Thursday, April 14, 2011

For the Beauty of the Earth

"The hills are alive with the sound of music." 

These words have been in my mind lately as spring has sprung in all its glory in Holland, Michigan. The sun shines brightly through the clouds, the birds wake me up each morning with their song, and the soft breeze tickles my skin as I walk across campus. Spring is a time when new life is evident in the budding flowers and green leaves. This is my favorite time of year. In Michigan spring brings an uncanny bliss to its residents who have just endured the long brutal four-month winter of blizzards and cold. It is not rare to see students running through the Pine Grove shouting with joy and running through the grass barefooted. There is something about warm weather and being outside that makes our souls happy. :)

A few weeks ago I was in West Virginia on an immersion trip through Hope with several other wonderful students. On this trip we had the opportunity to learn about an issue that is raging harm on people and other creatures all over Appalachia: MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL (or, as we non-so-lovingly call it, MTR). While in West Virgina I saw firsthand the harm this type of coal mining does to people, animals, and plants alike in the community. The group of us worked with Restoring Eden, a Christian non-profit dedicated to environmental stewardship. We spent the week talking to people while doing a health survey of the communities to see how they are affected by MTR. The results were shocking: the cancer rates were much higher in the coal-mining communities compared to the areas where there was not mining going on. 

Throughout our week I really appreciated getting to know some of the individuals we met in West Virginia. We talked to people living in run-down trailers whose tap water is brown and dirty. We heard from a famous environmental activist (shout out to Mike Rosell!) about his experience trying to make a difference in his community through civil disobedience. It was amazing to see how the people living in the mountains are fighting to protect their home. Their passion captures the importance of caring for the earth God placed us on. God created humans to take care of one another as well as the rest of creation: the land, plants, and animals that are interconnected to us in life. As Christians, we learned that in order to love humans we must also love the earth.
So often humans focus on material gains for selfish reasons and think little of other creatures around us. In West Virginia I personally witnessed the effects of MTR on individuals. As I set foot on a mountaintop removal site, the stark disparity between the grey despondent landscape and the surrounding green mountains was heartbreaking. On this trip I came to understand God's heart for justice for all the creatures he made. Walking outside this week, I have felt like laughing for joy at the sunshine and green grass. But not everyone has the chance to experience this joy, because much of God's creation is suffering. Africans die from AIDS and malaria, Guatemalans are shot by the military, Japanese become sick from nuclear radiation. 
This world is not perfect. There is so much pain and suffering today - creation is groaning. When you hear the phrase "caring for creation" I challenge you to not just write it off as an environmentalist scheme. Because we are all affected by our surroundings. Whether we realize it or not, our daily choices can affect people around the world. Caring for creation is more than turning off your lights at night or conserving water. It's about caring for people. People who don't have clean water or enough food to eat. Each of us has a responsibility to make ethical choices that are considerate to other human beings. With this mindset we can start to get a bit closer to doing God's will in this world and this life: sharing the love of Christ with creation. 

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