Earth Our Common Home and Our Responsibility to Sustain It

Sat, 03/01/2008

 Rapid climate change as the result of human activity is today recognized as a reality. People around the world are experiencing the impacts of frequency of extreme climatic events. Our Earth is being changed by pollution caused by human activity. This human induced accelerated climate change raises serious moral and spiritual questions and calls for change in our way of life. As a matter of conscience we are called to cooperate in facing global warming as one of the major issues of our time and take responsibility in addressing these issues.

“The entire life of Christians is an exploration into Christ. Each generation pushes back ever so slightly the envelope of his mystery… One of the most significant developments in understanding of the Christian mission in more recent times is its embrace of creation in all its beauty and vitality.” – Archbishop John Bathersby

As Christians, we believe the Earth is a gift from God, valuable in itself, and that human life is irrevocably linked with the Earth. Pope John Paul II said, “Within the movement of nature, tranquil and silent but rich in life, there continues to palpitate the original delight of the Creator.” God’s plan for humanity is to know God through the world of matter and, in this belief, we are at one with all people who revere a power in the natural world that is beyond the human.

The 1990 World Day of Peace Message of Pope John Paul II presented a comprehensive but concise overview of the spiritual and moral dimension of environmental problems. From it can be drawn a set of principles for making ethical judgments about environmental issues. These can be applied to the issue of climate change and its implications for the future of the Earth. They can be summarized as follows:

â—† The natural world has value in itself and should not be valued merely for its usefulness to humanity.
â—† The world and all in it must be freed from what can be termed a state of suffering.
â—† Humans are part of the created world and inextricably part of a material existence.
â—† Earth belongs to God and is only on loan to humans who are called to care for it.
â—† The choices of humans in their use of the Earth gives humanity a hand in forming its history, a vocation to heightened consciousness within the life of Earth.
â—† Ecological education provides the background for wise and moral decisions.
â—† There are limits to world resources and the environmental services that Earth can meet before pushing it to a new epoch.
â—† Global resources are to be managed cooperatively at the local and international levels.
â—† Excessive demands are imposed on the Earth by nations with a consumerist economy and life-style.
â—† Restraint, penance and self-imposed limitations are part of authentic human living and are in the tradition of choosing sacrifice for the greater good.
â—† The fascinating beauty and intricacy deep in the natural world have great value for the artist and for healing the human spirit and body.
â—† The right to a safe ecological environment is a universal human right.
â—† Models of development, social structure and styles of technology must integrate environmental factors if there is to be authentic development.
â—† Super-development, often for the purpose of economic gain, poses an additional threat to the environment.
â—† The use of genetic engineering poses unknown environmental outcomes when genetic materials are swapped between species. It may threaten food security.
â—† Warfare has multiple negative environmental impacts and eats up much of the world’s financial resources.
â—† Political leaders at every level have a duty to administer for the good of all. This includes administering prudently a nation’s environmental resources.
â—† Issues of global significance demand solidarity and cooperation at a formal level of international agreements in order to implement change, especially by sharing technology.
â—† The richer nations have an obligation to dismantle structural forms of global poverty and to help poorer nations experiencing social or environmental problems.
â—† Future generations should not be robbed or left with extra burdens for they have a claim to a just administration of the world’s resources by this generation.

“Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with a glory of lights I saw majesty but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all human drama and comedy. That’s where life is: that’s where all the good stuff is.” -Astronaut Loren Acton