We as stewards of God’s creation must look into the Catholic social teaching on the environment so that we can understand the role we play in addressing its issues. Now more than ever we are confronted by many pressing environmental problems. We hear about global temperatures rising, with the year 2016 said to be the warmest year on record, ice sheets melting and many species of animals going extinct.
To know what the Catholic perspective on the environment is all about, we must first learn about Catholic social teaching.
What is Catholic Social Teaching?
Being a part of the Catholic Faith is not just limited to our spiritual journeys as individuals. It also includes being aware and responsible of the needs of the other members of our community. This is where Catholic social teaching comes in.
Catholic social teaching is an important part of the Catholic Faith. At the heart of it is the essential truth that the Triune God is communal and social. Our Heavenly Father gave us His only son Jesus Christ and He lets the Holy Spirit touch our lives. Those of us who claim to be God’s children must therefore embody this community-centered outlook and look at the bigger picture when making decisions.
In Biblical times, Hebrew prophets spread the message of God’s love especially to those who are needy. The prophets also encouraged people to unite in a covenant of love and justice. It should not be any different today. We must ignite in our hearts a deep love for our neighbors and the community in which we belong. Our outlook must always be that of love and justice.
What is the Catholic perspective on the environment?
“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. . . Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” - Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home
The Catholic Church teaches us that nature is a gift.
We have a responsibility to care for that gift not just for our own good but for the good of future generations.
We live in a world that is becoming increasingly selfish and shortsighted. Individuals and organizations are driven toward progress and advancement without consideration of the common good.
In many ways, this is the reason why our environment has been significantly destroyed and the consequences of climate change loom before us. We have lost sight of our social nature and become obsessed with pursuing our individual needs even if it makes others suffer. This kind of mentality goes against the very core of what it means to be a child of God.
and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these. Mark 12:30-31
We need to remember that we are made in the image and likeness of our Heavenly Father. Because of this we have a responsibility to follow His commands, chief of which is loving our neighbors.
When we put love and compassion at the core of what we do, we take a more social approach in our every decision and this includes choices pertaining to the environment. If we truly love our neighbors it should follow that we exert utmost care for our planet because it is our shared home.
The environmental crisis we face today is just one of the many manifestations of our disregard for the needs of others. We need to be more conscious and careful of every decision we make and keep in mind its possible effects on the future generation. Every choice we make impacts not only ourselves but every person we share our home with.
Practical Ways We Can Protect the Environment
The global environmental crisis we face today is a complex one that does not have one single solution. Ultimately, we as stewards of creation have a part to play in caring for the environment.
Each and every one of us must do our part in protecting our planet. There are many things we can do to make this possible. Here are 5 practical suggestions to get you started:
1. Use energy efficient appliances
Consider upgrading your fridge and air-conditioner if they are more than five years old. Newer ones are more efficient than old models. When shopping for new appliances like freezers, heaters and furnaces, be on the lookout for the Energy Star label.
2. Choose your car wisely
The car you drive is perhaps the most impactful climate-related decision you will make. For every gallon of gasoline, you use 25 pounds of heat-trapping gases is released into the atmosphere. So, when purchasing a car, go for the one that is most fuel efficient model. Better fuel mileage will not only help address the issue of global warming, it will save you thousands of dollars.
3. Invest in an electricity monitor
An electricity monitor is useful for identifying which appliances and devices in your house consumes the most energy. From there you can decide to whether minimize usage, upgrade to more energy efficient models or discard the item. You may buy an electricity monitor from hardware stores.
4. Watch what you eat
A big part of the world’s emissions is caused by the food industry. To be more ecologically conscious eaters, we can start by cutting down on our meat intake. Livestock uses up 30 percent of our world’s land area and another 33 percent is used to produce animal feed.Another solution is to buy food produced by local organic farmers and food shops. This is not only healthy, it will also help decrease the pollution caused by
5. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Become a more conscious shopper. Instead of buying and hoarding new things, look for ways to use old things you have. Recycling is a simple yet effective way of decreasing wastes we send to landfills and combustion facilities.
As Christian stewards, we must let our love for others and our concern for the planet transform us from the inside.
In what ways do you protect the environment?