Editorial: Ecology and the Church
It hasn’t been proved it’s happening yet, but God help us if it is. It’s global warming. And there is a good reason to be thinking about it now – the bushfires.
The current bushfires are fierce – fiercer than in 1994. This may just be because greater arsonist activity has coincided with drier weather than usual weather. Or maybe the scientific Cassandras are right and the planet is warming up. Average world temperatures need only rise a few degrees for more extreme weather patterns to emerge, which, in Australia’s, case means an increased likelihood of bushfires.
But what should we do and how do ecological concerns sit with the Catholic faith?
First, there is little doubt that we are despoiling the planet and that global warming and the catastrophes caused by more extreme weather are possible consequences.
The Catholic Church has come rather late to the ecological party, but it is certainly there now and pronouncements by Pope John Paul II and others have made it clear that Catholics should be getting involved in this area.
As the Pope put it in 1990, “the dominion humans were given over creation is not one of exploitation, but of service and ministry aimed at continuing the work of the Creator”.
Many ecologically aware young Catholics are working on the frontline to turn us away from our ecologically destructive ways.
The Secular Franciscan Order has a handle on this. In the US it has designated the second week in May as National Wildflower Week. During this week Catholics study wildflowers by going on wildflower walks, visiting parks and forests etc., as a way of “deepening humankind’s relationship and responsibility to creation”.
This may sound very deep, but one thing’s for sure: Kids love this sort of thing.
But what about the current bushfires? We don’t seem to have got the balance right between concreting over the land and letting it proliferate so much that it endangers homes. Low level initiatives such as allowing local bushfire brigades to clear the forest floor – without asking for $1,000 key money to go on to state forest land (as one council did) – would go a long way here.
This would certainly be an example of intelligent and responsible administration. And, as the message of this summer’s blockbuster film, The Lord of the Rings, implies – humble people and humble actions can go a long way.
Just ask Frodo.