A Christian Science perspective: Insight on making greener choices gleaned from a Bible verse.

“Paper or plastic?” grocery clerks often inquire of shoppers as they prepare to bag purchases. Yet the growing awareness of the environmental consequences of either choice may leave shoppers feeling on the horns of a dilemma. Is it better to choose paper bags, which are still frequently made from fresh timber, or plastic bags, which often end up blowing out of trash bins and littering streets and waterways? Other efforts to choose the most environmentally-friendly option may seem even more difficult. Books or e-readers? Gas or electric cars? Cut or artificial Christmas trees? Meat or potatoes?

In trying to live lightly on the earth, I’ve found a particular passage from the Bible helpful. “Choose life,” God tells the Israelites as they struggle with dilemmas on their journey through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 30:19). This two-word recap has served as a guide to greener decisionmaking as it literally reminds me to choose the most life-sustaining option. The full verse is helpful to ponder, too. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live” (New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version).

This passage reminds me that our individual and community decisions, both past and present, are made in the context of the whole “heaven and earth,” touching not just us but places and people across space and time. For example, frequently replacing electronic devices may add to mining pollution and political tensions in Central Africa, while opting for paper bags may increase logging and watershed concerns in North America. Yet if that still seems daunting (as environmental issues often do), the passage also reminds us that it is possible to choose the greater good – the blessing – rather than simply the lesser of two evils, when we listen for God’s “call” or direction. In that regard, I’ve found this passage a wonderful prayer for clearer vision and greater wisdom in making more environmentally-friendly choices.

The reminder to choose life can lift thought to a higher perspective from which we can see beyond the two sides of the coin so to speak (or two horns of a dilemma), to see more “coins,” more alternatives. As the view expands, the good options do, too. So “paper or plastic?” might become paper or plastic, or long-lasting cloth? Books or e-readers, or loans from the library? Cut or artificial trees, or a live tree to plant outdoors? Meat or potatoes, or more fruits and leafy vegetables? Gas or electric cars, or bicycles or public transportation?

How to decide? Choose life and find the greener blessing!

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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