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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Earth Day 2024 – planet vs plastics

As April dawns and many of us embark on annual spring cleans, one material is bound to show up in our refuse – plastic. Later this month, global leaders will head to Canada to negotiate a landmark treaty on plastic pollution which is expected to conclude this year. 

It is of little surprise then, that the theme for Earth Day this Monday is Planet v Plastics, with the coordinating body, Earthday.org, calling for a 60% reduction in the production of all plastics by 2040. Overconsumption and unsafe disposal of plastics are driving the pollution crisis we face, endangering human health, threatening biodiversity loss, and degrading our ecosystems. 

Moreover, the consequences of pollution are not evenly shared. Most plastic consumption occurs in developed countries while production and disposal are concentrated in developing countries. This ‘unequal exchange’ of resources has frequently been criticised by academics and campaigners. But what does the Bible have to say? 

One cannot help but observe the stark contrast between the unequal exchange of global resources today and the equitable distribution of resources within the early church: ‘all the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had’ (Acts 4:32). 

Ultimate fellowship, or ‘koinonia’, starts with the equitable and sustainable use of scarce resources on our planet. While this model may be somewhat reflective of our weekly fellowship groups or church ‘bring and shares’, I wonder if Christians in the West are missing a radical invitation to engage with the world’s environmental crises.  

Tearfund’s This is Rubbish Campaign highlights that nearly 2 billion people have no safe way to dispose of rubbish. What if koinonia extended not just to our local church, but Christian brothers and sisters around the world? What if Jesus’ command to love our neighbour as ourselves extended to people in poverty experiencing the worst impacts of plastic pollution today?  

Whether it be choosing to recycle items or petitioning national leaders to deliver a robust global plastic pollution treaty, for Christians, addressing plastics pollution extends from celebrating Earth Day to following our Saviour. 

From scientists working on innovative sustainable materials to waste pickers, who are at the forefront of addressing plastic pollution, Christians on the frontline can actively love God, his creation, and our global neighbours who are most impacted by environmental crises.  

 

Shilpita Mathews
Shilpita is an environmental economist who focuses on climate resilience. She is a trustee at Operation Noah, a patron of Green Christian, and a founding member of the Young Christian Climate Network. Shilpita grew up in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Jordan, and is currently based in London where she worships at All Souls Langham Place. 

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