Let us be stewards of the environment

The pandemic forced many countries worldwide to impose various measures to contain the virus, the main one being to restrict movement and thus provid

Sep 04, 2021

                                                     Editor’s Column Sustained by Grace

When the pandemic first invaded our lives in 2020, the lockdowns and restrictions on movements and activities across the globe did the environment a world of good. There appeared to be a silver lining, if it could be called that, from the global COVID-19 outbreak, and Mother Nature was the biggest beneficiary.

The pandemic forced many countries worldwide to impose various measures to contain the virus, the main one being to restrict movement and thus providing Earth with a much-needed breather from the constant pollution. Phrases like ‘… clear blue skies, improved air quality, cleaner rivers, the earth is finally getting a well-deserved rest and is healing …’ were commonplace as people who were confined to their homes began to appreciate nature. There was hope that this would serve as a wake-up call to people; that when the world returned to normalcy, everyone would be more aware of their impact on the environment.

However, there was also the realistic knowledge that this ‘appreciation for Mother Earth’ would not last long and that once the Movement Control Order was lifted or eased, human greed, insensitivity, carelessness and the ‘tidak apa’ attitude of individuals, and society at large, would resurface and the earth would once again take a battering.

Sure enough, it was not long before people began to carelessly discard their used face masks, thus giving rise to a new kind of environmental pollution. When our local recycling centres temporarily stopped accepting preloved clothes and used items, some of those who did a ‘Marie Kondo decluttering’ while confined to their homes, resorted to indiscriminately dumping their unwanted possessions by the side of the road or in vacant spaces.

On the first anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (2016), Pope Francis proposed that caring for the environment be added to traditional Christian works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick. He called for care for the environment to be added to the seven spiritual works of mercy outlined in the Gospel that the faithful were called to perform throughout the Year of Mercy.

While highlighting that the worst effects of global warming were being felt by those who were least responsible for it – refugees and the poor — the Holy Father said the faithful should use the Year of Mercy, 2016, to ask for forgiveness for sins committed against the environment and for our “selfish” system, motivated by “profit at any price”.

It was a stark reminder from our Holy Father that our irresponsible and selfish behaviour has had,and continues to have, an adverse effect on the poor and the vulnerable. In other words, when we hurt the Earth, we also hurt the poor.

Environmental truths are very much related to human life issues. The key to a Catholic perspective on these issues is that the environment must not be viewed in isolation but, rather, as a matter of human dignity and living a holy life. The challenge of Catholic Social Teaching is to work for the human good while caring for the creation God has gifted us.

The Church – both local communities and the individual faithful – must take the opportunity to steer decisions that steward the environment and respect humanity. We, as Catholics, have a duty to help address the challenges facing the poor directly, and the environment, more generally. Environmental conservation can only succeed if it involves a change of heart and a change of mind to understand how our Lord works through nature.

During the early days of the pandemic, the world saw how the earth began to heal itself when polluting activities diminished. The time has come for all of us to do our part to preserve our environmental ecosystems. Protecting the environment is not a niche issue – it is a moral, human and personal issue.

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