Amy Smith is a Communications Volunteer for Westminster Justice and Peace
As Christians we know that the earth is not ours to do with as we wish, regardless of the consequences, but is gifted to us by God for us to live and share with the rest of His creation which He values equally. If God is love then all of His creation is worthy of love and protection. God trusts us and believes in our capacity to be responsible stewards of the earth; hopefully we can see this role as an honour and privilege. In Mark (12:31) we are instructed to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’; our actions towards our planet have a direct impact on our brothers and sisters, especially those in poorer countries who will likely suffer the most.
The parable of the Good Samaritan shows us how we are all interconnected despite our circumstances and how our actions can make a real difference to the lives of those in need. Any brother or sister of God’s should be our responsibility to help. Often, we might feel we would like to help but it isn’t really up to us or we can’t make much impact by ourselves, such as the Levite who felt pity and would like to help if only it cost him no trouble. The poor man hasn’t done anything to deserve his predicament just as poorer communities have done little to contribute to the global warming crisis but are suffering the worst consequences. They have fewer resources to mitigate the effects of climate change and are more vulnerable to extreme weather. This only exacerbates poverty and deepens inequality. It seems only right that rich countries whose actions are the root cause of climate change must bear the responsibility for resolving the problem.
In Laudato Si’, the encyclical published in 2015, the Pope reiterates the Bible’s message that there should be a relationship of mutual responsibility between humans and nature, in order to protect it for future generations. This act of care for our ‘Common Home’ is the responsibility of ‘every living person on this planet.’ He instructs us to take steps in our daily life to change the attitude of wastefulness and greed brought on by the consumerist culture we live in which is detrimental to our relationship with each other, the earth, and God. Already the Earth’s temperature has increased by 0.8°C over the last 30 years mainly due to human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels. A target of keeping temperature rises below 1.5 degrees has been given as a limit which is essential to preventing the most detrimental effects to our planet such as sea level rises, but even this is looking unlikely unless more actions can be agreed upon by world leaders.
What can we do as individuals, as Christians to play our part in this crisis? Perhaps we can think of ways we can change our lifestyle, something that is not always easy when we are used to living a certain way. Maybe there are small steps we can take before progressing further such as having a meat free day, reducing the use of our phone, trying to travel green such as cycling/walking more and using a renewable energy provider in our homes. Often we can feel discouraged when our efforts seem insignificant, but if everyone plays their part and supports each other there is potential for real change. Hopefully we can call on God in prayer during this season of Lent to help us contemplate our relationship with Him, each other and our world.
I have been privileged to attend the Southern Dioceses Environment Network meetings which happen once a month to share the initiatives that are taking part in each parish to tackle climate change.
Participants include CAFOD and diocesan staff and volunteers, Laudato Si’ animators, clergy, parishioners, religious and activists. All are welcome. The next meeting will be held on Monday 14th March, 12.45-2.00pm.
Southern Dioceses Environment Network
To register for the Zoom meeting: