Posted by: Carl Magruder | March 10, 2009

Hope Springs Eternal


Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
-Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Man, Epistle I, 1733


                The doctrine of “Imago Dei” teaches that we are made in the image of God.  Perhaps the eternal springing of hope that Alexander Pope wrote of is part of our Divine design.  As Spring approaches and I cross the threshold of my fortieth year, I note a relentless ebullience of spirit within me which cannot be justified by rational proofs nor certainly a scan of headlines in the Washington Post. 

As an environmental health specialist, I have myriad concerns regarding toxicity and its effects on human health and Creation. A study by the Environmental Working Group showed that a typical human embryo in the United States has two hundred industrial chemicals in its umbilical cord.  The Toxic Substances Control Act exempted 62,000 existing chemicals from regulation when it was ratified in 1976, while the Environmental Protection Agency has tested only a fraction of the 80,000 chemicals currently in commerce, banning or restricting only five and leaving us virtually bereft of effective protection from toxic chemicals.  One in thirty-three babies in this country is born with a birth defect.  Cosmetics continue to be virtually unregulated, even baby shampoo.  Cancer rates increased 48% between 1950 and 1990, and have continued to rise, with a huge increase in childhood cancers.  Moneyed interests continue to lobby and support public relations campaigns that impede progress toward comprehensive chemical policy reform which would protect Creation and all of its inhabitants, including nearly seven billion people.    

But then there I have this unreasoning hope.  Bisphenol-A, a potent hormone disruptor, has been banned in baby bottles in Canada and Suffolk County, NY.  Six baby bottle manufacturers have voluntarily decided to stop using bisphenol-A in the U.S.  Manufacturers such as Nalgene now offer “BpA-Free” water bottles.

Phthalates (“THA-lates”), which are linked to birth defects, early childhood puberty in girls, hormonal feminization of boys, and cancer, have been banned in the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Argentina, and the state of California.  Wall-Mart and Toys-R-Us have committed to selling children’s toys that do not contain harmful phthalates.   The U.S. Congress has banned or restricted use of three classes of phthalates. 

This is not, however, a reason for complacency.  There is plenty of work to do, and the challenges are formidable.  The National Council of Churches Eco-Justice programs has developed a pair of resources that work in tandem to inform you and your community about environmental health threats, to keep you safe, and to help you defend God’s Creation and the most vulnerable among us.  These are Mindful Living: Human Health, Pollution and Toxics and the Mindful Living Gathering Guide, available at  Together the Mindful Living resources break down the process of facilitating an adult education session in your church that will focus on toxics, pollution, environmental justice, the special vulnerability of children, prayers for health and wholeness, safer individual choices, theological underpinnings of environmental health concerns, and easy ways to engage with legislative reform.  We are proud to offer these resources free of charge, and to support learning about and action on environmental health as a Christian concern. 

My hope is restored when people of faith heed James’ teaching—“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works?”  As we labor to make God’s love more abundant and accessible in the world, I say with the psalmist, “But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more…”  (Psalms 71:14) It is my prayer today that your spirit is renewed in Christ, and that the work of your hands is blessed.



  1. Thank you for this resource.

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