Microplastics are extremely small pieces of plastic debris in the environment resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. Microplastics are classified as plastic waste that is less than 5 mm in diameter. The study of microplastics is an emerging field of science; little is known about the impact of these materials on the environment and health. The scientific study of microplastics have lead to the development of standardized methods of collected sediment, sand, and surface water samples for testing. The standardization of methods enables the global comparison of samples and the amounts of microplastics that are accumulating around the world. Plastic is everywhere on this planet, and most of the plastic is claimed to end up in the ocean where the plastic breaks into very small particles. The major problem is animals, aquatic life, birds, etc may mistake microplastics for food which may lead to death. Research is currently being conducted and there is still much to be learned. In 2015, the USA banned the use of microbeads, but microplastics remain a large problem around the world.
Recently, in August of 2019 [1,2] researchers published a paper in the Journal of Science Advances finding microplastics in the snow of the Swiss Alps, as well as from the Arctic. These results suggest microplastics are capable of being transported by wind. At the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting, researchers from the Desert Research Institute Reno presented their findings—they found microplastic in snow in the Sierra Nevadas of California. We know that microplastics are being found in drinking water, and the appearance of the material showing up in snow suggests a different transport mechanism that has not been seen before, microplastics being carried by wind and settling out of the air along with the frosty flakes of snow. These findings suggest that there are a significant amount of microplastics in the air, indicating this is a new form of air pollution. The researchers reported in the Journal of Science Advances  on the Swiss Alps, on average 1,760 microplastic particles per liter of snow that had fallen from the sky. In the European Alps locations, the microplastic sampling show a much higher rate, 24,600 particles per liter on average. Researchers are now actively seeking to collect samples of snow meltwater from all over the country in order to get a clearer picture of the scope of the problem of microplastic pollution. Researchers have been studying the Arctic sea floor since 2002 and have noticed over the last decade huge increases in the amount of accumulation, including a tenfold raise at one of the sampling sites. Researchers reported last year in the Journal of Environmental Pollution  results from testing for microplastics in the Arctic water column. Large concentrations of microplastics turned up everywhere they looked. In deep sea sediments, they found 6,000 particles in every 2.2 pounds of mud. Sea ice was even more loaded with as much as 12,000 particles per 34 ounces of melted ice. Other researchers found that Arctic surface waters had the highest microplastics concentrations of all the world’s oceans. This is a serious problem.
- “Tiny pieces of plastic found in Arctic snow,” National Geographic, 2019 https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/08/microplastics-found-in-arctic-snow/
- Melanie Bergmann1, Sophia Mützel, Sebastian Primpke, Mine B. Tekman, Jürg Trachsel, and Gunnar Gerdts, “White and wonderful? Microplastics prevail in snow from the Alps to the Arctic,” Science Advances, 14, Aug 2019, Vol. 5, no. 8, eaax1157, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax1157, https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/8/eaax1157
- A.P.W.Barrows, S.E.CatheyacC.W.Petersen, “Marine environment microfiber contamination: Global patterns and the diversity of microparticle origins,” Environmental Pollution, Volume 237, June 2018, Pages 275-284, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2018.02.062
The spiritual insights we receive from this week’s look at the recent scientific research on microplastics is found in the prevalence of the amount of waste that is a global phenomenon. Today, sin is also a global phenomenon and in this day, age, and culture, is at record levels. Everywhere we look, television, newspapers, and those around us we see a myriad of ways sin is desiring to enter into our lives. We find something very similar in Abraham’s day, according to the Torah in Bereshit / Genesis 18:20, we read, “And the LORD said, ‘The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave…'” The reason the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah had risen up before the Lord God in heaven, was due to their practice of sexual perversion, their glorification of violence, their despising of moral authority and truth, the practice of the exploitation of others, and the lack of hospitality of the angelic visitors. As a result, throughout the Scriptures, Sodom has symbolically represented gross immorality, depravity, and judgement from heaven. In Matthew 10, Yeshua said, 10:14 And if anyone will not welcome you or heed your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 10:16 Behold, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (BRB) The message of the truth of God’s Messiah, if his word is being rejected, Yeshua said it would be more tolerable on the day of judgement for even the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The idea is the people of Sodom were arrogant, careless, they had abundance described by the area in which they lived, they did not help the poor or the needy, and because of these things, they sought opportunity to be haughty and commit abominations (תּוֹעֵבָה) before the Lord, and God said “therefore I removed them when I saw it” (Ezekiel 16:49-50). The Apostolic Writings refers to the fate of Sodom as “a fearful example of the everlasting fire of retribution.” (Jude 1:7) All hope is not lost however. We have real hope to escape from the wrath that is coming by turning to the one God had sent (Yeshua) to save our souls, and heal us from the pain and troubles of the world. The Spirit of anarchy, lawlessness, deviancy, perversion, and trauma (see 2 Peter 2:6-10) however is active in the world around us. Just as we see in the most recent research on microplastics, its pollution is everywhere, and since plastic is not biodegradable, it becomes a cumulative distribution, meaning there are ever increasing amounts that are remaining in the environment that may affect health and well-being. This is exactly how sin works in our lives, it wants more, it is never satisfied, it is never done, it continues to draw a person to greater and greater levels of depravity, etc. This is a perfect example what is going on in the world today in regards to sin. This is noted in the fact that Sodomy involves and form of violence, perversion, exploitation, or lawless expression of sexuality regardless of one’s gender.
