I was especially moved by these words in the Litany of Penitence in yesterday’s Ash Wednesday service:
For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.
We've been praying that prayer for a long time! This prayer book was published in 1979, 32 years ago. That we’re sorry about our poor stewardship of creation is clear. That we’ve repented is not so clear, because to repent means to change behavior. Our sorrow must be strong enough to motivate us to make a change. However, as I lamented the sloth in my own green habits, I also noticed some signs of hope, some of which are fostered by the city in which I presently reside, Lexington, Kentucky.
Curbside Recycling ~ We have two cans, provided by the city. One can is green and is for household trash. The other can is blue and is for recyclables. We put paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, and a number of other items in the blue can and set it out by the curb every Thursday morning. A city crew comes by and picks it up. They take it to a place where the items in the can are sorted and recycled.
Bicycle Lanes ~ Lexington has bicycle lanes on roadways all over the city. They connect to some very nice bicycle trails. Cyclists ride them to work, to school, to church, and for recreation seven days a week. Motorists watch out for them and slow down. Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit in Lexington is 25 mph. In most other cities, it’s 30 mph. That 5 mph can make a big difference in an encounter between a passenger car and a bicycle. I don’t want to suggest that instituting bicycle lanes here was a simple thing, but mainly it took creative thinking, leadership, and application of some white paint on pavement.
Energy Saving Light Bulbs ~ Gay and I almost never buy an incandescent bulb anymore. The improvements in compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) and the number of options now available, the energy savings, and the availability make this kind of energy conservation a no-brainer! To make it even better, our local electric utility provider sent us some coupons that provided significant savings on the purchase of CFL's. We’ve come a long, long way from those fixtures with the “starters” my parents used in the 1950’s. But I am grateful for the example they provided. My dad was a homebuilder and he used fluorescent fixtures wherever possible. Lexington, like many cities, now has reasonable building codes that foster more extensive use of energy efficient lighting.
I am grateful to be living in a city where it easier to practice "green" habits. I feel that I've moved a little beyond sorry and am actually demonstrating some repentance in my care of creation. Thanks, Lexington, for fostering such a climate. Other cities can learn a lot from your good example.
A friend of mine was complaining about “tree huggers.” I confessed to him that I am a tree hugger and always have been. He pointed out that peoples’ livelihood depended upon the ability to harvest lumber from old forests in places like the Pacific Northwest and that the needs of people outweighed the needs of the Spotted Owls. I had to point out that human beings are endowed by the Creator with more options than the other creatures with which we share this planet. When God entrusted the stewardship of creation to humanity, it was because God had specially equipped us with cognitive resources not given to any other creature. We are supposed to be smart enough to figure out how to steward the resources of creation in a way that respects and sustains all life, not just humanity.
One of my Lenten disciplines is going to be to find more ways to be a good steward of creation, with or without the help of municipal resources. I want to be a contributing citizen of “this fragile earth, our island home.”