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We need to expand our thinking on the word "earth" and understand that it figuratively, metaphorically, represents all of creation. It is not just the earth, the orb that is spinning around through space on its appointed path, but all of the things that are on the earth. Above all, it refers to mankind, which lives on the earth.
God says He will destroy those who destroy the creation, and that includes themselves. When man does that, he is telling God that we do not appreciate what He has given us. We have a love of beauty without the love of doing what is right in order to maintain correctly what He has given to us.
By far and away, the most important abuse in all of creation deals with man's relationships with God and fellow man. We abuse our relationships because we do not love righteousness along with beauty. Rather than dressing and keeping the relationships through a love of righteousness, we use and abuse them, too.
We can see this in the divorce rate. People do not get divorces because they love one another. It is because one or the other spouse, or both, have abused the relationship. So the marriage, which was created by God to be the environment in which His spiritual creation would be carried out, is destroyed! Again, God is going to destroy those who destroy the earth, His creation.
The basic reason this occurs is addressed in I John. It is the lack of love for God and of God that is causing this. Loving God is a choice that is open to all Christians. If one does not consider God beautiful and choose to love Him, the only alternative is self-centeredness.
We turn our love in on ourselves, and instead of seeking to please God within a relationship with Him, we instead choose unrighteousness or sin, abusing the relationship between Him and us. All love for fellow man begins first with the love for God. This is why I John tells us it is impossible to love man without loving God first.
We must start thinking about what are we doing in our lives to build our relationship with God, because that relationship is salvation! Is God beautiful to us? Is God's way beautiful to us? If it is not, the self-centeredness will lead to abuse. Self-centeredness is the hallmark of worldliness.
John W. Ritenbaugh