Christianity and the Environment
If you didn’t already know, I’m an environmentalist. I don’t pretend that I’m perfect at this, or that it’s something that everyone is passionate about. I don’t judge people for forming different opinions of these things to me, or think that my behaviour is inherently better than others. When people hear that I believe in a cause, I often find that a lot of varying assumptions can be made about what that means. Or they think because I believe in one thing, it is mutually exclusive to other beliefs. I once told someone that I was a vegetarian, and they looked at me and said, ‘But I thought you said you were a Christian?’
It got me thinking that maybe it would be fun to write about how a belief such as this can stem from Christianity. The Bible can be interpreted in many ways, but as Christians our worldview is largely shaped by our interpretation, and the teachings of our church and the Christians around us.
Since just about the beginning, human beings existence has been intricately entwined with the environment. If you’ve read through the creation story, you will have read through this passage:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”… God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:26+28-30)
This passage is, you will find, fundamental to most Christians who are also passionate about the environment. I see caring for the world around me – people, animals, nature – as an expression of my faith. In this passage, some translations use the word ‘responsibility’ in place of the concepts of authority and ruling over. In some ways, this word provides a more nuanced understanding of the relationship we have with the environment. We have been given the ability and authority to use the earth, to eat food from it and live in it, produce other goods. But we have also been given the responsibility to take care of it, to not act in ways that will do it harm.
I’m not saying that this is easy. I’ll be the first to admit that I could do more. Has anyone ever tried to buy spinach not contained in single use plastic? It’s hard to find and inexplicably twice the price, something that both time and money mean that I just can’t justify. And we’re in a global pandemic… having single use items is incredibly useful, as we don’t need to worry about whether items have been sterilised properly before use.
What I do believe in is making positive changes where possible. For me, I choose one thing each month that seems doable for my household, and make a small change that either has a positive impact or reduces the negative impact. Some of the easiest changes I have made include:
– switching to biodegradable/recycled plastic bin liners
– choosing an ethical supplier of eggs (as opposed to buying the cheapest caged eggs).- using reusable silicon zip lock bags and plate covers (instead of disposable cling wrap)
– using washable bamboo cleaning cloths for my dishes and other cleaning (these cloths are white, and I can clean up after spilling tomato based pasta sauce and the colour rinses out completely, they look so much better than the blue cloths and they can just be thrown in with other laundry)
– using home-made or tablet cleaning products (so many recipes for home made cleaners online, or there are now versions of traditional cleaning products that come as a tablet that you dissolve in water in a re-usable container. It saves the transport of larger heavier bottles and single-use plastic containers)
– changing toothbrushes to bamboo or biodegradable corn-starch toothbrush (I don’t like the feel of the bamboo for a toothbrush, but they make ones that feel like plastic but are instead made of corn-starch, and Woolworths even now sells them!)
– which toilet paper, tissues and paper towels we buy (made from recycled materials/bamboo, which grows faster and can be produced more sustainably);
When we made each of these changes, it was odd at first, washing re-usable silicon rather than just throwing the cling wrap away. But eventually it became normal. And not all the changes have worked… reusable paper-towels (more like a thin absorbent cloth you can throw in the wash) are great in theory, and I’m sure that they work for food spills. But not so much for cleaning up after cats…
What started me thinking about this was an email that I got this week. I subscribe to a newsletter that sends out positive things that have happened in environmental news, and I read about Victoria’s ban on helium balloon releases and the ‘Blow Bubbles, Not Balloons!’ campaign (if you would like to read this article, please click here). Despite the environmental impact of releasing balloons, it’s not something that I had known about before. Because of this, I thought that I would share a little bit about what I have learned about and changed in the past two years, and how my faith was the starting point for this journey.
I hope that some of you will consider if there are things that you could change to have a more positive impact on the environment. Change can be annoying at first, but eventually it becomes part of normal life – like when single use bags were removed from stores. With so many issues it can be hard to know how to help or where to start. But it’s not too difficult to spot ways that we can make choices that are good for the earth that we were given.
Author: Lauren Mead
Christianity and the Environment