It is said that human beings are the custodians and trustees of God’s creation. Our responsibility is to act as ‘stewards’ of the world God has created for us. The Bible discloses Christian stewardship and the human responsibility of the created universe clearly and explicitly in Genesis. It outlines what God has created us for and what he expects of us as humans- created in ‘his image’ – as described in Genesis 1:26-301. But have we ignored this responsibility?
The world has upheld its responsibility, to some extent, by developing the Kyoto protocol, as its main objective is to reduce its greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The European Union, as well as several other important countries, have signed up to the treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels specified within the treaty. This indicates that the global community has recognized the need of reducing emissions, and has considered our ‘stewardship’ our number one priority. The carbon footprint is the means by which we can estimate how much both individuals and businesses contribute to the greenhouse gases; it is a ‘measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide’. It is thus meant to be useful for individuals and businesses to recognise their impact in contributing to global warming.
Many businesses are continuously developing products to deflect the fears of global warming. For instance Toyota, the car manufacturer, has made hybrid cars that partially use electricity as a substitute for petrol or diesel, thus reducing the amount of CO2 emissions by 50%. This has been driven by the need to find alternative fuels and the potential profits from an on-growing ‘green’ market. Pressure from market leaders, such as Toyota, has produced an agent of change, this influences individuals and businesses to recognise their responsibilities towards the environment. As a result, Toyota’s profits have risen by almost 14% in just a year after launching its ‘greener driving with hybrid cars’ campaign. The UK government in particular have recognised the joint efforts from corporations that have introduced ‘greener’ technologies to the market; as a result the UK driving vehicle licensing agency (DVLA) have abolished both road tax, and the congestion charge, on hybrid cars, to promote cleaner motoring and encourage wider ownership.
Other businesses have invested vast sums of money in using energy efficient products in order to enhance their corporate image to customers; this boosts their sales and the number of loyal customers they have. Companies such as British Airways, a major world airline, fly eco-friendly planes that reduce CO2 emissions by over 30%. Eurostar, the international rail carrier, have recently announced that they will be spending over 38% of its profit on reducing its pollution output; they aim to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 25% per customer by 2012. The blue chip giant, Cisco, have developed advanced video conferencing products and services which enable companies to communicate with one another across the world using the Internet; as a result Cisco themselves, have saved ï¿½5 million on travel expenses, and has cut its carbon footprint by almost 38%.
As individuals we have a moral duty to uphold our responsibilities to the planet by doing simple tasks each day that decrease our carbon footprint, such as: walking, switching off unnecessary lights, using reusable bags to carry shopping, and taking short showers, rather than baths. All of these help the environment in so many ways.
Although society has shown some interest in maintaining its responsibilities towards the planet, we could ask, ‘Have we gone far enough?’ Recently, some major countries have failed to uphold their responsibilities, notably the United States; the US has refused to ratify the Kyoto Agreement, as they are unable to reach the targets set within the time frame. Some may say it is the American way of life that is responsible for them producing 50% of the world’s carbon emissions. Many Americans drive huge jeeps, and waste unnecessary energy in their homes. This way of life has its origins in America’s history; it has always considered itself ‘the land of plenty’; indeed that was why so many people emigrated there at the beginning of the twentieth century. Culture change on this scale cannot be initiated overnight, small changes are required and the next generation of adults must be better educated to enable changes on this scale to occur. However, American companies are also very much at fault.
However, it is always easy to criticise others. Businesses the world over only exist by making profit, so have UK owned British Airways really purchased ‘greener’ planes for the good of the Earth? Or is this another stunt for them to increase its sales/profits? Considering that British Airways have been depicted in the media as an ‘unethical’ business recently, I suggest this is a ruse to increase its customer base. This is the same with energy providers, where they burn fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, because it’s the cheapest way to produce electricity. This is constantly decreasing the planet’s natural supplies, which in recent years have been shown to be decreasing so rapidly that some experts say that fossil resources will be depleted within the next thirty years.
Other businesses have failed in their responsibilities towards the earth, in particular those that cut down rainforests all over the world. For centuries these have been habitats for animals, and homes to plants that God has planted; plants which have in the past provided cures for terminal illnesses, such as cancer. Most importantly, the rain forests provide us with an large amount of the world’s oxygen. One and a half acres of rainforest are being lost every second with tragic consequences for both developing and industrialised nations.
Experts estimate that we are losing 137 plants, animal and insect species every day due to rainforest deforestation. It is pitiful to think that businesses are only doing this to develop their commercial existence. Big corporations such as Mitsubishi, and Texaco are doing this only for the value of timber, and finding places where oil exists, again stealing the planets natural resources. We are losing the earth’s ultimate biological possessions just as we are realizing its true values. The world’s rainforests once covered 14% of the earth’s surface; now it only covers just 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be lost by 2035
Wars over the past century have also caused harm to the planet in several countries, for instance the ‘Little Boy’ nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II, killing over innocent 140,000 Japanese civilians within the first six months and leaving a legacy of radiation that is still active to this day. In fact, thousands more have died from injuries and illness attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. The 1980s Chernobyl disaster has also claimed victims. Mankind has been purposefully negligent by its insistence on using ill-built nuclear reactors and weapons of mass destruction. It is apparent that technology in today’s society can be used erroneously, to make wars more threatening; this has been seen in recent years by Saddam Hussein, intimidating western countries, such as the United States, by expressing the desire to use chemical weapons.
Over the past two decades there has been an increase in the number of chemical spillages, specifically oil spillages, into the sea. This kills thousands of marine and coastal creatures, and contaminates God’s oceans the world over. The same goes for the release of dioxins due to burning waste in incinerators, causing contamination to humans; this can cause birth defects, and increase the likely chance of cancer being diagnosed. This again shows how the human race has failed to prioritise its responsibility to uphold its effective stewardship of the world.
The extent to which mankind has affected the planet can be summarised both positively and negatively. Looking at the positive side, we have produced ‘green’ products that help the way we operate without plundering the earth’s resources, as well making agreements, such as Kyoto treaty, to reduce countries CO2 emissions. Looking at the negative side, we have abused our natural resources by constantly using fossil fuels, such as gas and oil, which are expected to be deplete within the next thirty years. We have also bruised the planet by using weapons of mass destruction, eradiating the environment with isotopes that are not found in nature.
Our civilization does not always cause destruction intentionally, although our disparaging intentions are consequential; a good example of this is the phenomenal growth in the number of cars in the world. I think our intentions are good, but our practice lacks conviction. I believe that humankind is not really aware of the responsibility demanded of them. It is true certain things have been recognised but only small things are being changed; it makes you consider whether it is in fact a little too late. We should consider our children’s futures, how they will tackle the planet’s deterioration caused by global warming that we’ve caused? Rather than worrying about the cars we drive, and the wood flooring we want in our homes, we should be thinking of our children’s heritage. The Bible states, (Genesis 2:15), “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, the drive to serve the garden in which we have been placed.” The human race should therefore be investing a much larger portion of their income in ensuring our future is ‘green’.