Reflection on Climate Change

Part 1 –
Children take action on climate change
When God created the world, He assigned human beings to take care of His wonderful creation. It was purely a gift, a gift beyond compare. Humans received this gift in gratitude and we were supposed to nourish it and protect it. Instead of caring for it and protecting it, it is obvious that we have plundered God’s creation. As a result, we have disturbed the equilibrium that existed in creation from time immemorial, and today we witness the symptoms of this chaos in the natural world. One such symptom is climate change.
Climate change is a global phenomenon associated with changes in weather patterns. Where before it seemed that there could be different reasons for climate change, now it is increasingly becoming clear that human activity is the key driver affecting our earth’s climate. Climate change has various impacts, their severity differing from place to place. Average global temperatures are rising, oceans are warming up and becoming more acidic. Sea ice and glaciers are melting, causing sea levels to rise. Extreme weather conditions such as floods and drought have become the order of the day. For these reasons, climate change has been identified as the defining issue of our century. However, some major world leaders do not even believe in climate change, with US president Donald Trump calling it a ‘hoax’.
While the ‘adults in the room’ wrestle with the question of whether climate change is real or not, young people have launched a crusade, initiated and inspired by a teenager, Greta Thunberg, born 3 January 2003, a world-renowned climate activist.

Part 2 –
The summer of 2018 was Sweden’s hottest in 262 years. One day in August that year, ninth-grader Thunberg decided not go to school, and launched a protest outside Sweden’s parliament, demanding that the Swedish government reduce emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
She protested only on Fridays, but as the protest gathered momentum, she inspired students around the globe to join her in this worthy cause. Some in the media have described her impact on the world stage as the ‘Greta Thunberg Effect’. She is a prophet of our times who draws our attention to the dark reality of the existential threat posed by climate change. Climate change is not a thing of the future. It is already happening. It has come. It is on our doorstep.
At a TEDx talk in Stockholm, she says that there are no grey areas when it comes to our survival. Either we go on as a civilisation or we don’t. She says that we need to take speedy measures to stop emissions.
In recognition of what she is doing to protect our planet, she has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
She says we can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis, even if we do not have solutions. She also goes on to say that ‘Humans are adaptable. We can fix this. But the opportunities do not last long. We must start today.’
Currently she is sailing to New York for a summit of world leaders. She chose not to fly.
She will travel from Britain to the United States on a racing boat fitted with solar panels and underwater turbines that produce electricity onboard, making her journey carbon-neutral.
In New York she will join a large-scale climate demonstration and speak at a climate action summit hosted by the head of the United Nations in New York City on 23 September. Then she will travel to attend the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Santiago, Chile in December.
Before she embarked on her journey she was interviewed by the media and said, “We will have a window of time when things are in our hands. But the window is closing fast. This is why I have decided to make this trip.” Bon voyage.

Quotations on Ecology

 

1 ‘The first time to plant a tree was 50 years ago. The next best time is today’. Chinese Proverb.

2 As old adage says, ‘The beginning of wisdom comes, when a person plants a tree, the shade under which they know they will never sit.’

3 The spiral in a snail’s shell is the same mathematically on the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It is the same ratio that you’ll will find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world. – Joseph Gordon Levitt

4 We are each of us, a bit of God. A scrap of divinity. If we would know it, oh! If only we would know it, we would walk the earth in awe, eyes shining in delight at the miracle of the living God, gracing our days and nights. A mystical heart – Edwina Gately.

5 A blade of grass is a commonplace on earth, it would be a miracle on Mars. Our descendants on Mars will know the value of a patch of green. And if a blade of grass is priceless, what is the value of a human being? Carl Sagan –  Pale Blue Dot

6 Woven into our lives is the very fire from the start and the genes from the sea creatures and everyone, utterly everyone is the kin in the radiant tapestry of being. Dr Elizabeth Johnson

7 Rock is a page of God’s old diaries.

8 Ecology and Spirituality are fundamentally connected, because deep ecological awareness, ultimately is spiritual awareness.

9 Live green, love green, be green. We are just mankind. Without the earth we’re nothing.

10 The land is sacred; it belongs to the countless members who are dead, the few who are living, and the multitude of those yet to be born.

11 Our personal consumer choices have ecological consequences. It is time to re-examine some of our deeply held notions that underlie our lifestyles.

12 If we wish to protect and renew the earth and preserve it for future generations, we need to build a relationship with it. We cannot save what we do not love. Thomas Berry

13 This world is indeed a living being supplied with soul and intelligence, a single visible entity, containing all other living entities. Timeous by Plato

14 The natural world is the larger sacred community to which we belong to be, alienated from this community is to become destitute in all that makes us human, to damage this community is to diminish our own existence. Thomas Berry

15 It is false to say that humanity is the most excellent being in the universe. The most excellent being in the universe is the universe itself. Thomas Berry

16 The divine communicates to us primarily through the language of the natural world. Not to hear the natural world is not to hear the Divine.

17 Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives. Thomas Berry

18 We lose our souls if we lose the experience of the forest, the butterflies, the song of the birds if we can’t see the stars at night.

