Garden of Eden or Garbage Dump?

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When God finished making the world, everything worked perfectly. Adam and Eve had plenty of fine food to eat. The water sparkled like crystal. The air smelled clean and sweet. The Garden of Eden was so comfortable that Adam and Eve didn’t need clothes to stay warm.

But something changed all that. Sin came into the world, and things started to go wrong.

Today we don’t have to look very hard to find things on Earth that aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. Our water is dirty, our air is polluted—our whole world is broken.

When Jesus returns, the world will become a perfect place again. But until then, it’s up to us to do whatever we can to care for God’s creation—so it can be more like the Garden of Eden and less like a

garbage dump.

This month we’re going to explore one thing that happens when we treat the world like a dump. It’s called global warming. Lots of people are talking about it, so let’s take a look.

What Is Global Warming?

Global warming is really complicated, but here’s the basic idea:

  1. The Earth is surrounded by the “atmosphere,” which is made up of many gases like nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.
  2. These gases help trap some of the sun’s heat here on Earth to warm us up, and they let the extra heat bounce back into space.
  3. Pollution puts too much carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. When that happens, those extra gases trap the earth’s extra heat, instead of letting it bounce back into space. That’s called the “greenhouse effect.”  
  4. Because the extra heat can’t escape, the earth gets warmer than it’s supposed to and stays that way. That’s what scientists mean when they talk about “global warming.”

Thermal Experiment

Want to really feel what global warming is like? Try this easy experiment. All you need is a car and an outdoor thermometer.

Before you go to bed, ask an adult to park the car where it will be in full sunlight in the morning. Put an outdoor thermometer in the car in a spot where the sun won’t hit it. Keep all the windows rolled up.

That night, measure the air temperature inside the car, and write the number on a piece of paper. Leave the thermometer in the car.

In the morning, after the sun has been shining for an hour, check the temperature in the car again, and write it down. If you can, check the temperature again an hour later.

Did the temperature go higher or lower after the car was in the sun?

The sun’s energy easily goes in through the glass, but the glass doesn’t let the heat go back out. That’s just like what happens in global warming.

Did You Know?

The United States emits about as much carbon dioxide each year as Europe and China combined.

If all the sun’s heat stayed here on Earth instead of bouncing back into space, the temperature would be about 900° F, or 450° C, like on the planet Venus!

In the Northern Hemisphere, 2005 was the hottest year since 1880.

Shrinking ice caps are already affecting animals such as polar bears, walruses, and penguins. Some polar bears have drowned because they now have to swim farther to find safe ice to live on.

Every gallon of gas you save keeps about 20 pounds (9 kg) of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere.

So What Can We Do?

If we start now, it’s not too late to stop global warming from getting really bad. We can all do lots of things to help stop global warming. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Remind your parents to drive at or below the speed limit: the faster we drive, the more fuel our cars burn.
  • Try to reduce your family’s use of hot water. (How many ways can you think of to do this?)
  • Walk, bike, or carpool when you can.
  • Lower your thermostat so your house uses less energy.
  • Turn off lights, computers, and other energy-using things when you’re not using them. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Plant trees and other plants (they help clean the air).
  • Some people, like presidents and prime ministers, can do big things to stop global warming. Write to your president or prime minister and to members of Congress or Parliament. Ask them to make laws that will protect our atmosphere and encourage people to find cleaner sources of energy.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Here’s an experiment your whole family can do together. You might be “shocked” at the results!

Visit every room in your home (don’t forget the basement and garage, if you have them), and make a list of things that use electricity, natural gas, oil, or gasoline. Don’t forget to count things like power tools, cell phone chargers, and each lamp and ceiling light. How long is your list?

Now take a look at your list and talk about what your family could do to use less energy and make less pollution.

What’s the Big Deal?

Some people don’t think global warming exists. Some people believe it’s real, but they think it’s not a big deal. But it IS a big deal. Scientists who study global warming say that if the earth keeps warming up like it has been recently, there could be a lot of really bad effects:

  • Summers could become much hotter—even by 10° F (12° C) or more.
  • We could have more severe weather, since warmed-up ocean water plays a big part in the formation of hurricanes and other storms.
  • Animals will lose their habitats. Global warming is melting the “polar ice caps”—the ice that covers the North and South Poles. If they don’t stop melting, there will soon be no more penguins and polar bears.
  • Melting ice caps mean more water and less land. The extra water produced if the ice caps melt would cause the sea level to rise. That means that some cities along coastlines could become flooded.

Whose Fault Is It?

Global warming is everyone’s “fault.” Many normal things people do every day—like driving a car or using a lawnmower or running a factory—produce carbon dioxide because they burn coal, oil, and gas. And that’s where greenhouse gases come from.

About the Author

Sandy Swartzentruber serves as the resource coordinator for Faith Formation Ministries and is a member of Sherman Street CRC in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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