Twenty-five years ago we took our children on one of those vacations-of-a-lifetime to Disneyland in Los Angeles. We bought a used van for the summer and coaxed it across the desert to the west coast. When we took the kids to the beach we were unable to see the surf on the horizon because of the greenish-yellow haze trapped against the shore.
For years I commuted to work in Dallas listening to reporters declaring orange and red alerts for air quality. At some point TV weather forecasters added reports on the day’s pollution index to the routine reports on temperature, rain and humidity. In the last two decades we have seen improvements.
The first photos of earth sent back by the Apollo crews in the 1970s dramatically impressed us that our tiny blue planet rotating in space is precious and fragile. The thin layer of air that surrounds us not only contains the oxygen essential to life, but protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, regulates earth’s temperature and distributes moisture on dry land. Three-fourths of the atmosphere lies within 6.5 miles of the earth’s surface. Sixty-two miles up we leave earth’s atmosphere and enter outer space. We are dependent on an amazingly thin film of atmospheric gases to sustain life on our planet.
The Bible clearly predicts that the earth will “wax old like a garment.” Our finite earth will wear out. Of course, I also know that one day I will wear out. We are all mortal. None of us lives forever. But my own mortality doesn’t mean I should start smoking, drinking, indulging in high fat foods and refusing to exercise. Instead, I am motivated to discipline my body so that I can experience greater health and longevity. In the same way, we must learn to discipline ourselves regarding the creation that God has entrusted to our care. In the very first chapter of the Bible, with His very first words to mankind, God instructs us to “be fruitful and multiple and replenish the earth.” (Genesis 1:22).
The reaction to President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement has been swift. While some celebrated and others demonstrated, many responded with their own resolves to protect our environment. Thirty states resolved to stay the course to pursue lower greenhouse gases. Individuals, businesses and local governments are making commitments to make a difference. Renewable energy has taken root and is growing
In their groundbreaking book, Abundance, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler dare us “to imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top tier medical care, and non-polluting, ubiquitous energy.”
I doubt that pollution will become intolerable in my life time, though it seems to already be so in Beijing, at least until the wind kicks up and blows it our way. But I wonder about the world we are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren. Will they continue to enjoy a pristine world with all its life-giving beauty and majesty? When God commanded us to “replenish the earth,” he placed the responsibility in our hands.