Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


What's The Solution To Pollution?
Benjamin F. Richards, Jr. 
Professional Engineer 
1417 Harding Highway 
Mays Landing, New Jersey 08330


From: JASA 29 (March 1977): 43-44.

Pollution-the result of improper waste disposal-is one of the many problems facing our urbanized technological society. Stewardship in utilizing our natural resources seems to offer a solution to pollution. Some interesting principles may be found in the Scriptures regarding pollution.

Pollution comes in three forms-water, air and solid waste. Only water pollution is of interest here, but the underlying principles also apply to the management of any waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committed so the management of both point and nonpoint sources of water pollution in this country. Point pollution sources emanate from discrete pipes and are easily controlled by conveying the waste to a waste treatment plant. Nonpoint pollution sources do not emanate from discrete pipes and, consequently, are much more difficult to control. Examples of nonpoint pollution would be fertilizers and pesticides applied to agriculture crops, soil erosion caused by construction activities or rather highly polluted slormwater from urban areas. The control of nonpoint sources is much more complex. Management practices might include restrictive fertilizer and pesticide application rates, erosion control programs for construction activities or a myriad of necessary controls to improve urban stormwater quality.

The EPA has demonstrated leadership in water pollution control and Mr. Mark Pisano, Director of Water Planning for that Agency has stated:

Our approach to the non point source problem is based on the
concept of 'stewardship of the land.' By this we mean that man's activities in the use of the land should not destroy the land's productivity for future generations. Reasonable care in the conduct of these activities will markedly alleviate, and, if we are right, essentially prevent this type of problem.

The interpretation is-let us assert some responsibility and take care of the land-, we have to preserve it for someone else to use too.

Chaucer states ". . . and out of olde bokes, in good feyth, cometh al this newe science that men lere." Interestingly, one of the oldest books, the Bible, contains instructions about both stewardship and waste disposal.

The underlying philosophy which pervades the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) is that of the individual's responsibility. The first four commandments deal with the individual's responsibility so God; but the latter six deal specifically with the individual's responsibility toward others and/or their possessions.

Further instructions in individual responsibility, waste disposal and stewardship also appear. A caveat placing the onus for waste disposal on the individual-the one who creates it-is found in Deuteronomy 23:12-14 (RSV).

There it states:

You shall have a place outside the camp and you shall go out to
it; and you shall have a stick with your weapon; and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up your excreement. Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to save you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, that he may not see anything indecent among you, and turn away from you.

Both the method (bury it) and the place (outside the camp) of disposing wastes are defined. Wastes disposed in this manner were potentially useful as a fertilizer and it was not offensive to anyone else. Disposing the waste outside the camp would also prohibit any indecent exposure among individuals, since it presumably would be accomplished in private. This is stewardship along with responsibility, and as the Biblical passage also states, adherence to it would prohibit the Lord from seeing anything indecent among his people.

The solution to pollution is both stewardship and responsibility.