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Building a healthier, fairer and more sustainable world

  • Leela Ramdeen

Giant Redwood Hampstead Heath.   Image: ICN/JS

Giant Redwood Hampstead Heath. Image: ICN/JS

Sunday June 5 is World Environment Day (WED). The theme is: Only One Earth - part of a global campaign #OnlyOneEarth which "calls for transformative changes to policies and choices to enable cleaner, greener, and sustainable living in harmony with nature. It will focus on the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature, and our possibilities for shifting to a greener lifestyle through both policies and individual choices. "Only One Earth" was the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference. 50 years on, the motto is as pertinent as ever - this planet is our only home, and humanity must safeguard its finite resources.

" WED has developed as a platform to raise awareness on the problems facing our environment such as air pollution, plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade, sustainable consumption, sea-level increase, and food security, among others. Furthermore, WED helps drive change in consumption patterns and in national and international environmental policy"

Laudato Si' Week ran from May 22-29. Laudato Si', on care for our common home, is Pope Francis' encyclical which highlights the importance of caring for our common home, as "a universal principle that involves not only Christians, but every person of good will who has the protection of the environment at heart."

Pope Francis rightly says that everything is closely related and that "today's problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis. " He focuses in Chapter 4 of his encyclical on the key concept of Integral ecology. He says: "Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live...We are part of nature...Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature."

In September 2021, Pope Francis sent a message to the Council of Europe's Assembly, in advance of a panel of discussion on environment and human rights - in preparation for COP26. He reiterated his call for immediate action for the care of our common home and reminded the Council that "A healthy environment is the right of every human being".

The earth, he said, "is the greatest resource which God has given to us and is at our disposal not to be disfigured, exploited, and degraded, but so that (…) we can live in this world with dignity...when the human being considers himself the master of the universe and not its responsible steward, he or she justifies any kind of waste and treats the other people and nature as mere objects," denying "the fundamental right of every person to live with dignity and to develop integrally." He reiterated his call for a "change of course...Everything is connected, and as a family of nations we must have a common concern: to see that the environment is cleaner, purer and preserved. And take care of nature, so that it takes care of us."

Creation is the work of God and is God's gift to us. As stated in Genesis 1, God created everything - the heaven, the earth, the birds, the plants, the land, the ocean, and "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). As stewards of God's creation, we have individual and collective responsibility to "cultivate and care for" His Creation (Genesis 2:15).

We are one human family and while we seek to address environmental issues that impact on us now, let us remember that we are not to hand over to future generations God's Creation depleted of its resources. Let's act in our own spheres of influence to save our common home e.g. examine and assess our lifestyle and consumption; reuse, recycle, reduce, restore.

World leaders know what they have to do to build more sustainable societies. What we need is strong leadership. Brady Dennis' article in the Washington Post: Pandemic, war, politics hamper global push for climate action (2 May), is worth reading. Alok Sharma, the U.K. official who served as president of COP26 rightly said: "...the pulse remains weak...the only way you strengthen the pulse of 1.5 is actually to see a delivery on all the commitments that have been made."

Today is Pentecost Sunday. I pray in the words of Pope Francis: "Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity." Yes, "unity" involves all of Creation. Let us show our gratitude to God for His gift of the earth/the universe by becoming advocates for ALL God's Creation.

Leela Ramdeen is Chair, Trinidad & Tobago Catholic Commission for Social Justice & Archdiocese's Ministry for Migrants and Refugees

LINK

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Instagram: ammrcatholictt
Twitter: @ammrcatholictt1Geneva Environment Network - www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org


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