Through the Adopt a Highway program, our church has committed to keeping clean a two mile section of a two-lane state road. Last Saturday a group of us tackled a spring clean up of the shoulders of the road.  We filled thirteen of the huge plastic bags that the highway department supplies for highway clean up.

    Most of the trash was plastic in some form. Plastic drink bottles and cups, plastic wrappers, styrofoam in many shapes and sizes, plastic snow fences, plastic bags, plastic plates, and plastic milk bottles seemed to be endless.  I read that much of the stuff that fills landfills is packaging. After all the plastic that I picked up on Saturday, I believe that. I also have read that a significant portion of household waste could be recycled.  I believe that too, as much of what we picked up could have been recycled.      

    Later in the day I mentioned to someone that I had been out picking up trash in the morning. Their comment was, “Doesn’t that make you mad?” Well, it didn’t make me mad as much as it made me dismayed.  How can we humans be so messy?

    Sunday, I drove from Elmira to Boston along the scenic highways of upstate New York and central Massachusetts.  Fresh off from Saturday’s clean up job, I was primed to notice the two stretches of roadway where some other Adopt a Highway crews had been a work, leaving behind the telltale orange garbage bags waiting for pick up.  The vast majority of the rest of the highway was a mess.  My dismay turned to disgust.

    Wednesday afternoon I had the occasion to drive along the road that our crew had been out cleaning up only four days earlier.  Guess what?  The trash had reappeared!  There were a couple of drink cans and bottles dotting the side of the road that we had cleaned up! Now my disgust was on the edge of becoming anger.  What happened to respecting the earth? After all, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 24:1)  Our faith tells us that nature is not a commodity to be consumed or abused.  It is a gift from God to be cared for, treasured and respected. 

    Today is the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day.  I celebrate the strides that have been made in cleaning up rivers and lakes, and in cleaning up the air.  Tonight’s news broadcasts noted that trash, however, remains a problem that has gotten worse, not better.

    Most of us know what we can do about the trash problem:  reduce, reuse, recycle and compost.   God help us have the will to do what we know we should and can do.

The Rev. Dr. Betsey Crimmins, April 22, 2010