By Elisa (Pellegriti ’01) Becze
The term “creation stewardship” can encompass so many topics: conservation, recycling, energy, biofuels — the list goes on and on. But a key component is water conservation and preserving water quality. Two Geneva College alumnae feel so strongly about God’s creation that they are doing work in this field to help preserve the environment.
Luanne Steffy graduated in 1999 with a degree in biology. She now works near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as an aquatic ecologist in the Watershed Protection and Assessment Division of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, monitoring and assessing the water quality of the rivers in the basin.
“I get to spend about half my time working outside in rivers and streams doing a wide variety of sampling,” she says. “The other half of the year is spent trying to make sense of all the data we collect, doing all the data compilation and analysis, and then putting it into reports that can be used by the states to better protect water quality.”
Steffy says that Geneva College gave her the foundation for the work she is doing today. “After taking my first ecology class with Dr. Cruzan at Geneva in 1997, I knew environmental science was a career path I wanted to pursue.”
That knowledge was confirmed in 1998 when she spent a summer studying at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies. “The professors at Au Sable were so enthusiastic and really encouraged us to pursue science as a career, but also to view stewardship of the earth as a part of our faith and Christian life,” Steffy says.
Amber Leasure-Earnhardt graduated in 2006 with a major in political science and a minor in environmental science. “Both were amazing programs,” she says. “I had many like-minded peers and professors that challenged me and made me realize the importance our work here on earth has for God’s Kingdom. These experiences and worldviews really helped to lead me in my decision to live how I am and will for the rest of my life.”
Leasure-Earnhardt also had the opportunity to pursue her unique blend of interests in off-campus programs, through Au Sable Institute’s Pacific Rim Campus and the American Studies Institute in Washington D.C. “Both of these experiences, along with campus life at Geneva, helped me to grow in my desire to care about my community and God’s creation.”
Leasure-Earnhardt now works in Mineral City, Ohio as the assistant watershed coordinator for the Huff Run Watershed Restoration Partnership. This nonprofit group is restoring a watershed that has been negatively impacted by acid mine drainage (AMD) from poor coal mining practices. In her position, Leasure-Earnhardt works to educate people of all ages about the effects of AMD.
“Educating the youth is so exciting. They are our future, and if they do not understand what is happening to their environment, changes will not be made to better God’s creation,” Leasure-Earnhardt says.
Leasure-Earnhardt says that she and her husband Eric (’06) have also made lifestyle changes to become better stewards of creation. “For our first year of marriage, we traveled to Iowa and served on an AmeriCorps trails crew with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. This experience started to shape our idea of simple and environmentally responsible living. We lived in a tent for over seven months, cooking our meals on a fire and taking only what could fit in our small Ford Focus.”
Although the couple now lives in an apartment, they still take easy steps like recycling, limiting their paper and plastic product purchases, using reusable shopping bags, and buying local and organic foods. The couple also doesn’t have cable television or the Internet, and they keep most of their appliances unplugged when not in use.
“These small measures are not ‘going green’ for me, but a way I can take joy in everyday living and try not to be wasteful with what God has given me,” Leasure-Earnhardt says. Steffy has taken similar steps. “I try to do little things that are environmentally friendly, like recycling, using energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs, eating locally grown food as much as possible and using reusable grocery bags,” she says.
Both of these alumnae agree that God has called all His people to be good stewards of creation, just as we are stewards of all His gifts and blessings.
“It is not only right for us to look heavenward at the beauty and grace of eternity, but also to look around at what God wants us to be doing right here and now on this earth,” Leasure-Earnhardt says. “Christians today cannot turn a deaf ear to this ‘green’ movement in our culture. Not because we want to be fashionable, but because we serve the one true God.”