18 Mar The Evangelical Unions and the Environment
Over the years EUs from across the nation have been faithful to the vision entrusted to them. They have been earnest in their efforts to see transformed students impacting the campuses and the nation. Along the way, we have also impacted the environment. Sometimes we did so as Jesus’ disciples and other times we did like the fallen world we live in. We cleaned up Retreat-Centers and installed dustbins at certain college campuses yet at the same time we have wasted Electricity and Paper in countless camps. Haven’t we?
The very first mandate that the Lord gave was that of being the caretakers of the created world. God gave us the power to subdue the Environment. The word environment can be understood as the sum of the created world entrusted to us. This is my interpretation of the dictionary definition. This great power brought with itself a great responsibility (you might have heard that line earlier as well)! But the Fall tainted this relationship; our relationship transformed from a caring one to an exploiting one. We wanted the resources, so we just grabbed them and moved on.
Acts of Injustice can never be hidden for long. God has his own mysterious but amazing ways of stripping us of our fake righteousness. In the Old Testament, God used the prophets to reveal the sinfulness of the society at that time. Similarly, His creation has been giving signs to show us our lustful misuse of the environmental resources. In the recent times, the world has started recognizing the environmental damage caused by us. What about us as UESI? Have we ever been mindful to this aspect of God’s kingdom?
The answer to the above question is a mixed bag of yes and no! Growing up as an EU student, I have seen examples from both sides. I have travelled with EU students who would pick up trash thrown by their friends. I have also cleaned up trunks only to throw away countless ‘order of program’ sheets. Printed, used, forgotten and finally thrown! This article attempts to list out some of the things I have seen us do good as well as point out areas where we can do better.
Right from my time as an EU student in Kolkata I have noticed that in every camp we ask our students and graduates to be mindful in the use of water and electricity. We do try and ensure lights and fans/ACs are turned off when not in use. This has been something we have done and we need to continue to do this. One of the things I learnt early on during my EU days was to leave the place clean. We saw and followed our seniors who cleaned up after any and every program. I hope this legacy carries on.
I have seen and heard of staff-workers who collect badge-holders and other reusable materials after camps; this not only saves money but also saves it from being thrown away. One of my mentors used to and still continues to carry a bag on every train journey. He not only collects his garbage in the bag but also collects the paper cups and other garbage from his fellow passengers. I want to grow in this practice as well. It not only reduces the trash we see on the railway tracks but also creates awareness. One of my friends cared for God’s creation so much that she will even ask strangers to not dirty the streets. She is equally fearless in evangelism and environmentalism!
Recycled decorations! Yes, this is something EU students in Kolkata surprised me with. During one of the Christmas programs, they decorated the venue using old boxes and bottles and it was very beautiful. We not only reused but also recycled trash to become decorative pieces; we even used the same decorations at different venues. I have heard of Tech EU having discussions on Water Day as part of their EU Curriculum. I have also heard of Changlang EU cleaning the marketplace while another EU in Arunachal Pradesh had cleaned their college campus and placed dustbins. I remember seeing Shillong South ICEU making paper-bags out of old newspapers. We probably have more such stories from all across the nation.
But things haven’t just been rosy; there have been things I wish we did differently. I have seen our students leave hostel rooms without caring to switch off the fans and lights. We seem to care less for Electricity in our campuses and hostels. We are careful in EU camps and programs but we need to be equally careful in our classrooms, hostels and houses, in-fact just about everywhere.
One thing that often disturbs me is the printed material. I know prints are useful and I value the printed material but I feel that we often print things, use once or twice and then throw them away. I am not saying that we should not print minutes of meetings, orders of programs, song-sheets etc, But we should reflect on the necessity and reduce printouts wherever possible. This is an area where we need to be careful and there is no easy way out. Did you know that paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste and 33% of municipal waste? There is a definite and necessary need to print materials but we need to be mindful and encourage responsible usage. One of the dangers of modern day lifestyle is the ‘use and throw’ culture of ours. We buy products, use them for a while and then discard them quite frequently. It’s very easy to buy stuff these days, but do we really need so much of everything? This is something worth
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Shashank Shekar Rawat and his wife Asa are UESI Staff for West Bengal (Bangla) based in Santiniketan, West Bengal.