From the Clergy
“THANK YOU, BRITAIN!”
This was the headline in the Daily Mail Newspaper on Monday 14 May, following the campaign waged by the paper to highlight the serious problem of plastic and the effect it has on the environment. Over the previous weekend many groups of people had been out picking up litter generally and sorting it so that the plastic could be recycled.
It is all too easy to turn a blind eye to problems such as this. Perhaps because we cannot see first-hand the huge islands of plastic that are forming in the oceans and contaminating them. It isn’t just what is dropped on beaches or out of boats. When we discard plastic anywhere (intentionally or unintentionally) there is a chance it will reach the sea at some point, whether dropped in urban areas or the countryside. I have heard it said that, daily, worldwide, the equivalent of three truck-loads of plastic are dumped into the sea.
On the other hand, there are those who consider that plastic is a fantastic and incredible material. It replaces natural materials such as ivory and tortoise shell, is the safest material for use in electrical appliances and plugs; it contributed to the war effort; reduces C02 emissions, makes medicine safe; contributes to the environment by keeping foodstuffs fresh for longer and so reducing food waste; enables people in third world countries to carry and store clean water safely; saves lives and much more. It seems that the confusing mess surrounding plastic has been caused by a lack of planning about what do with the material left over after single use, the irresponsibility of our “throw away” culture and our lack of care of the environment. Research is going on to find ways to recycle more types of plastic and there is the suggestion that it should be buried until scientists have solved the problem.
Reading about the creation in the Bible (the first three chapters of Genesis) we find that it was God’s intention that human beings should be stewards of creation, caring for the environment. This all went sadly wrong when they turned away from God. Life from then was not the same - spring and summer give way to autumn and winter; the cycle of life begins with birth and ends in death; some parts of the world are subject to the power of nature in the form of natural disaster and humans can have a negative effective on the environment, so that the pattern of the seasons is changed causing, among other things, rising sea levels and all that entails.
Summer is a good time to look around at the world, take in the wonder of creation, and consider the importance of caring for the environment. We can all play our part in caring for creation - many ideas have been put forward in recent television programmes and, as I write this in the middle of May, a new series about the value of plastic has started on Radio 4.
However, we read in Romans 8: 18 – 25, that creation looks forward to the time when the world will be, once more, just as God intended it to be. In the church we have just celebrated the Ascension of Jesus to heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We look forward, with the whole of creation, to the time when he will return and we and all of creation will be fully renewed and redeemed. Heaven and earth will no longer be separate areas but one.
In the meantime, there is still a lot to do to bring about a real awareness of the problems humankind is causing in the environment, in particular the way we deal with plastic. We can all do our part, as individuals and as communities to make sure the difficulty is lessened.