Green Junction: By Julie Peller PhD

I would like to introduce a column we will be adding called the “Green Junction” by Julie Peller PhD.  Julie Peller PhD, is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in: Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.


The Green Junction

Part of the reason for the massive plastic waste problem is free-market capitalism, which is effective at supplying goods at the cheapest possible cost to consumers. We are able to purchase enormous amounts of plastic materials for all types of uses at very low costs. Much of our plastic stuff, acquired by people around the globe for decades, is used one time and then discarded, destined to be on earth for hundreds (or thousands) of years.  From this perspective, the free-market model does not serve humanity or creation, especially when the future of the environment is considered.  The producers of cheap, plastic products are not required to impute associated social costs—the mass contamination of our soil and water—into their expenses and profits. Without regulations and rules, the plastic waste problem will escalate (from the current million plastic bottles/minute) and create more damage to ecosystems and public health.

How do we break this cycle? A significant percentage of people do not change their habits, even when confronted with the fact that the habits are harmful.  Businesses, organizations and individuals tend to choose the path of ease/low cost over health/sustainability.

How many people/organizations make choices based on what is best for Creation and humanity?  For example, do we choose to buy bottled water at a cheap price/ for sheer convenience or drink (filtered) tap water in a normal cup or bottle?  Do we choose to buy coffee complete with a plastic cap or brew coffee with biodegradable coffee filters and compost the coffee and filter? Do we choose to accept a plastic bag from the store or take reusable bags on shopping excursions?  To buy stuff over-packaged in plastic or purchase items with minimal packaging? To buy extra stuff since it is affordable or consider the bigger picture of these purchases?  To buy lots of stuff and packaged foods for kids or teach them sustainable practices?  Society needs laws and rules to initiate the changes necessary to protect the environment and the public. Therefore, it is more critical than ever to elect public officials at the local, state and national levels who will address the massive environmental problems we face.

What is the role of the faithful in tackling environmental problems? A current assessment indicates a low level of effort by religious groups in the protection of Creation. Most religions, Eastern and Western alike, are predisposed to focus on human interests and put protection of the environment on the back burner. While Pope Francis set forth factual and faithful arguments to initiate healing of Creation, “fundamentally, religious organizations are devoted to putting people first and will not be the people who solve environmental problems.” This means that people of faith (and others) forget that ALL WE HAVE is from Creation and the earth’s gifts. What choice did you make today?

– Julie Peller, PhD

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