araphrasing slightly, “This is our Father’s world / And to our listening ears / All nature sings . . .” Does nature still sing where you live? And if it doesn’t, what can you do to help bring its music back?
Few things surprise me more than the vehemence with which some of our fellow Adventists oppose any talk about protecting the environment. I find that truly astonishing. Some think that because we believe in an imminent Advent, such mundane things should not concern us. On the contrary, our eschatological beliefs should strengthen our ecological sensitivity. Every Adventist should be familiar with the ominous words of Revelation 11:18, coming from the twenty-four elders around the throne of God:
“‘The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints . . . and for destroying those who destroy the earth’” (italics supplied).
I’ve always been intrigued by those cryptic words at the end of that verse. What would they have meant to John, living as he did in the (comparatively) pristine, unindustrialized, technology-free environment of the first century? Or do they apply more properly to our times?
To our times, I believe; for the elders talk about resurrection, about judgment. We are the civilization doing criminal damage to God’s good earth. And is it possible that by our action or inaction Adventists can earn the unenviable distinction of being numbered among the destroyers of the earth? This is not an economic issue. It’s not politics. It’s a moral issue—indeed, a spiritual
one. And each of us should consider what we can do to enhance the beauty and purity of the planet, not out of a fear of judgment, but because it’s such a neat thing to do—and so utterly right.
For the purposes of this editorial, I intentionally turned the title of Richard Carlson’s (good) book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff on its head, suggesting instead that we should, indeed, sweat the small stuff; and, further, that it’s not just “all small stuff,” as Carlson’s subtitle implies. No, there’s big stuff—huge stuff—out there. Like high-level radioactive waste, waste so toxic it’ll need, according to some estimates, 100,000 years (some put the figure at 500,000 years) to lose its lethal poison. No, it’s not “all small stuff.” And as individuals, we feel utterly powerless to effect any change on such mammoth levels.
But there’s a whole bundle of “small stuff” out there, areas where “we little guys” can make a difference. Here, in brief (and at random), are some of the little things I try to do:
At home (and everywhere else I can) I recycle—I find it repulsive to dump plastics and glass with regular trash. In my office I reuse the blank side of scrap paper—for printing informal stuff, like e-mails, for example, that I want to have in hard copy. While brushing my teeth or shaving, I’ve found I needn’t keep the water running the whole time. I avoid leaving my car engine idling for more than 60 seconds, even in the coldest weather—something I learned years ago up in Canada (most of whose citizens can teach the rest of us a thing or two about handling vehicles in cold weather). Without allowing it to become a nuisance, I adjust my screen saver runtime, so it can fade to dark sooner. Even in the middle of winter, we shut down our heating system during the night. It saves energy, helps shield us against winter colds and irritated sinuses from hot air blowing through the night—and it does its little bit for the environment. In public washrooms, I try to use just one paper towel to dry my hands. At home we go after the ones perforated in the middle, so we can use just a half towel when only that is needed.
These (and a myriad other things I do) are all small stuff. But I keep remembering an idea expressed centuries ago by Immanuel Kant. Known as the categorical imperative, it suggests we act in such a way that if our action were replicated by everyone else on the planet, this world would be a better place.
Yes, if millions of us would sweat the small stuff where we are, we may just succeed—however temporarily—in bringing some of nature’s beautiful music back.
Roy Adams is associate editor of the Adventist Review.