Global Warning: Local Acting
WHEN we were preparing to leave the United States after completing our studies, our friends asked us, “What will you miss about the States when you return to Singapore?”
Our reply was, “Apart from friends and the four seasons, we will miss the recycling bins!”
We had developed the practice of recycling all our paper (after we had used both sides), setting aside milk jugs and all other “1” and “2” plastics, tin cans and glass (after we had rinsed them out), and walking about 30 metres away to where we could put all these recyclables into designated bins.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I came back to find bright yellow receptacles in my HDB estate where I could put paper, plastic, cans and glass; and so I have continued my habit of gathering my recyclables and placing them into those bins.
My friend Andrew Peh gave reasons why, as Methodists, we should be at the vanguard of being ecologically responsible (“Global Warning”, Methodist Message, September 2007). I would like to expand on some of his thoughts.
Some of us may think, well, does it really make a difference if I recycle one bottle? After all, global warming is a result of factories in the US and China belching out greenhouse gases, isn’t it?
Yes, it is true that industries do produce much of the pollutants. But as Christians, we care for the environment because it is the right thing to do; we recycle because it is an expression of our stewardship of the earth. Christians care for the earth because God has commanded us to do that. God’s command to human beings, created in His image, was to be His stewards on earth – to take care of what He had made.
All of creation is part of God’s handiwork, and they “declare the glory of God” and “proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). Now, as a result of the Fall and human sin, the whole creation is groaning (Romans 8: 20-22).
One expression of that “groaning” of creation is seen in how the weather patterns have become skewed. We read in the papers of soaring temperatures in parts of Europe, and severe flooding due to heavy rains in other parts of the world. Some scientists suggest that these distorted and unseasonable patterns are a result of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere.
As Christians, we do what we can to care for the environment because we are to take care of God’s creation. The current ecological crisis gives us a greater incentive to do that, but fundamentally we are obeying God’s commands.
‘As Christians, we do what we can to care for the environment because we are to take care of God’s creation. The current ecological crisis gives us a greater incentive to do that, but fundamentally we are obeying God’s commands.
While our individual actions may have little impact on the overall world situation, we act because we are followers of the One, by whose Word, all things were made.’
While our individual actions may have little impact on the overall world situation, we act because we are followers of the One, by whose Word, all things were made. Let me suggest three ways.
* REDUCE. One supermarket chain is giving 10 cents to all those who bring their own bags. We could reduce the demand for plastic shopping bags (made from petrochemicals, a by-product of oil) by bringing our own bags when we go shopping, whether or not we get 10 cents for it.
We could reduce the demand for bottled water (and plastic bottles) by drinking tap water, which is potable. In our churches, we could reduce the need to print weekly bulletins by sharing bulletins within our families, and sending electronic copies of notices and minutes of meetings.
Also in church, we could have bins where we can put drink empty cans from vending machines, which can then be recycled. How can we reduce the demand for disposable cups and Styrofoam take-away containers?
* REUSE. We can reuse water bottles (though we need to be hygienic), or better still, buy proper water bottles and fill them with tap water. Plastic bags can be reused as trash bags, and envelopes and rough paper can be used for shopping and to-do lists and phone messages. Both sides of a piece of paper can be used.
* RECYCLE. Those of us who live in HDB estates have recycling bins, those of us in private estates have been given separate dustbins for recyclables. Let us use them. It takes a little more effort to separate plastic and glass bottles and to rinse out tin cans, but it is a good habit. I trust that the companies do recycle these products appropriately.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of heaven is like a woman who mixed yeast into flour until it worked all through the dough (Matthew 13:33). We cannot see the yeast in bread, because it has transformed the flour. Likewise, our Christian actions are like yeast which transforms our society. These individual actions may not be identified, but together, they all act to change the surroundings to reflect God’s character and values.
Global warming is an issue which affects all of us. Global solutions are needed to slow down this deterioration of the beautiful world God has created. By our local actions, Christians can transform this world to reflect that goodness of God.
Dr Kwa Kiem Kiok, who returned recently from sabbatical at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, the United States, is the Research Director at the National Council of Churches of Singapore. She is a Local Preacher at Trinity Methodist Church.