As the world commemorates Earth Day today to raise awareness about climate change, it also serves as a timely reminder that God appointed mankind as custodians of the earth.
Genesis 1:28 marks the first words God ever said to mankind. “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.”
God’s first command to Man was that he should subdue the earth and rule over the creatures living on it. Since then, the earth has been our home—we live in it, we breathe of it, and we enjoy the benefits of all it has to offer. Yet so many of us take it for granted.
On April 22 every year, Earth Day is celebrated around the world. As the effects of climate change escalate, more and more people are beginning to recognise the importance of loving and caring for the environment we live in.
According to science, the earth was created 4.5 billion years ago, and the first signs of life were discovered through evidence of fossils from around 3.5 billion years ago— that’s more years than you can count!
But Christians believe in the Bible, which tells of God creating the heavens and the formless, dark earth. At the sound of His voice, rays of light stretched across the horizon, the land and the sea were separated. Imagine: that created the beautiful untouched islands of Bora Bora, the Maldives and the Caribbean surrounded by crystal clear, deep blue waters.
God’s masterpiece included the galaxies peppered with stars; vegetation, fruits and trees of all species sprouted from the ground.
He also created living creatures of the sea, land and sky were created—small and large alike. Finally, He created Adam—the first man and made him the first steward of his creations in the Garden of Eden. The plants and fruits were his food source, and he was given the authority to name the animals and to walk alongside them.
OUR DUTY AS CUSTODIANS OF THE EARTH
In Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Mankind was made the custodian of the earth, which means to care for and be responsible for its well-being and growth.
Anna Jane Joyner, a Christian climate advocate, said in Charisma magazine, “The first commandment in the Bible was to Adam, where He instructed him to ‘take care of My garden’. To blatantly ignore the first command in the Bible doesn’t seem like a good way of doing business if you’re going to call yourself a Christian and you’re going to call yourself a Christian community.”
Joyner also shared with TEAR Australia, a Christian agency that seeks to fight poverty and injustice in the world, that her favourite verse in the Bible is Romans 1:20. “It speaks to how God created this world and all its systems as a reflection of God’s character. And so, when you mess with a part of it, the sea or the air or people, the ecosystem changes. That’s a reflection of God’s character. You can’t change or hurt or harm one thing without hurting the whole,” she said.
The Bible reveals that it matters to God how we should care for the crops and cattle. In the long list of dos and don’ts in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, God gave specific instructions on what mankind should and should not do in order to sustain the earth He created. For example, in Leviticus 19:25, God told the children of Israel, to only eat the fruits in a tree in the fifth year. A few chapters down, He gave instructions for “the land is to have a year of rest” every seven years (Lev 25:1-12). This is still practised in some farming communities—the year of rest allows the land to restore its richness and viability for the next season of sowing.
However, as centuries passed, civilisation took root. Science and technology began to fuel man’s hunger for knowledge and intelligence. Given their creations, inventions and discoveries which provided faster, more efficient ways of living, mankind began to forget God’s instructions to tend the earth.
Today, it’s virtually impossible to live in modern society without electricity. While all these inventions serve humanity with great purpose, the aftermath is the toll it has taken on the environment. Trapping of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, unhealthy amounts of carbon emissions and footprints, water pollution due to chemical spills, destruction of wildlife habitat as we cultivate natural resources from it, erratic climate changes—the list of problems seems endless.
Founder of Earth Day Gaylord Nelson was both a politician and an environmentalist. He noticed that there was no law in place to protect the environment from abuse such as industrial air pollution and the dumping of toxic waste into waterways. Using his clout as a senator of the United States, he launched Earth Day in April 1970, and 20 million Americans held demonstrations across the US to support the fight. His efforts resulted in greater awareness and laws such as the Clean Air Act, which began to introduce gradual restoration to the environment.
LITTLE STEPS TO GREAT CHANGES
Today, a radical call to fight for a cleaner environment increases with a new sense of urgency as the evidence of climate change becomes increasingly palpable. If God has given mankind the duty to take care of the land, we can all make a little effort.
And the good news is, that saving our home planet is easier than it sounds. All you need is a little effort and some creativity on your end. Here are some ideas!
1. Grow green fingers
Individuals with green fingers? It’s not so hard to grow vegetables indoors with a little sun needed. Nothing like harvesting your homegrown greeneries and making a meal out of them.
Growing indoor plants and herbs are all in the rage too. Not only do they beautify your home, but they also make the air a little fresher.
2. Calling dabao kings and queens
Whether it’s having your caifan, chicken rice or bak chor mee, bringing your own Tupperware or tiffin carrier instead of having your food packed in disposable containers makes a small yet significant difference. Do your part in minimising the use of styrofoam and single-use plastic containers.
3. Redemption of a shopaholic
Ever enter a grocery store with one thing on your list but come out with 10 other items? We’ve all been there, done that. But planning your grocery list and double-checking with your pantry prevents overbuying food items that lead to wastage.
Extra points for you when you carry your own bag for your items instead of using plastic bags. This is good practice for the day when major supermarkets stop providing them.
4. Conscious coffee and tea
Coffee is an absolute necessity. But it’s possible you don’t realise how many paper or plastic coffee cups are disposed of each year. It’s by the billions.
Do your part by bringing your own coffee mugs. For bubble tea enthusiasts, you can bring your own tumbler and metal straws. You’d be doing the environment a huge favour.
5. Kitchen tips
Cooking is fun and rewarding, but it is a messy business and the urge to reach for a paper towel to clean spills is overwhelming. Where possible, opt for cleaning cloths and sponges—they are reusable and they offer great absorption.
Reading labels when you buy cleaning products can ensure that you aren’t harming the environment even as you keep your kitchen clean—chemical-laden cleansers can pollute the air and water around us. Consider switching to natural cleansers such as soap nut products.
Radical changes and large movements don’t happen overnight. But even small step we take to uphold our responsibility toward the earth God gave us makes a difference towards a cleaner, greener future.