Can we make this sense of stewardship more commonplace?
Once upon a time, it was perfectly acceptable to smoke in restaurants, offices, buses, trains. There was no stigma attached. It was common to dispose of used motor oil by pouring it in a hole in the back yard, or dumping it down the drain. Once upon a time, it was a sign of strength or success to drive a big muscle car or large SUV with an 8 cylinder engine.
Slowly social and cultural expectations changed, public will shifted, and laws changed to reflect it. Our attitudes about what was right and wrong evolved. Ultimately, both smoking and drinking and driving, were seen not as personal acts protected by the right of self-determination, but as threats to others that should be changed on behalf of the public welfare. “No dumping” stencils placed by local volunteers and organizations on thousands of storm drains turned out to be as good as building physical barriers to prevent it.
So it must be with stewardship.
In addition to working on big stormwater projects, sewage treatment plant upgrades and manure storage, we need to work on changing social norms. It needs to become taboo, socially unacceptable and publicly embarrassing to over-consume, waste, destroy or pollute nature or harm our watershed. And it must be really cool to have the most energy efficient or stormwater-free house on the block rather than the biggest and greenest lawn.
In an article in the Baltimore Sun called ‘speaking up for the environment’, Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin wrote: