A few days ago I was sitting at an anniversary party enjoying the sun and the interesting conversations around me. As I sipped from my plastic cup I started to feel increasingly guilty about having to eventually throw it away. In fact, I was noticing that I was starting to feel increasingly guilty about throwing away any trash – period. Hoping that I wasn’t going crazy I turned to my father (who was also at the party) and started up a conversation about morality and environmentalism.
When I talk about environmental issues among my Catholic friends some get shifty and try to change the topic. Some say environmental issues are trivial compared to other issues. Is this true?
At the beginning of this year, for World Day of Peace (January 1st), Pope Benedict XVI gave a message entitled If you want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. As I read it I felt glad that the Catholic church was teaching something about caring for the earth:
“The environment must be seen as God’s gift to all people, and the use we make of it entails a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.”
As I read on I quickly realized that a similar message was given 20 years ago by Pope John Paul II in his message entitled: Peace With God the Creator, Peace With All of Creation. Even 40 years ago Pope Paul VI talked about envirionmental issues in his apostolic letter Octogesima Adveniens. How is it that I’ve never heard of this before now?
One thing I learned as I read these letters is that the ecological crisis cannot be solved simply by buying organic clothing, cleaning with eco-friendly products, hanging clothes to dry or using cloth diapers. These are important steps, don’t get me wrong, but our ecological crisis is much more complex. It is related to how we develop and how we relate to one another and our environment. According to Pope Benny, at its heart the ecological crisis is a moral crisis. Whoa! Really? Really!
What do you think?