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Ecology: Are We Good and Faithful Stewards?

What are we called to do in this world, for the world?

We are told we have only one life on earth. The Psalmist tells us, we have "70, maybe 80 years if we are strong” to live. And we have only one earth.

Are we good stewards of the earth during our lifetime?

I have been a Catholic Deacon since 2013, and I have been a university professor of community psychology since 1994, with my first teaching position at a junior college back in 1980. Yea, I am old. But with age, they say, comes wisdom (I hope) and the ability to look at the past with the lives we lived. See, back in the 1970s, when I was in high school and college, there was a huge push toward recycling and eliminating waste. The term ecology means the study of the environment and it really established itself as a science back in the 70s and 80s. As a youth, I engaged in getting the community at my high school to recycle. I recall how I would walk the streets of my Brooklyn neighborhood and collect soda cans to recycle and earn 5 cents per can. I recall making some serious money — and cleaning my neighborhood. My Catholic high school and college had recycling bins in the school café to collect empty cans.

Now, 40-plus years later, we continue to talk about the daily amounts of waste we generate, and how the earth is not being cared for by us for the next generations.

What happened to our collective “raised consciousness” to save the earth? The first Earth Day was held in the 1970s, to heighten our global awareness of all we are doing to harm this one earth we have been gifted. What happened?

Some will say “corporate greed.” We have been told that our wants must be needs. For example, we are told that we need the newest and latest technology and creature comforts, or we will become old and obsolete. This just isn’t true. God tells me I am more than what I own and possess on this earth. I am loved no matter what I do — in my field of psychology, we call this “unconditional love”; caritas means human love. Christ tells us, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's” and to God what is God's. In other words, we can own things and make and create more life comforts; it’s not against our faith to enjoy “worldly things.”

However, Christ also taught, do not make material goods the focus or center of your life. That center must be God. For me as a deacon, that means we love each other above all material and earthly goods (the only thing we love more is God). We don’t need to create or have things that will harm our ecology because we only get one world. I like what Mahatma Gandhi once wrote: “There is not enough for everyone’s greed, but there is enough for everyone’s need." We don’t need to waste earthly resources – let’s stop falling victim to the corporate side of life. Instead, embrace the corporal side of our earthly bonding with others — caring for the marginalized and disadvantaged, helping the sick and social outcasts.

Consider water. We are made up of mostly water, and we need water for life. Water gives life. Leonardo DaVinci once wrote that water is the driving force of all nature. I heard someone once say thousands live without love, but no one lives without water. Yet it has become a corporate commodity that is sold to us in little bottles. We all need access to clean safe water and no one should pay for it in little bottles. Those of us living in the West have been tricked into thinking that water from a faucet is not clean, and only “mountain stream” water is “pure” water. Experts tell us: False. So we sell something that we all need and have a human right to possess. Why? Safe drinking water is the first step toward alleviating global poverty, and this must never be sold for a profit. I believe it is this type of negativity that Christ was telling us about earthly possessions: We care for them; we don’t own them.

So, as a Christian, what is the moral of the story? I say, we need to be better stewards now and in the future of all we are given to care.

Returning to water, turn the faucet off when not needed: Don’t let it run when brushing your teeth; take showers every other day (scientists say we only need three showers a week – we are washing off important immunities with over showering); run the dishwasher only when it is full; have a rain barrel to help water your garden and yard; use a basin under the items you rinse to collect the water and then use the water for your houseplants; and yes, I will say it — don’t flush the toilet every time you use it; try every other time.

These suggestions are not just for Christians; we all need to do our part. The earth is not getting bigger yet our populations keep growing. Finding reusable resources is essential and maybe right now all we can do is stretch out what we have for a longer time.

But when we die “70 or 80 if we are strong,” I do hope God meets us and says, “Well done my good and faithful steward.” It’s the things we can do to improve life now, here, together, that make us compassionate people.

More from Deacon Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D.
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More from Deacon Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D.
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