Diocesan Commission for Justice and Social Affairs
Caring for the Environment ‘O Lord, how manifold are your works. In your wisdom have you made them all.’ 1 In today’s media we are bombarded with reports and warnings about the fragile state of the planet. We have all become familiar with terms like, ‘Global warming‘, ‘carbon footprints’ and ‘energy efficiency’. We are rightly told to use less and reuse more as the very world that we enjoy is in danger. So, do we, as Christians, have a duty to be ‘Green’? We all know that in the beginning God made the earth, the animals, the plants and man. He looked on His creation and saw that it was good. The Christian culture has always recognised that the creation that surrounds us is a gift from God. We have been given this gift to nurture and care for. So we must therefore thank the Creator for this precious gift and we do so by taking care of the things He has entrusted to us. The Church teaches us that we may avail of resources that our world gives but we must not use more than we need especially if our greed deprives others or inflicts irreversible damage. Man must not ‘make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have it’s own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray’.2 We have a responsibility to leave the world in good condition for future generations. So how should the Christian treat the environment? We are bound by our faith to appreciate and care for all of the gifts God has given to us. Human life is of course the most important gift we are given. We have been given every resource we need to survive and thrive in this world. Yet the unfair distribution of the world’s bounty has left the majority of the people in poverty and hunger. In caring for human life we must use all God’s gifts with responsibility and prudence. The saying ‘To live simply, so that others may simply live’ has never been more true than in our present times. What we use and what we waste affects the whole world and all who dwell on it. So with respect for the Creator and with love for our neighbour, we do, as Christians, have a duty to be green.
1 Psalms 104:24
2 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.(2004) [page 460]Protecting the Environment In the very first book of the Old Testament we are told that God is the creator of all things. God confers life as his free gift, not because humanity has in some way earned it, but simply because God is good. This free gift of life, especially human life, is what gives creation its very meaning. When we are disobedient however and try to control and manipulate creation for our own selfish desires, we create a hiatus in our relationship with God and his created order. When God entrusts the care of the earth and all living things to Adam and Eve he is giving the first human couple dominion over his created order.Today this dominion is ours, but we must ask ourselves if we have cultivated and cared for the earth or whether we have been reckless and abandoned creation? We have a collective moral responsibility to protect life in all its forms and to care for creation. With massive advancements in science and technology the temptation to exploit the earth’s resources and experiment in a heedless way with life is huge. Science and technology are God-given gifts which can open us up to wonderful possibilities, however, “…it is necessary to maintain an attitude of prudence and attentively sift out the nature, end and means of the various forms of applied technology.”1 Even though our relationship with God’s creation is endangered by pride it can be purified by the death and resurrection of Christ, “Redeemed by Christ and made a new creature by the Holy Spirit, man can, indeed he must, love the things of God’s creation: it is from God that he has received them, and it is as flowing from God’s hand that he looks upon them and reveres them.”2 If we are to have a proper relationship with the environment therefore, we must first be in right relationship with God who is the creator of all that exists. We cannot say that we are caring for creation in any meaningful way, if we are out of relationship with God or blinded by human pride.
1 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (458) [page 217]
2 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (44) [page 23]