Earth Day is less than a week away. And although not everything in the secular environmental movement is consistent with a proper understanding of creation, where it comes from, and what it’s for, Catholics can–and should–join and support those efforts to care for creation that are consistent with our faith. And for those of you wondering, there are several good reasons to do so. Here are five:
You know the expression “don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” right? Well this saying couldn’t apply more readily to care for creation. The earth literally feeds us. Everything we eat, from arugula salads to hot dogs at the ball game, comes from theearth. The healthier our relationship with creation, the healthier we’ll be in turn.
2. It promotes peace.
Scarcity and uncertainty breeds competition and mistrust: it’s an unfortunate human reality. Which is why a world whose future is uncertain and whose resources are in flux is probably not going to be a peaceful place.
It makes perfect sense. If there isn’t harmony in the ecology of nature, then there probably won’t be harmony in what Pope Benedict XVII called “human ecology.” As the pope emeritus said in his 2007 World Day of Peace address, experience shows that disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence. So if we truly desire peace, we “must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology.”
3. It’s part of the preferential option for the poor.
The poor and vulnerable are those most connected and immediately dependent upon the land. Which is why the degradation of creation is a social justice issue. Changing climates and altering ecosystems causes immense hardships on the world’s poor. This is why Pope Francis continuously emphasizes that care for creation is really care for our fellow man. It’s a requisite of solidarity and justice.
4. Beauty matters.
There are few things in life that can lift our mind to contemplate the divine better than the splendor of nature. And it makes sense: God created the world, and his mark is everywhere in it; we learn about Him through his creation.
But as modern man increasingly treats creation as meaningless raw material, this transcendental dimension gets lost. As Pope Francis said, “We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation.” We can restore this attitude, this sense of wonder and appreciation, by remembering what it means and who it comes from. This in turn will draw us closer to God. The beauty of creation is a gift that keeps on giving, and should be cared for accordingly.
5. We love God through respecting the things he gives us.
I had a problem growing up (and if you ask my housemates, maybe I still do): although I claimed to love the people I was with, I didn’t always treat their things with respect. In other words, my actions didn’t back up my claim of love.
God gave us creation and He called it good. If it’s good enough for God, it ought to be good enough for us. Scripture reminds that we are stewards of the gift of creation, not exploiters who use it and abuse it as we want. Instead, we cooperate with God as His co-creators. Caring for creation, the material of our partnership with God, is an undeniable charge of those who want to live the Christian life and love their God.