Exploring the gospel principles of earth stewardship

Salvage and Salvation

The landfill at Springville is two stories high, with a steady line of trucks bringing more. We went there to dump a truckload of concrete-like slag from Geneva steel that we’d dug out of our garden. Signs posted everywhere warned against salvaging. The saddest thing was that so many of the things being dumped looked salvageable. When we got to the area where we could unload our rubble, there, marking our spot was an old clothesline post, with a plug of cement and rocks circling its base.

I’ve been looking for a set of clothesline posts for a year now. Living in Utah, with its dry climate, most days it’s faster to hang things out to dry that it is to use an electric dryer. And here was what I wanted, something that had been and still could be useful, thrown out for trash. And even if my husband and I had been able to wrestle it up into the truck, we weren’t allowed to salvage it.

Shouldn’t we believe in salvaging? It seems so close to salvation. To take something broken, unvalued, and restore its utility and worth.

I’m afraid that the landfill I saw is just one example of our collective gross misuse of our resources.

Christ taught the parable of the unfaithful steward. He buried the talent in the ground instead of using it to increase the talents he could offer back to his master, but at least his talent was retrievable. But we are turning our resources, the talents we have been given, into trash, and when we bury them, we are poisoning the ground with heavy metals and noxious chemicals. How can offer this back to the Lord, and expect a favorable accounting?

We have forgotten our calling to be stewards. This is not something that will be taken care of by free market capitalism. Stewardship requires self-discipline, motivated by faith and hope. We need to show our love for God and this earth by using all resources wisely.

  • avatar Karmen says:

    Wonderful analogy — salvage – salvation.  Salvage is something we can
    do something about as it is a policy made by man.  Who would we contact
    about this landfill salvage issue?  The cities that supply the
    landfill?  Waste Management?  The County?  It seems that this is
    something that a group of “concerned citizens,” bringing the issue to
    the attention of the communities we live in, could form a coalition that might eventually make a change.  Waddya think?

  • avatar Anonymous says:

    I think the main reason they have a policy against salvaging at our local facility it safety. Another money and convenience. Our truck was weighed as we drove in, and weighed again as we drove out to determine both how much we were dumping and what we should pay. If you’re loading up, then you don’t have a good tare weight.

    We also want to forget about our trash as soon as possible. Most Americans are horrified by the shanty cities that build up around dumps in developing nations, and do not want to support any policy change that would allow that possibility here.

    I think we need to do all we can to decrease the volume of our trash stream. We need to salvage before things reach the landfill. We need to considered our responsibility to dispose of our possessions in the best way possible–whether that be by giving them to another person who will use and appreciate them, donating them to charities, fixing them and continuing to use them ourselves, or just not buying extraneous things in the first place.

  • avatar Steven L Peck says:

    I read this today in Katherine Keller’s book, On the Mystery:
    “But theology only lives if its metaphors are helping us to salvage our own world from the wreckage.”

    • avatar Anonymous says:

      I just looked up Keller and got my first introduction to process thought. I like the idea of inter-relatedness and non-dualism. Would you characterize it as a modern revision of Hegel?

    • avatar Tod Robbins says:

      Added this to my to-read list. Thanks Steve!

  • avatar Tod Robbins says:

    I’m also very thankful for this connection you’ve made with salvage/salvation. What was Christ’s role? To salvage the paradise we in our weakness destroyed. Recycle, reuse, reinvent.