we live has long term effects. When we are feeling lazy, or simply forget to use our reusable mug, we can remind each other. Those of us for whom the environment is an issue we feel strongly about can be examples to those of us who have other things on our mind.

Of course, caring for the environment can be an overwhelming task. There are many problems, and it’s not always clear where to start. We may not all agree on how to address the problems facing the environment, but neither can we ignore the problem. While the church may not come up with specific solutions, it should be raising the consciousness of its members, and keeping the rest of our culture accountable in how it cares for God’s creation.