Pastor’s Pen – June 6, 2010 | St. Ann Catholic Church | St. Louis, MO

Of oil spills and responsibility…

There were two disparate stories in today’s Post Dispatch. The first announced that the U.S. attorney general is launching both civil and criminal investigations into the Deepwater well explosion which precipitated the worst oil spill in history. The second announced a search for permanent sites to dispose of hazardous household wastes by mid-2011. There was something about the juxtaposition of those stories that caught my attention.

The Gulf oil spill garners all the attention, and perhaps rightly so, because it is SOO visible in its effects. Part of what makes the spill so horrendous is how obvious it is. We can see the polluting oil gushing into the gulf. We can observe the oil slick as it is carried by currents through the region. But we feel pretty powerless to do much about it. At a mile down, it is an area where only machines can operate safely. So we sit by helplessly and watch the damage intensify.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have a shelf full of half filled paint cans (some still good), old pesticides, and miscellaneous chemicals that would be harmful if they were disposed of improperly. Who would see it, though, if you snuck a can into the trash here, a box into the dumpster there? Though there are six ‘collection days’ spread throughout the year, it is not easy or convenient to spend the time to dispose of the hazardous waste in appropriate ways. (I would love a permanent year round site!) And when those items get thrown without fanfare into the trash, they contribute to the pollution of our waters and planet. And that I do have responsibility for and control over.

The same goes with recycling. Sure it is inconvenient to have those bins, and the occasional ant may find their way into the house, but it is a part of my stewardship of the earth to make that extra effort. Pollution takes on many forms. Some are writ large upon the gulf. Others happen quietly on curbsides throughout our neighborhoods. Both of them cry out for justice and proper stewardship of this earth.

So, the next time you find yourself tossing that empty bottle in the trash, I ask you to remember the image from the camera at the gulf recording the oil gushing out. Writ large or writ small, it is the same act of pollution. Remember, and then make a different choice…