8/9/02 : Genesis 1:9-19
9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning - the third day.
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning - the fourth day.
In the last few weeks football player Roy Keane has been in the news because he admitted that he deliberately and seriously injured another player because of a grudge he held. This has been added to by a recent sending off when he elbowed a fellow countryman in the face. One reaction that was shown on television was of a parent who pointed out that this was a poor role model for children. The thinking behind this is that people in a privileged position have a responsibility to others.
In today's passage we read how God created land and sea, vegetation, and the sun, moon, stars and planets. Seasons emerged and the delicate ecosystem of the earth was being created. Again and again God pronounced that what he had created was 'good'. God took great care in what he created. We should appreciate the wonder and intricacy of the creation and respond to God with thanksgiving and responsibility. In verses 28-30 God gave the earth to humankind to look after. We are to use the earth and all its resources for the good of those who live there and will live there, but we are not to abuse the earth. Unfortunately this is happening at the moment. The main motivation for this is people's greed.
One of the issues that has been in the news at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg this week has been pollution of the world by so called green house gases.
The greenhouse effect is the rise
in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases
in the atmosphere (water vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and
methane for example) trap energy from the sun. Without these gases,
heat would escape back into space. Because of how they warm our
world, these gases are referred to as greenhouse gases. Without
the greenhouse effect, the and Earth's average temperature would
be about 60F colder not warm enough for humans to live. But if the
greenhouse effect becomes stronger, it could make the Earth warmer
than usual. Even a little extra warming may cause problems for humans,
plants, and animals.
The climate system includes and is influenced by complex interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land, ice, and biosphere.
The atmosphere covers the Earth.
It is a thin layer of mixed gases which make up the air we breathe.
This thin layer also helps the Earth from becoming too hot or too
cold, much like clothing does for us. Weather systems, which develop
in the lower atmosphere, are driven by heat from the sun, the rotation
of the Earth, and variations in the Earth's surface.
Oceans cover about 70 percent of Earth's surface. Their large mass and thermal properties, enable them to store vast quantities of heat like an enormous radiator or storage heater. Oceans buffer and regulate temperature ? energy absorbed or lost by the oceans results in a smaller surface temperature change than would occur over land. The atmosphere and ocean constantly exchange energy and matter. For example, water evaporates from the oceans into the atmosphere. This moisture then falls back to the Earth as precipitation, rain, snow, sleet, and even the morning dew on the grass.
Land covers 27 percent of Earth's surface, and terrain influences weather patterns. For example, the weather in areas covered by mountains can be completely different than the weather in areas where the land is mostly flat.
Ice is the world's largest supply of freshwater. It covers the remaining 3 percent of Earth's surface including most of Antarctica and Greenland. Because ice is highly reflective and because of its insulating properties, ice plays an important role in regulating climate.
The biosphere is that part of Earth's atmosphere, land, oceans that supports any living plant, animal, or organism. It is the place where plants and animals, including humans, live. Large quantities of carbon dioxide are exchanged between the land-based biosphere and the atmosphere as plants take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, and animals inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. So President Ronald Reagan: was wrong when he said 'Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.'
We can see from this the complex nature of the earth that God created. We are now discovering how easy it is to tip the balance of the earth's stability through our irresponsible use of it.
For example large areas of the earth's vegetation are being removed.
Worldwide deforestation is occurring at the rate of : 2.4 acres (1 hectare) per second: equivalent to two football fields; 214,000 acres (86,000 hectares) per day: an area larger than New York City; 78 million acres (31 million hectares) per year: an area larger than Poland. On average, the rate of destruction has increased during the last few years because of very extensive deliberate destruction of forests in Brazil and Indonesia. Distinguished scientists estimate an average of 137 species of life forms are driven into extinction every day; or 50,000 each year. Slavery has been discovered amongst some of those who are forced to cut down the forests In Brazil. Just cutting down trees and selling them without replacing them is a wasteful use of resources.
