So we’re degrading the environment. Now what?

I’ve had a slight green tint for some time, and I’m not talking about the aftermath of bad tacos or being partly Irish. Like many, I’ve recycled papers and cans, refrained from littering and generally sided with political positions that are Earth-friendly. It’s been effortless and sensible to be greenish.

But in the last several months, I’ve begun to get more green around the gills, as they say.
Am I going with the latest eco-trend? Probably a little.

But it feels deeper than that. For the first time, environmental concerns feel like a God-connection to me. “The earth is the Lord’s” says the Psalmist, and though we humans were given dominion over the earth, the overwhelming message of the Bible is that our role is to respect, preserve, honor and listen for God in it: “The heavens are telling the glory of God, and all creation is shouting for joy.”

For too long my attitude about the environment was more about aesthetics than about being faithful to God — like my objection to mountaintop removal coal mining, which had more to do with concern that it was tacky and would mess up the view in the event that I might want to travel through coal country and enjoy the scenery.
The stakes were raised, however, when I read of the effects these “more efficient” mining procedures had on modest working communities near and far as rivers downstream choked to death.

Still later, when I realized the irreversible act of destruction was being wrought on a piece of God’s creation, I finally asked: “Why in the world are they doing this?”

Be careful what you ask.
It turns out that coal mined with maximum efficiency (read: cheapest and easiest) is powering the comfortable life I live, without me giving it a second thought.

In other words, I am part of the destruction of the mountain.
More recently, I read in National Geographic about the effects of multinational oil corporations on the Niger Delta after oil was discovered in the region. This formerly poor but sustainable area of Africa is now even poorer, more violent, in chaos and unable to fish, plant or hunt in the polluted region, all a result of finding “black gold” beneath their feet.

And where does 40 percent of the oil go? To the United States and into my gas tank and presumably yours.
We can plead innocent since “we didn’t ask the company to do such a dastardly thing,” but now that we know its origin, are we still innocent? Or is this akin to knowingly buying stolen property (“but I didn’t steal it!”)?
I am looking for ways to drive less — carpool, bus, bike, scooter, walk. When I drive, I drive more slowly and efficiently. And I start my car with a prayer to God: “I’m sorry for the connection between this choice and another’s pain. Father, forgive me.”

Sometimes I turn another shade of green — green with envy for the days when I could joyride without a care in the world.

I miss those days. But I wouldn’t go back even if I could. A care for creation connects me to God in deeper and more intimate ways.

Joe Phelps is pastor of Highland Baptist Church at Cherokee Road and Grinstead Drive. Contact him at [email protected]