In Psalm 40, the prayer is “Here I am, Oh God, I come to do your will.” When we look around and see garbage in every parking lot, farm field and roadside, are we doing the will of the Creator? When we purchase lots of unnecessary stuff, disposable and highly packaged goods, all which require resources of Creation, are we respecting Mother Earth? The way we treat the environment signifies our will to please God.
In modern society, disproportionate amounts of goods are made from plastic, the main type of environmental waste we regularly observe. Plastic materials are made from petroleum, and similar to other fossil fuels, it took millions of years to form and should be highly valued. Instead, much of this resource is converted into an enormous amount of one-use plastics, such as bottles, cups, and caps; bags and packaging for food and goods, and utensils and straws are used one time in massive quantities. Most people never think that the plastic plate, fork, bottle and packaging they use every day was made from a valuable resource – one which took millions of years to form.
After we unpack our goods, have our morning coffee or lunch at the local fast food place, we usually throw away materials – the plastic contents – that should be valued. However, very few people view plastic material as worthy of transformation/reuse. An additional problem with our incredulous overuse of plastics is these materials are incompatible with the natural world. We use and throw away plastic products, many are released into the environment, and they do not decompose. The plastic materials stay around for hundreds of years and are becoming a greater pollution burden every passing day.
I have written about the sadness I feel for the younger generations that may never know and view a world free from plastic pollution, thanks to the consumption of materials of the past decades. In a recent visit to the southern Lake Michigan shoreline, which is experiencing an alarming disappearance of the beach, I observed freshly cut sand dunes from high waves. Buried “treasures” were exposed a few feet from the surface: lots of plastic pieces in pristine condition.
If we continue to choose one-use plastics over other sustainable options, are we doing the will of God in respecting and protecting Creation? The time for change is now. I hope and pray that one day my grandchildren will be able to observe the beaches free of plastic garbage.
Julie Peller Ph.D. 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.