19 The destiny of humans cannot be separated from the destiny of the earth.  Thomas Berry

20 You cannot have well people on a sick planet.

21 It’s all a question of story. We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how we fit into it, is no longer effective. Yet we have not learned the new story.

22 The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. Thomas Berry

23 The universe is the primary revelation of the Divine, the primary Scripture, the primary locus of Divine-human communication. Thomas Berry

24 The universe is composed of subjects to be communed with, not primarily of objects to be used. As a subject, each component of the universe is capable of having rights.

25 There is a communion with God and a communion with earth and a communion with God through the earth. Teilhardi Chardin

26 The human is not the static centre of the world, as was thought for so long: but the axis and arrow of evolution- which is much more beautiful. Teihardi Chardin.

27 Evolution is an expression of Divine love. Teihardi Chardin

28 We have not inherited the earth from our parents but borrowed it from our children.

29 There is a mystical meaning in every creature, every aspect of reality. Laudato si

30 The earth is a gift from God. We must take care of it.

31 Four billion years ago the planet was molten rock; now it sings opera.  Brian Swimme

32 We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environment. Laudato si

34 It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. Laudato Si 220

35 As humans we are born of the earth, nourished by the earth, healed by the earth.

36 The earth is what we all have in common. Wendell Berry

37 ‘Nature is the direct expression of the Divine imagination’. John O’ Donohue

38 The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else. Barry Commoner

39 Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need, but not enough to satisfy everyone’s greed. Mahatma Gandhi

40 Cherish the natural world because you’re part of it and you depend on it.

41 The environmental crisis is a global problem, and only global action will resolve it. Berry Commoner

42 Let us be protectors of creation. Protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.

43 When nature is viewed as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society.

44 We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries.

45 I ask you in the name of God to defend Mother Earth.

46 Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Laudato si 119

47 Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation. Laudato si 14

48 The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.

49 Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and human right. Laudato si 30

50 Our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. Laudato si 1

51.The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, and mountain: everything is, as it were, ‘a caress of God’. Laudato si.

52 We are called to be instruments of God our father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness. Laudato si

53 What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are growing up? Laudato si 160

Reflection on Trinity Sunday

Many historical movements have three words to express their spirit. The words of the French Revolution were “liberty, equality and fraternity”. The American Declaration of Independence has “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as its key words. The New Age Movement focuses on “mind, body and spirit”.

On the feast of The Holy Trinity we reflect on the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a union of three persons in one. God the Father is the Creator, Jesus is the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit is the sanctifier. God is a community of persons – Father, Son and Spirit.

With our evolving consciousness today, we are presented with new trinities. On the feast of the Holy Trinity I would like to draw your attention to a new trinity.  The three words of this new trinity are as follows: SOIL, SOUL and SOCIETY.

The first word is soil and it comes from the Latin word ‘humus’. Words such as humid, human and humility are derived from this word. We come from the soil: ‘Remember you are dust, unto dust you shall return’. Everything comes from the soil and returns to the soil. The earth produces food and food gives life, while the soil holds the roots. Sun, moon, stars and water all relate to the soil. Soil is a metaphor for the entire natural system. Without the soil, life is impossible. For vegetation the soil is a very necessary ingredient. For us human beings to survive we need to touch the soil and be connected to the earth. Without being connected to the soil, we cease to be human.

The second word is “soul”. As we are invited to be connected with the soil, we also need to live in harmony within ourselves, i.e. to be in touch with our soul. Soil and soul are intricately linked. Soil is tangible. Every living organism has a soul. For instance animals, worms, trees and humans have a soul. Soil is the outer landscape and soul is the inner landscape. It is important to take care of our soul as we take care of our body.  When we make time for ourselves to take care of our inner purity, spirituality, meditation, and to live a life of elegant simplicity, we are able to look after our souls.

The third word in the new trinity is “society”. Care of the soil and soul needs to find its ultimate expression in the care of society. I have to think that I am part of the whole. I am an organ of the Earth body, I am a member of the Earth community. In other words, I am a microcosm of the macrocosm. We are all interconnected and interrelated.

On the feast of the Holy Trinity we reflect on the mystery of the Trinity which has a bearing on our faith and spiritual life. However, we are invited to look at a new trinity for our time which expresses concerns for the entire universe. The new trinity does not replace the notion of the Holy Trinity but rather urges us to look beyond a body of teachings which is specific to Christianity. In understanding the new trinity we are called upon to perceive life in the universe holistically and inclusively. In the new trinity the insights such as caring for the natural world, maintaining personal well-being and upholding human values are quite central to our understanding and they can be perceived as the moral imperatives of our time.

 

(These thoughts and ideas are taken from Satish Kumar’s book Soil.Soul.Society)

 

Laudato Si’ and Chief Seattle’s letter

18 June 2018 marked the third anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’”.  Since its publication this document has been sparking debate not only in the Catholic Church but also in wider religious and ecological circles. The Holy Father addresses Catholics, Christians and every person on this planet when he says at the very outset: ‘In this encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home’ (3). It is a remarkable feature of Laudato Si’ that Pope Francis invites everyone to reflect on the present state of the earth, our common home, and draws our attention to finding solutions to the crisis facing our planet.

In this article I would like to reflect on what seems to me like a meeting of minds between Pope Francis – our twenty-first century Argentinian Pope – and Chief Seattle, a nineteenth-century Native American chief of the Suquamish tribe.   Seattle’s speech, which is believed to have been given in December 1854 as a response to the United States government’s demand that he must sell his tribal land, can be seen as a pre-ecological text.

At the start of his letter, Seattle implies that he is baffled by the demand by the President in Washington that he must sell his land. He goes on to say that the notion of buying and selling land is something alien to him, insisting that ‘Every part of the earth is sacred to my people’ and ‘all are holy’. In the same vein, Laudato Si’ invites everybody to commit themselves to caring for the earth, our common home. The Pope puts this idea beautifully when he says, ‘God is present in the whole of the universe and in the smallest of creatures’. (A Prayer for our Earth – Laudato Si’). It is a clarion call to recognize the divine in every part of creation and protect the manifestations of divinity in the cosmos. Both letters identify the intrinsic value of the natural world, recognizing the presence of the divine permeating the entire universe. We human beings are reminded that we need to redefine our relationship with our environment – from one of control and domination to one of care and protection.

Seattle’s letter can be perceived as a statement on ecology and interconnectedness – the interconnectedness of all living things. This deeply profound thought comes to the fore when he says, ‘All things are connected like the blood that unites all …… Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.’ In other words, he is saying that we are part of the whole; that we are interrelated and interconnected. Laudato Si’ reiterates the same point from a different perspective. ‘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’ (91). The words suggest that care for the environment and our involvement in solving the issues faced by the poor and the most abandoned are intertwined. Eco justice and human justice are inseparable. They are like two sides of the same coin.

The Holy Father reminds us that human life is fundamentally grounded in three close relationships: ‘With God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself’ (66). Reflecting on our relationship with the Earth, he states forcefully that when human beings strip the earth of its natural beauty and forests, contaminating the water and air and causing damage to its natural ecological system, these acts – whether small or large – are ‘sins’ (8) that we need to confess. Sin against the natural world is a crime against ourselves and God. We are urged to take measures to protect the biological diversity of God’s creation in order to preserve the equilibrium that has existed in nature from the beginning of the world.

A further insight which is shared by both letters is the understanding of the natural world as a family – a new kind of family that we need to create by including every living organism in our network of relationship. This new extended familial relationship is already perceived by Seattle when he says, ‘The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.’ This profound thought by Seattle resonates with the teaching of the Holy Father when he refers to St Francis of Assisi as the patron saint of ecology. St Francis is depicted as a pilgrim and Christian who lived with an awareness of the natural world as being in wonderful harmony with God and with others. When St Francis fell in love with nature, he communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them ‘to praise the Lord, just as they were endowed with reason’ (11). For him, ’Each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection’ (11).

Finally, it is quite obvious that both Pope Francis and Chief Seattle have a profound concern and passion for the care of the natural world. As a tribal leader Seattle urges his own people to save their land from the clutches of powerful political figures because the land is sacred to them and it is a huge part of their very existence. Pope Francis invites everyone on this planet to work ungently to save the endangered earth, our common home. In our daily actions and attempts to love and take care of the earth it is important that we develop a sense of sacredness in  nature, as clearly demonstrated by Seattle, the chief of a tribal community. Saving our endangered earth can be described as the defining issue of our time and everyone on this earth is called to respond to this invitation. Pope Francis ends his letter on a positive note when he says, ‘Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope’ (244).

May Procession

Not long ago we had our parish May Procession, from Giant’s Brae on Leith Links to St Mary’s Star of the Sea church. During the procession we reflected on the title ‘Our Lady, Undoer of Knots’, which is not only one of the many names given to the Blessed Mother, but is also the name of a painting in a church in Augsburg, Germany. Pope Francis had seen this image of our Blessed Mother while he was studying in Germany as a young priest, and later promoted the use of this devotion in the countries of Latin America. It has become Pope Francis’ favourite Marian devotion.

Have you ever felt all tied up in knots? The devotion reminds us that Mary is our mother who can intercede for us to undo our difficult and tight knots. The second-century bishop and martyr St Irenaeus said, ‘Eve, by her disobedience, tied the knot of disgrace for the human race, whereas Mary by her obedience undid it’. This is a consoling message that reiterates that the Blessed Mother is present to undo our knots. In the painting, Mary is portrayed untying knots while resting her foot on the head of the serpent, which itself is depicted in the form of a knot. She is present to undo our knots, one by one.

This devotion invites us to bring to our Blessed Mother the knotty situations of our lives. What are the knots that our Blessed Mother can undo? They are the knots of difficult relationships, financial constraints, unemployment, stress, isolation and different types of addiction. Or perhaps we are tied up in spiritual knots. Through the powerful intercession of Mary, we are able to untie our knots. Let us welcome the Blessed Mother into our personal lives, into our family, parish, community, workplace and local area, and she will help us untie our knots and fill our lives with peace.

Our Lady Undoer of Knots, pray for us.

St Mary’s Star of the Sea, Pray for us.