Projected Economic Value of One Hectare in the Peruvian Amazon :
$6,820/£4,547 per year if intact forest is sustainably harvested for fruits, latex, and timber
$1,000/£670 if clear-cut for commercial timber (not sustainably harvested)
$148/£100 if used as cattle pasture
94 % of the world's forests have no official protection from human activity.
Another concern is global warming
where it appears that the balance of 'greenhouse' gases is being
upset by pollution causing an increase in the earth's temperature.
The Earth has warmed about 1F in the last 100 years. And the four warmest years of the 20th century all happened in the 1990s. Periods of increased heat from the sun may have helped make the Earth warmer, but many of the world's leading climatologists think that the greenhouse gases people produce are making the Earth warmer, too. Many glaciers in the world are now melting, for example, glaciers are melting in Montana's Glacier National Park. Some scientists think the glaciers are melting partly because the Earth is getting warmer. The level of the sea is rising. Over the last 100 years, the level of the sea has risen about 6-8 inches worldwide.
Scientists think the sea has risen partly because of melting glaciers and sea ice. When some glaciers melt, they release water into the sea and make it higher than it was before. Scientists also think that warmer temperatures in the sea make it rise even more. Heat makes water expand. When the ocean expands, it takes up more space. Together, the melting glaciers, rising seas, and computer models provide some good clues. They tell us that the Earth's temperature will probably continue to rise as long as we continue increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Once, all climate changes occurred
naturally. However, during the industrial revolution 200 years ago
we began altering our climate and environment through agricultural
and industrial practices. Before the Industrial Revolution, human
activity released very few gases into the atmosphere, but now through
population growth, fossil fuel burning, and deforestation
we are affecting the mixture of gases in the atmosphere.Since the
Industrial Revolution, the need for energy to run machines has steadily
Global energy use has risen nearly 70 percent since 1971 and is poised to continue its steady increase over the next several decades, fuelled by economic expansion and development. Energy demand has risen at just over 2 percent per year for the past 25 years and will continue to climb at about this same rate over the next 15 years if current energy use patterns persist, [ according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).] Along with rising energy use comes an attendant increase in greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and an anticipated increase in global warming. Fossil fuels supply roughly 90 percent of the world's commercial energy; energy-related emissions account for more than 80 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere each year.
The need to deal with greenhouse gas emissions was discussed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and an agreement was reached at Kyoto, Japan in 1997. This requires rich industrialised countries to reduce output of carbon-based gases by a deadline of 2008-2012. President Bush abandoned it in March 2001, shortly after taking office. He complained it would be too costly for the US economy and unfair because it did not require big emerging countries such as China and India to make targeted reductions in their own pollution. The accord will take effect once it has been ratified by at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of carbon dioxide pollution as of 1990 levels. The United States accounts by itself for around a quarter of global emissions of greenhouse gases, much of it generated by cars.
Dan Quayle former American Vice-President said, 'It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.'
The 300-strong US delegation at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg last week held the future to ransom, forcing delegates to accept that the US would only agree to give money for clean water if the world gave up on renewable energy. Behind that insistence was US Energy policy, influenced by the big oil interests that supported the election of Bush and Cheney.
On the positive side delegates have agreed to halve the number of people who lack basic sanitation by 2015 and Russia has agreed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. This means that it can now come into force, as sufficient numbers of polluting countries have signed up.
We can help the political progress by being aware of what is happening, praying for world leaders, and lobbying politicians.
Scientists expect the average global temperature to increase an additional 2 to 6ºF over the next one hundred years. This may not sound like much, but it could change the Earth's climate as never before. At the peak of the last ice age (18,000 years ago), the temperature was only 7ºF colder than it is today, Even a small increase in temperature over a long time can change the climate, the level of the oceans, the places where we plant crops, the air we breathe and the water we drink.
Climate change may affect people's health both directly and indirectly. Scientists suspect that, in many places, global warming will increase the number of very hot days that occur during the year. More hot days increases the possibility of heat related health problems.
For example heat stress and other heat related health problems are caused directly by very warm temperatures and high humidity. Untreated, heat stress can be a very serious medical problem. Air pollution, changes in food and water supplies, and flooding are all examples of possible impacts that might affect human health.