The wide spread prevalence of sin in this world today makes for a greater difficulty in these days to keep ourselves from evil, sin is everywhere we look. (1 Thessalonians 522, 1 Peter 3:10) This is paralleled to what we see taking place in the microplastics research, the prevalence of microplastics is throughout the world. In some areas there is a higher concentration of microplastics as compared to others. This seems to correspond to population statistics, the higher density of people in a particular area (European Alps as compared to others) the higher the concentration of particulates per liter of sample. A very similar thing may be found in the analysis of sin. The higher population statistic, the higher the prevalence of sin, just as we see in Parashat Vayera, Sodom and Gomorrah having higher population statistic, the higher the prevalence and intensity of their sin. In regards to sin, the first matter of the heart is to surrender to God’s love according to His Word. The surrender of the heart runs much deeper than outward obedience and the reason is a matter of intention. It is possible to obey God’s Word, His Mitzvot, for the wrong reasons! Paul writes the following according to Romans 7:7-25.
7:7 What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ 7:8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. 7:9 I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 7:10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 7:11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 7:12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 7:13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 7:14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 7:16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 7:17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 7:18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 7:19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 7:20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 7:21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 7:22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 7:23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 7:24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 7:25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (NASB)
Paul discusses the Torah of God, stating that the commandment causes sin to come alive that results in death. (7:10-11) He states that the command is good, holy, and righteous (7:12) and how he concurs with the commandment in the inner man, but the outward man, the flesh, another law is at work, the law of sin. Paul says that the Torah is not the problem. The problem is sin that is in his body. (7:13-14) What Paul is describing here is how the Torah functions as a mirror, revealing the truth about our inward condition. The reality of sin in our lives leads to death, brokenness, and the need for the confession of sin. The Torah draws this out in our lives, the commandment causes us to repent, and to seek God’s power to change our hearts. Being faithful to God is not about establishing our own sense of worthiness through obedience to the command. We rely upon God’s graciousness, His mercy, and seek His power to overcome sin in our lives. This is what it means to die to self, and to seek to release our control over our lives and allow the Lord God to sustain us. It is the power of God in our lives that causes us to obey his word, and it is out of our love for Him that we remain in His Word. This is the correct motivation. We do not remain in the Word for the purpose of some kind of spiritual perfection by our own will power. We submit to the Spirit of God who is the source of our strength. All of Scripture demonstrates the requirement of obeying God’s Word in our lives. Nobody denies this fact concerning God’s Instructions (His Torah) in the Bible, it is a matter of the motivation of the heart that is most important. We are not to live cleaving to sin, there are many references throughtout the Scriptures concerning sin. The point is, when one attempts to obey God’s Word by the flesh in order to please God, it becomes evident pretty quickly the futility that is involved. True obedience is to surrender to the Lord who forgives us of our sins and sets us free to know Him. The NT description of these things is having a loving relationship with the Lord, trusting Him, and resting in His love. When we seek a relationship with the Lord God of Israel, He enters into our lives (this is a Torah based perspective) and removes the desire to live in sin. He is able to do this with sexual sin! He is able to do this with any sin! He does these things in order to allow us to walk in freedom from sin. This happens when we surrender our lives and our hearts to His Son Yeshua the Messiah! Remember this truth, because it is only by the power of God that we have this kind of victory in our lives! All who surrender to the Lord obey His Word, but not all those who obey His Word are actually surrendered. The rules of conduct (the Torah) come as a result of our relationship with God, the Torah does not function as a forethought (prior to our having a relationship with God. Ephesians 2:9, Romans 11:6, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5) After we have surrendered to the Lord, we find ourselves then willing to obey God’s Word. We realize that the Lord God Almighty accepts and loves us regardless of our sins, because of the Messiah Yeshua. When we place our faith in Yeshua, the Holy Spirit of God dwells in our hearts, and leads us to faithfulness, joy, peace, and order. The Holy Spirit does not lead us to disorder and confusion (see 1 Corinthians 14:33-40) The Lord God Almighty by His Spirit creates discipline in our hearts by transforming us into the likeness of His son. The Torah provides a template for order and worship in the life of a believer who has surrendered his life to the Lord. The power of God helps us to overcome the world which is so filled with unrighteousness and sin. The research on microplastics draws these truths out from the Word of God. Based upon the scientific research, the accumulation of microplastics, it will be impossible to purge the world of this type of pollution. This truth reveals something about the Torah of God in our lives. The Torah reveals something very similar, by showing us the condition of our brokenness and need for the Lord God Almighty, for His Messiah, and for His Spirit in our lives. The Torah itself is powerless to save us just as Paul was writing in Romans 7. This is why God sent His Son Yeshua to save us from our sins! Paul wrote, “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The gift of life is freely given to all who trust in God’s loving provision for their needs, the very thing that is revealed in the Torah. Microplastics in the environment will be an everlasting legacy to the industrialization of the world. It will be impossible to remove all of these plastics once they have accumulated around the globe. A similar situation may be found in regards to sin, it is impossible for us to remove from our lives on our own. Fortunately for us, what is impossible for man, is possible with God. (Luke 18:27) Yeshua while referring to salvation in Luke 18, told those who questioned him that what is impossible for man is possible with God. What is impossible for man is made possible with God! All things are possible with God if we seek His help! Yeshua, He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes unto the Father except by Him! (John 14:6)