Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | March 9, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust. Trash Forever?

Transience. Mortality. Repentance. The Cycle of Life.

“From dust you were formed and to dust will you return; Repent and be faithful to the Gospel,” says my priest as he marks an ashen cross on my forehead. Yes, indeed all living beings are borne of and must return to the earth – to dirt. Eco-justice is embodied by living in community. So too must death and decomposition be life-giving for the community.

This is a lesson I am learning more deeply as a neighbor is teaching me the art of composting. Through, I, a yard-less apartment dweller, have begun sharing a composting pile and garden with a neighbor. I have found composting to not only be a life-giving discipline of re-claiming nutrients for God’s garden, but a way of building community by giving us a reason to know our neighbor and to share responsibilities.

This experience has deepened my appreciation for others’ composting efforts, including those started by Congress with the “Green the Capitol” initiative in 2008. A week ago, I ventured out for lunch on Capitol Hill and – *GASP* – the biodegradable cutlery and composting bins of the cafeteria were gone. Getting rid of many “Green the Capitol” initiatives, including swapping compostables for plastic/Styrofoam was a “cost-cutting measure.” Congress’ mentality in the cafeteria has also been seen in efforts to undermine the Clean Air Act and other environmental protections.

The question is: for whom is the cost cut, and who bears the cost instead? The toxic chemicals leaching from a plastic fork live on long after the one who enjoyed a meal with it has left this world. All God’s creation (including humans) living downstream and downwind from landfills and incinerators will be more vulnerable to diseases like cancer. This cost-cutting mentality breaks down community because it does not acknowledge who is paying costs with their lives.

Ezekiel 34:18-19 has a message for Congress and for all of us on this day of repentance: Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet?

God’s “sheep” need all of us, especially elected representatives, to repent and be faithful to the Gospel by taking full stewardship of the land. From dust we came and to dust we shall return… as should our trash.


This is the first in a Lenten Blog series based on our 2011 Earth Day Sunday resource “Where Two or More are Gathered: Eco-Justice as Community.”

If you want to keep following our blog and other happenings with the NCC Eco-Justice programs, “like” us on facebook.


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