How people and nature adapt to climate change will determine how seriously it impacts human health. Some people and places are likely to be affected more than others. Generally, poor people and poor countries are less likely to have the money and resources they need to cope with preventing and treating health problems. Very young children and the elderly adults will run the highest risks. The speed of the changes may mean that many plants and animals will be unable to adjust so they could become extinct.
Global warming may make the Earth warmer in cold places. People living in these places may have a chance to grow crops in new areas. But global warming also might bring droughts to other places where we currently grow crops. In some parts of the world, people may not have enough to eat because they cannot grow the food that they need.
Some energy, like the energy you need to live and move, comes from the food we eat. But other energy, like the energy that makes cars run and much of the energy used to generate electricity comes from fuels like coal and oil – fossil fuels. Burning these fuels releases greenhouse gases. So when we watch the television, put on lights, use the washing machine, oven, kettle, or microwave we help so send greenhouses gases into the air. Whenever factories make the things that we buy and use everyday, they too are sending greenhouse gases into the air.
The rubbish that we send to landfill sites produces a greenhouse gas called methane. Methane is also produced by the animals we raise for dairy and meat products and when we take coal out of the ground.
Driving a car or using electricity is not wrong. We just have to be wise about it. We cannot expect governments to do everything. We have a part to play. Here are some ways we can help make the planet a better place!
Whenever we use electricity, we help put greenhouse gases into the air. By turning off lights, the television, and the computer when we have finished with them, you can help a lot. Homes can be better insulated.
Bike, Bus, and Walk
We can save sometimes energy by taking the bus or train, riding a bike, or walking. If we bike or walk we may even become fitter!
Planting trees and vegetation will reduce greenhouse gases. Plants absorb carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. Some people may be interested in supporting an organisation that preserves wildlife and their habitats.
Recycle cans, bottles, plastic bags, and newspapers. Some items can be composted then used in the garden. When we recycle, we send less rubbish to the landfill and help save natural resources, like trees, oil, and elements such as aluminium. We can even help by reusing carrier bags. I am sure many of us just throw them away or store them in a corner when we have used them. But what about taking them with us next time we go shopping, or using one of the 'bags for life' that some supermarkets supply? The Irish government have addressed this problem by taxing carrier bags to encourage people not to use them unnecessarily.
When We Buy, Buy Environmentally Friendly Products that don't use as much energy. Some products are made specially to save energy. Others, like washing machines, will tell you how efficient they are and how much electricity they use. Before we purchase a car one of the things that we can consider is the fuel consumption. Then, when we drive the car we can save fuel by driving smoothly, not using it for unnecessary short journeys, and having it serviced and maintained properly so it works as efficiently as possible. Some people use less energy by sharing cars. For example, four people can ride together in one car instead of driving four cars to work.
We can also buy recyclable products instead of non-recyclable ones. Look for the recycle mark – three arrows that make a circle – on the package. Recyclable products are usually made out of things that already have been used. It usually takes less energy to make recycled products than to make new ones. When we do buy paper goods that are not recycled we should check the label to see that it comes from a forest where trees are systematically replaced.
We can also help people in the developing world by buying 'Fairly Traded' goods, such as tea, coffee and bananas. At one time such products were inferior to the better known brands, but now their quality has improved considerably. I have heard it said by some Christians that such products are more expensive. Even if they are, and this is not always the case, why should we exploit people in the developing world for our own gain? What does this say about our depth of commitment and our true 'god'? When we buy a product we should not be selfish and just think of the price we are paying for it. We should also consider the price other, poorer people will pay if we continue to buy it and support companies who care more about their shareholders than the quality of life of their workers and suppliers.
Mother Teresa said: "At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received - how much money we have made - how many great things we have done. "We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat...I was naked and you clothed me...I was homeless and you took me in.' "Hungry not only for bread - but hungry for love ... Naked not only for clothing - but naked of human respect and dignity ... Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks - but homeless because of rejection. This is Christ in distressing disguise."
We have a responsibility to our Lord for the earth he has entrusted to our care and the plants, animals and fellow humans he has placed on this planet with us.