Catholic News Service
Children play near trash under a bridge in Manila, Philippines
Catholic News Service
Children play near trash under a bridge in Manila, Philippines
When I was small and didn't want to eat lima beans, my mother reminded me of "all the starving children in China." I suggested we package my beans and send them to China. While I thought this was an excellent solution to my problem, mother was not amused.

When my children were small and uninterested in some of the vegetables on the table, they had a "no thank you" taste. Keeping the bean example fresh, that amounted to three lima beans on their plates and no express shipments to China.

We're all contributing to the waste in our society and our world in countless ways: Almost everything comes in throwaway containers, and we do a magnificent job of throwing things away. Our computer hardware is quickly becoming a "trashy" problem with the next generation of something almost out before the present generation technology has flown off the shelves.

And everyone says of landfills: "not in my backyard." Let's put it in your town, not mine; let's send the toxic waste to your region but keep it out of mine. We solve our waste disposal problems by sending it to somebody else, or, as in a notorious 1987 example, we put it on a barge, the Mobro, in New York and sent it to five different states and two other countries before it ended its 5,000-mile journey in Brooklyn, N.Y., where it was incinerated.

People began to wake up to their trashy problems. "Reduce, recycle and reuse" became the watchwords, and we continue to look for ways to slow if not stop our contributions to trashing the environment.

While we're consuming and looking for ways to stop the escalation of our trash pile, people in some other countries are sifting through trash at huge garbage dumps looking for food and usable items that others have thrown away.

We don't really need to go to other countries to see people searching the trash for something edible. People in our towns and maybe our neighborhoods are going through dumpsters, looking for a meal or a treasure that someone else no longer wants. The hungry come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and nationalities.

In far southern Illinois, I helped distribute food through a diocesan outreach office. One lady who went to a Protestant church came to get food from a Catholic agency so people at her church wouldn't know that she was hungry. Another woman, in her 70s, said she had no idea what she would do for food if it were not for this help.

I do see many folks trying in small ways to reduce their "plastic" footprint on the earth, opting for refillable water bottles rather than buying a case of water with individually packaged plastic bottles. People carry their reusable grocery bags into the store instead of carrying home bag upon plastic bag of groceries.

We're taking baby steps, and that's important, but we have to do so much more in many ways. We, as individuals, must be accountable, but we need to speak up and out to corporations that don't respect our environment. It won't matter how many cellphones or computers we have at our "disposal" if we can't breathe enough clean air to use them.

We need to stop trashing our environment and look at each person as the gift from God that he or she is instead of as a "drain" on the economy, looking for a handout. Look at every day as an opportunity to do something to support and protect our planet and its people.

So many years ago, I was willing to send lima beans to China. These days, China owns or has a share in U.S. businesses, looking for more ways to invest. We need to invest in the future of our planet, learning to conserve everything from food to fuel.

Everything should be safeguarded for today and tomorrow. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American discards almost 5 pounds of garbage every day. I don't want to be part of that average statistic today or any other day. Do you?

The writer is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.