In Catholic Social Teaching, the word “stewardship” is freely used when speaking on issues about the environment. It connotes the responsibility we all have towards Creation, which is under serious threat and with grave consequences. Climate change, extinction of animal and plant species, pollution, dirty drinking water are major concerns. That is why the term “ecological conversion” has featured in recent papal documents. What do we need to convert from? We need to convert from thinking that our planet holds an unlimited treasure trove of resources for use and enjoyment today, to thinking of the need of preservation for future generations. We need to convert from thinking that we can pollute the air, land and water, and instead reduce our carbon footprints, stop cutting down trees and avoid dumping wastes into rivers and oceans. We need to preserve and protect the environment as a common good and stave off the negative impacts of climate change. The Sustainable Development Goals are clear on this in number 13.
Scriptures and Nature
- “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15)
- “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters” (Psalm 24: 1-2)
- “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:3-4)
- “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth” (Proverbs 3:19
- “Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm!” (Jeremiah 32: 17)
- “Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps. 148:3-5)
Sayings about the Environment
- "I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be 'protectors' of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment." - Pope Francis, Inauguration, 3/19/13
- “The environment is God's gift to everyone, and in our use of it we have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generations and towards humanity as a whole…” Pope Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, n.48
- The earth is ultimately a common heritage, the fruits of which are for the benefit of all. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, ‘God destined the earth and all it contains for the use of every individual and all peoples’ (Gaudium et Spes, 69). St (Pope) John Paul II
- The global environment crisis is, as we say in Tennessee, real as rain, and I cannot stand the thought of leaving my children with a degraded earth and a diminished future.– Al Gore
- “Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth”. – Henry David Thoreau
- “The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved”. – Richard Rogers
- “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another”. – Mahatma Gandhi
- “Trees are the lungs of the world, our friends and protectors. No matter how times change, we must look after our forests. If we kill trees, what will happen to us?" – John Muir
The Debates & Global deals…UNFCCC; From Kyoto to Paris
- UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: An int’l environmental treaty adopted in May 1992 to address climate issues. About 195 countries have signed up to the framework
- What is Kyoto Protocol? An int’l treaty (following on from UNFCCC), held in Japan and agreed to by 192 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It came into effect in February 2005
- Paris Agreement: entered within the UNFCCC to tackle issues around greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in 2020. The confab (COP 21) was held in Paris from Nov 30 – Dec 12, 2015
- NOTE: In June 2017, the US withdrew from this agreement stating that the agreement will undermine the US economy.
Two lungs of the world: 1) Amazon
- Amazon Rainforests: in South America the largest and most diverse tropical rainforest on Earth, spanning across 9 countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. 60% of the Amazon is contained within Brazil.
- It covers an area of five and a half million square kilometres (2.1 million square miles); the size of Europe.
- Home to more than half the world's species of plants and animals.
- Breathes life into the entire planet by sucking up the global emissions of carbon dioxide from things like cars, planes and power stations to name just a few.
- It is dense, wild and diverse; it is the ‘Cathedral of life’ – Dr M. Sanjayan
- A wilderness endowed with the power of nature.
- Watch video: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130226-amazon-lungs-of-the-planet
Two lungs of the world: 2) Congo
- Congo Basin: At 500 million acres, it is larger than the state of Alaska and stands as the world’s second-largest tropical forest.
- It spans across six countries—Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
- Popular for its wildlife, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos, and lowland and mountain gorillas, buffalo inhabit the lush forests.
- Has inhabited by humans for more than 50,000 years and it provides food, fresh water and shelter to more than 75 million people.
- Watch videos:
Laudato Si - Praise be to you!
- Title taken from St. Francis’ invocation in The Canticle of Creatures…
- At the heart of Pope Francis’ Encyclical is this question:
“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (n.160)
- A clarion call to take up the task of caring for our Common Home…the earth looking like an “immense pile of filth”, n.21
- Human meaning of ecology and value proper to each creature, n.137
- Everything in the world in connected, n.91
- Relationship between the poor and a fragile planet, n.49
- Need for forthright and honest debate; the instrument of dialogue (ch.5)
- Throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle, nos.123, 203-208
Ecological conversion, LS n. 217
- “All Christian communities have an important role to play in ecological education”, n.214
- Stewardship: appreciating the beauty of nature; preserving the Global Commons (air, water, forests & biodiversity), not exploiting but preserving them for future generation
- Conversion: from polluting the air, land and water by reducing gasses that warm up the planet, stop cutting down forests and dumping sewage into rivers
- Awareness: A call to action on political institutions and social groups
- Watch Video:
- https://cafod.org.uk/Education/Primary-teaching-resources/Laudato-Si-animation (https://youtu.be/KOgF2Kgel6k)
- 1 September: World Day of Prayer for Creation
- Awareness: World Environment Day, 5th June
Taking action in my parish, at school or at work
- Ensure that learning about care for God’s creation is part of formation for both adults and young students (see: LS,15, 213)
- Do an energy audit to identify where energy consumption could be reduced. Such an audit will benefit both the earth and your institution’s budget!
- Consider going solar, and implement recycling and composting
- At events where food or beverages are consumed, and in cafeterias, replace disposable cups, plates, and silverware with washable or compostable items
- Use fewer paper and plastic products – e.g. use a re-usable water bottle
- Donate leftovers to local soup kitchens, or cook only what will be reasonably consumed
- Offer staff benefits for using public transportation or carpooling or walk or ride a bike
- Plant trees on your institution’s property; tend gardens
The St. Francis Pledge
- PRAY and REFLECT on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
- LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
- ASSESS how we - as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
- ACT to change our choices and behaviours to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
- ADVOCATE for the principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable
- See: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/laudato-si-discussion-guide.pdf