When Environmental Science is what you teach, every day is Earth Day. Every day is a day to tend to the plants in the greenhouse, gather litter that’s blown up against the Our Creator’s Classroom fence, give feedback on students’ article reflections, find a pertinent video about a career that overlaps with the environment to increase relevancy for students, research current statistics to keep notes up to date, and refine class activities to make the most of every moment. And it’s fitting that every day feels like Earth Day because every day is a day that we impact the earth.
Different individuals have different reasons for caring about environmental issues, but for me it centers on a single word.
This planet is our nest. Like any good nest, it was created with expert care and careful preparation by a loving parent. Every detail of our world was specially designed in advance for our benefit and wellbeing. The mission of this sphere we call home is to sustain us, embrace us, and introduce us to the loving creativity of our creator.
In the Genesis story of creation, God declares each stage of his creation to be “tov” – Hebrew for “good.” Each day, God looked at what He had made and saw that it was tov, but at the end of the day He made mankind in His image He finally declared that it was tov tov – very good. The creation of mankind brings the rest of the earth to completion. All other things were made in preparation for us the way a bird builds a nest to support its young.
God then says it is mankind’s job to fill the earth and subdue it as well as name each living creature.
This can seem to support extreme anthropocentrism, and has indeed been used along with theories of dispensationalism to support overuse of and apathy toward creation. But though it is anthropocentric, it demands a caring balance. Mankind is placed as the pinnacle of creation, but like an oldest sibling, our job is to protect and care for the rest of creation. This nest has been given as a gift. It would be rude to abuse such a gift and foolish to mistreat something upon which we depend.
Furthermore, when mankind was created, he was pulled from the ground – shaped from the thing on which he would walk and from which he would cultivate his livelihood. This is not incidental but highly intentional. We are reminded here of our dependency on the most humble of materials, not even a species but a substance.
If the creation of this earth was so instrumental in our own creation, it must still be essential in our day-to-day existence. The unyielding ties between our well-being and the health of our nest are impossible to ignore. Connections abound between air pollution and respiratory diseases, between the cleanliness of our water and the abundance of our sea life, between the chemicals poured into our soil and the quality of our crops.
A sturdier nest makes a safer home. When we begin pulling out pieces of the nest and claim that those twigs and leaves are not truly important, we form holes through which we inevitably fall.
In the Psalms, King David says that God “made man ruler over the works of [God’s] hands.” While this nest was given to us as a gift, it is our duty and privilege to care for it and nurture it. We are called to name our home and all things in it. God wants us to partner with Him in His continuous plan for creation. This is significant – God trusts us with our nest.
He has entrusted every rock, every tree, every bird, every molecule to our care.
God respects our ability to respect His gift.
If a little child who is quite dear to us offered us their best scribbled piece of artwork as a gift of love, we would put it in a prominent place on the front of our refrigerator. Its quality is irrelevant. We value it because it is more than just a picture – it is a signature of love.
If that is how we esteem the gift of a child, how much more should we value God’s gift?
But it is even more than that – more than just remembering who authored the world around us – because respecting creation means more than just respecting plants and air and water. It means respecting people.
People are part of creation, too.
If we respect the Creator, we must respect His creation. How can we forget to care for the part of creation that lives and walks and breathes in the image of God? The act of creation was just one way in which God showed us His love. One way to share that love with each other is by respecting this nest that holds us all together. When we join together to respect creation, we affirm the majesty of the God who desires peace and wholeness for all things. And when we do that, the word “holy” vibrates through every particle of our nest.
Environmental Science Teacher