This season of Lent, I decided to try something different in my practice. In order to become more aware of my use of plastic (and my contribution to world pollution), I decided to cut out as much plastic as possible. We live in a plastic-centered world to the point where we almost we could use the double-entendre of saying we live in a plastic world. Yet, we are not legos. Though there are times human beings have the hard edges of a lego action figure, we are organic creatures who need air, water, and soil for growing our food.
When I was a pastor at Advent, one of the dear parishioners there would talk with me about the importance of eating organically. It would seem that all of us should know the importance of watching what we eat. It’s why most often in a Lenten practice folks choose to fast from something in their diet. Growing up in a community that always had fresh vegetables from the garden, I was surprised when she told me about one of the artificial butters sold on the market then (in the 90s) and that in essence, it was edible plastic. I know now that it was a food myth started in the 90s before we had Snopes. Still, I remembered how good butter tasted when I was a kid and how tasteless it seemed in current times. The myth is the type that sci-fi books and shows like to use when talking about food sources. But this diverges from my practice this Lent a bit.
A recent practice in the meat section is when buying a bag of chicken breasts, each piece is wrapped in its own plastic. Supposedly it is to keep the meat fresh longer and avoid freezer burn. The thing is, that plastic piles up. Even when we recycle, plastic remains to a certain degree. Not that plastic can’t be recycled, but because not everybody cares about our earth. After all, it’s been here for approximately “4.54 billion years old, with an error range of 50 million years.”
Because of our careless choices, three bird species became extinct in 2018 according to weather science. That seemed like a lot to me, though the article referenced says 2018 wasn’t a bad year. The prognosis isn’t good though.
“…the Earth is losing animal species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate, and as many as 30 to 50 percent of the planet’s species may be extinct by 2050, the Center for Biological Diversity describes. The natural rate is around one to five species lost each year.”
My grandparents and parents were always careful about materials and all of them did recycling, before our country called it recycling. Of course, they were about not wasting something that was perfectly useful since both sets of grandparents lived through the depression. In turn, our parents encouraged us to be careful in how we managed materials and we were not allowed to litter. Of course, growing up during the campaign of “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” me and my sister loved the owl who encouraged us to be good stewards. We both were nature lovers too.
Though our parents and grandparents did not use the word “stewardship” the practices they encouraged in our parents and in us were to be good stewards of nature and our resources. Many translate the passage in Genesis where G-d gives dominion over the earth take it to mean we can do what we want as humans. However, a truer meaning of the word is that we are called to be caretakers of creation. What does it mean for us to care for the earth in a sacred and holy manner? This was the journey I wanted to further this Lenten season. I was not aware at the time that Easter Day fell on the day before Earth Day 2019. How perfect is that?
What I learned in my practice the past forty days is that I had gotten careless in my shopping. I’m not a person who loves to shop in the first place with my motto to get it over with as fast as possible. In my haste to get the food shopping done, where most of the plastic gets into my home, I began to pick up what was most convenient.
Though I’ve always been rather conscientious when it comes to matters of recycling, I was embarrassed to discover that I could cut out about 2/3 of the plastic I was bringing into my home. That did not count the plastic bags. Though I most of the time use my handy recyclable bags, for the larger items, I still needed grocery bags and rather than hold up the line, I didn’t ask for paper. A dear friend from seminary sent me a beautiful large cloth bag to contribute to my Lenten practice and wow. What a difference! Now I won’t have to use plastic bags ever again thanks to Constance.
On this Good Friday, we think about the suffering that Jesus endured thousands of years ago that we might have life. What if Jesus took the attitude that those who came in the future generations didn’t matter? When people were hungry at the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus challenged the disciples. Rather than sending the multitude away (as the disciples suggested – let them find their own food), Jesus said, YOU feed them. YOU care for them.
What does it mean for us to care for the generations to come in our hear and now? As a single person with no children, does that mean I don’t have to care? I don’t think that is part of the message of G-d or Christ. The entirety of Psalm 104 is a love song of creation. Many of the Psalms are. When I was a young girl, my favorite place to pray was in the woods beside our house or to talk a walk down the dirt road behind the house. The great Creator of us all speaks to us through nature as well as feeds us. Also, one of my favorite verses is one I get asked about by pet lovers after losing a beloved pet. They say, Robin, did my pet (dog, cat, bird, horse…) go to heaven. Because of this verse in Psalm, I always say yes.
Psalm 36:6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
Another favorite verse I often think of here in the mountains is where the Psalmist says G-d “touches the mountains and they smoke”. You can see why the area around the Southern Appalachians is called the Great Smoky Mountains. I never seemed to have a camera with me in the mornings when it happened the most. In the photo below, I had to use a filter to get it to show up. Still, you can see the effect.
As a person of faith, we are called to care for each other. Scripture would also exhort us to care for our earth. Though that is not the Good Friday message, it is the message on my mind as Holy Week moves to Earth Day, 2019. Yet, every day is Earth Day; for our divine creator gave us this beautiful planet as our dwelling place. How can we better care for our earth in the days to come?
Only you can answer this for yourself. My Earth Day will be picking up the trash that washes down the mountain from careless tourists. As the days go by taking us farther into the year, it is my hope to further reduce my use of plastic any way I can. My spiritual practice is all that I can share with you. What your choices are will belong to future generations.