Wildfires and Human Responsibility

Amazon fires August 15-22, 2019. Satellite image taken by MODIS

In 1945 my family moved to a mountain valley in central British Columbia. One of the peaks nearby was called “Lookout Mountain” because a watchman was there all summer to warn the villagers about forest fires. The only telephone line in the town was to the mountain top, which allowed him to report any danger promptly.

Like the prophet Ezekiel (33:1-9), the watchman in any generation has a solemn responsibility, which relates to life or death for the community. In the world today concerns that seem to be local for some can have a grave impact on a world-wide range. In the recent weeks some news reports have focused on the Amazon. See the following New York Times articles:

How are the concerns of local populations for present needs and developmental aspirations being balanced with an educational perspective of the world-wide community? In October 2019 the Holy See hopes to grapple with such issues in a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican: “Amazonia: New Pathways for the Church and for an Integral Ecology.” See the preparatory document here. A brief report was presented by L’Osservatore Romano (English weekly on July 26, 2019).  That should be available soon at www.osservatoreromano.va/en.

May the challenges of facing complex issues be met with a hope to bring justice for the poor in our time and the future needs of the human race at large in our common home!  Pope Francis calls for a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. This is an alert for all people of good will!

Amazonian Face

earth-405096_1280 (1)The exploitation and destruction of forests without much or any concern for the future has been a problem in many parts of the world for centuries. In recent decades tropical forests from South America to Indonesia have suffered at an accelerated rate.

Church leaders have tried to educate the faithful and to defend indigenous peoples in several places. Read Barb Fraze’s article, Church leaders defend Amazon region, people, which was published earlier this month in the Western Catholic Reporter, and learn about the public launch of a new pan-Amazonian network and why Latin American Church leaders are calling for a Church with an “Amazonian face.”


Theology of the Environment

EnvironmentPeople of every spiritual tradition should explore the heritage of their faith with regard to the human interaction with planet Earth. The accusation that the Genesis Creation narrative is responsible for depredation of the earth is false. The Bible is theocentric; the idea that “Man is the measure of all things” comes from another source; it has been taken up by some who delighted in the name of Christian, while exploiting and pillaging our natural resources. Rethinking priorities is at the beginning of a balanced understanding of the human vocation.

For decades Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has called attention to the Christian theological vision of our environment. Recently his advisor, Archdeacon John Chryssaygis, addressed an ecumenical audience at the University of Alberta. See the article, Natural environment honours the divine mystery, says cleric, in the Western Catholic Reporter for the full story.

Church Teaching on the Environment


How do human beings relate to the world?

Many people fail to acknowledge the role of agent in the service of God, as Genesis 1:26-28 should be understood.

Irish theologian Donal Dorr offers an important review of the teachings of recent Popes and agencies of the Holy See. On this dimension of Catholic social doctrine, see The fragile world’: Church teaching on ecology before and by Pope Francis.


Climate Change & Human Responsibility


People often note that only human beings and beavers make a great impact on their environment.

Since the Industrial Revolution and especially in the context of warfare, human depredation has wreaked havoc in many places. Now, the threat of climate change is of great concern to many spiritual leaders, including Popes Benedict and Francis.

Of course, those looking only for short-term profit have ignored the warning signs from the planet itself.  Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of Earth Institute, recently made a call to “raise your voice to head off disastrous climate change” on the Huffington Post blog, which you can read here.

You can also visit Friends of the Earth at www.foe.org for additional information on climate change and how you can make a difference.