Once upon a time many of us took pleasure in hearing the bird-songs of summer, smelling the aromas of earth’s flowers and leaves or the lake and salt waters of the shores. Today our windows are closed for air conditioning against seasonal heat and humidity.
We are city people and a city is noisy, full of movement. If we sit quietly outside or open a window, we hear the constant flow of traffic, sirens and horns. How do we relate to our natural world environs? Recently I met a young man whose friends were driving westward. Stopped somewhere in Ohio, they called him and commented on how boring their drive was because they only saw trees.
Is this the issue underlining the current debate over climate change in the world? We city people have lost contact with and feel separated from the natural world?
The challenge presented us is to change our relationship to Earth. The facts of climate warming and its effects are in. Human activities with our technologies of fossil fuel energies and production methods have raised atmospheric heat beyond what is safe for human existence. Today Church and State are together in calling for recognition of Earth as belonging to all peoples. Earth’s resources are meant for all; the privileged minority must share abundantly with the vast majority of impoverished peoples.
The upcoming United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, France, November 30-December 11, 2015, highlights issues requiring binding and universal agreement on climate. It will advise immediate action steps to reduce the dangerous atmospheric carbon storage and accumulation occurring. Climate change is defined to mean “a change of climate which is attributed directly/indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” (Natural variability can occur through volcanic activity or solar cycles as examples.) Among issues are the need for diversified agriculture, recovery of indigenous knowledge systems of food production, recognition of diversity in ecosystems with their impact upon carbon-oxygen exchanges, and recognition of the importance and primary place of women in the use of earth’s resources.
The facts and experiences of world climate alterations place women with their families in the center of poverty – 70% of the world’s poor are women. Droughts, floods, the loss of land and weather extremes are occurring world-wide. Diversified farming helps to sustain and promote sustainable food systems when climate changes occur in a region. Women are usually the first to experience the consequences of water scarcity and contamination. They are the ones who travel distances to get water as well as sticks for fuels. Their skeletal structures witness to the burden; their families become ill with the contaminated water—typhoid, dysentery, parasitical worms among other diseases. A glass of clean water is an unknown luxury for most families around the globe.
Laudato Si brings to the forefront the role of spirituality developed over the centuries in relationship to Earth. Close contact with “Mother” Earth awakens a spiritual relationship with Earth as in the Sioux prayer: “Teach us to walk the soft Earth as relatives to all that live.” The writers in the Bible experienced this relationship: “greatness and beauty of created things” by God is seen (Wis.13:5). Creation is of God, a gift, our common home. Creation is the order of Love of which Nature is a part – for in Christ were created all things in heaven and on earth (Col.1:16). Thus Meister Eckhart in the 13th century: “Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God.”
We are witnessing the largest number of refugees and displaced persons ever in recorded history, a consequence of human greed and the drive for power. This is a result of world inequalities in which 80% of world peoples are deprived of earth’s resources by which they might earn a living with dignity, integrity and respect. This poverty has close connections with the problems of human and organ trafficking, forced labor/slavery, prostitution, drugs, migrations and wars. When water, land, minerals and all creatures are seen only as commodities, we cease to see Creation as gift. When Creation is no longer gift, God disappears from our sight. Our skyscrapers, ever taller, become the new towers of Babel. Earth becomes “an immense pile of filth” in human and chemical wastes.
Let us read and ponder ; let us pressure our politicians to be open and willing to lead in fostering policies and actions for the common well-being of all peoples.