Creation Care at ACU

      In the midst of the international debate over global warming and its causes, it is all too easy to overlook the ways that individuals can make a difference closer to home.  In the interests of good stewardship and responsible creation care, ACU has for some years promoted on-campus resource conservation and waste reduction measures.  A brief interview with Dr. Jim Cooke, professor of Environmental Science in the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Science, revealed details about the history, current manifestations, and future of these efforts.  Pointing to the “Milestones” page of the acu.edu/green website, Dr. Cooke related that serious conservation efforts began in the 1990’s with efforts to landscape the campus and “reduce the campus ecological footprint with water and energy saving measures, recycling, and waste stream reduction.”  Important steps since then include the establishment, in the fall of 2006, of an environmental task force to help guide the process of becoming a more environmentally friendly campus.  The most recent campus-wide environmental event this academic year was Climate Week 2008, which was designed to develop student awareness of ways to be better stewards of creation.  Highlights of the week included an emphasis on recycling, ACU Unplugged---a competition between dorms to reduce electricity usage, a showing of An Inconvenient Truth, and a field trip to the Lonestar Wind Farm.  

     Dr. Cooke related that several ongoing initiatives continue to advance both the University and A&E Department goals for good stewardship of creation.  Dr. Cooke currently has an intern, Evan Woods, working under his supervision to complete an energy and emissions inventory of the University.  This inventory will chronicle the University’s energy usage going back to the year 2000 to establish a baseline to help gauge future energy conservation and reduce waste.  There is also a movement to promote more recycling on campus, including beginning- and end-of-semester recycling drives.  The ultimate goal for the campus, Dr. Cooke said, was to have a funded “sustainability director” who would oversee the University’s efforts towards good stewardship.

     The Agricultural and Environmental Science Department can also be proud of its individual successes in the environmental stewardship arena.  Most recently and significantly, the department installed a water catchment system at its Rhoden Farm Field Laboratory that will greatly reduce consumption of treated water.  The two storage tanks, located behind the new horse barn, collect water from the barn roof during storms, and are filled (6,000 gallons) by approximately 3 ½ inches of rain.  At this rate, Dr. Cooke explained the tanks have the potential to be filled 4 or 5 time per year, which will make a significant impact on the farm’s water usage patterns.  The system utilizes passive, gravity-fed distribution and it will require no extra energy to operate.

     Dr. Cooke also pointed out how fitting it is that the A&E Department should provide both leadership and an example of environmental stewardship at ACU.  The department’s mission, after all, “is to educate students for Christian stewardship of sustainable agricultural and environmental systems throughout the world.”  It is a departmental goal to incorporate conservation into all classes, with a purpose to both make students more aware of the need for purposeful environmental stewardship and to provide them with practical ways to care for creation in their individual careers.  Dr. Cooke summed up the biggest reason for this emphasis on creation stewardship with a reminder of its importance in a Christian’s faith.  “If you don’t care, if you aren’t responsible toward the gift that the Creator has given,” he said, “that says something about your attitude toward the Creator.”  There is no better time than now to take a look at our individual and community attitudes towards the created world around us, and to seek to honor the Creator through our stewardship of this creation.

Dr. Brokaw and a student installing the systemDr. Cooke in front of installed system

Dr. Jim Cook



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