Even when we are moved by the devastating impacts of plastic pollution in developing countries, the distance and scale of the problem can leave us with feelings of apathy and overwhelm - as if any action we could take would be so insignificant as to render it a waste of time. This is not, however, the case. Change is not only possible, it’s happening! And the choices and actions that people around the world are taking in their everyday lives are playing a critical part in this.
We have seen it throughout history, when a movement of ordinary people starts to pray, live differently and speak out, extraordinary things become possible. On our own, our small steps may feel like drops in the ocean but they are in fact part of the turning tide. With that in mind, here are three powerful ways as Christians in Australia we can help to turn the tide on this rubbish problem.
As citizens and consumers we can urge companies and governments to play their part in addressing the problem of plastic pollution. The people who hold positions of commercial and political leadership need to hear how important this issue is to the people who buy their products or vote them into power - and they need to be held to account for the actions they take in response. In the first instance, this means calling on the companies who are driving the production of single use plastics to take responsibility and commit to the actions that are needed to address the problem. We can also look for ways to engage with our political representatives, speaking up in support of policies and initiatives that help people in poverty and our planet to flourish.
God calls us to pursue abundant life, not an abundance of things. Yet today, Australians are consuming an overabundance of plastic - hundreds of thousands of tonnes of it every year. At the same time as calling for companies to act, there are many ways we can take steps to reduce our own use of single-use plastic. It may be making the switch to reusable water bottles, shopping bags or coffee cups; cutting out non-essential plastic items like cotton buds, glitter and plastic straws; or choosing to buy groceries and toiletries with less or no packaging. It can be hard to break the habit of disposable, convenience consumption but even the small stuff counts and change inevitably gets easier with time.
As more and more people change their lifestyle behaviours, this starts to shift our social norms and values - which, in turn, feeds back to the companies who want to sell us their products and the politicians who want our votes. In the meantime, living out the changes we want to see helps to strengthen our resolve and provide opportunities to talk about the issue with the people in our lives.
Our voices are stronger when we speak together. We can amplify the action we take individually by joining with others who are also passionately speaking up and taking action for the cause. We can do this by becoming more actively involved with TEAR campaigns and activities or using some of the fun and creative ideas in the Rubbish Campaign Church Resource to involve our friends and church communities in the campaign.
Speaking out against the status quo and making choices to live our own lives differently can be uncomfortable at times - we can experience resistance (or disinterest) from others as we embrace new ideas and behaviours. Making the most of opportunities to connect with like-minded people who share our faith, passion and conviction can play a big part in sustaining us through the more challenging seasons of our journey. These opportunities also allow us to encourage and embolden others in the movement through our shared stories and experiences.
Our everyday actions do matter. Every choice to step up, speak out and do things differently has an impact. When Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, he replied with two: to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbours as ourselves. These commands are meant to shape and infuse every aspect of our lives. Using our voices, spending our money differently, working with others on behalf of the people who are being hardest hit by the impacts of plastic pollution - these are powerful and tangible ways to put our love into purposeful, selfless action.