World Environment Day

The first major United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 5, 1972. This is why June 5 is the occasion for Pope Francis to address participants in a special Green and Blue Festival. The colors symbolize sustainability and technology, as indicated on the organization’s website here.

The Pope’s message builds on the teaching of Pope Benedict and Francis’ own encyclical Laudato Si. The text should be read by all people of good will:

A Plague of Locusts

The challenge to provide food for families and other groups is taken in stride by most of us in this society; for this we are ever grateful! However, the specter of want in this time of pandemic has led to hoarding as some people look ahead to a grim time of want. This is not a sign of maturity in any society!

As people everywhere face problems in moving crops from the field to the market and table, some countries in East Africa find that a prudent response to the danger of Covid-19 is complicated by another dismal threat. A plague of locusts is an ominous cloud on the horizon and already the first wave has “destroyed a swath of farmland across eight East African nations as large as Oklahoma this year.” Thus began the report, “’Locust-19’ is Set to Swarm East Africa” by Nicholas Bariyo and Joe Parkinson in The Wall Street Journal print edition of April 30, 2020 (p. A 16). After describing the inadequate efforts to spray breeding grounds, the article concludes: “Experts say it is crucial to attack the second swarm before it lays eggs again and a third wave – which could be perhaps 20 times bigger – could arrive in June, the peak harvest season.” This is confirmed by Samini Sengupta’s report, “What a Week’s Disasters Tell Us About Climate and the Pandemic” in The New York Times.

A second wave of locust swarms have also moved into India this week, attacking seasonal crops. The government is monitoring the situation and responding with pesticides, but this will come with other consequences in the long term, as Neeta Lal noted in her article, “India’s Second Plague: Locusts:”

There is no quick-fix solution to the locust menace. Beyond chemicals, pesticides, and drones, it is imperative to tackle the root cause of global warming and invest in upgrading climate resilience and adaptation techniques. An expensive and complex process, this will require global cooperation and coordination. But it has to be done. Else, as these pernicious pests have demonstrated, the costs will be staggering and recurring.

See also “India combats locust attack amid Covid-19 pandemic” by

Emily King’s essay, “Another Plague” in Commonweal, refers to a report by Keith Cressman, the United Nations senior locust-forecasting officer. “The desert locust now threatens the food security of a region that was already contending with intense drought, floods, heavy rains, and war. The emergence of the locust threat, according to Cressman, has the potential to ‘tip the balance into extreme food insecurity’ for these vulnerable countries.”

We think back to the plague of locusts in Egypt (Exodus 10:12-20) and in the land of Israel to the vivid description of flying and creeping swarms by the prophet Joel (chapters 1-2) and express gratitude that we have been spared! Did the author of the New Testament Book of Revelation recall a personal experience of locusts when he recorded the vision of locusts at the fifth trumpet? They arise from the abyss at service of Abaddon, the Destroyer, to torment those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (Apocalypse 9:1-11). Such visions of the future are always intended to bring a moral response from listeners in their own time. The challenging question: The reflection of whose image are we impressing into the work that we do?

The fear of famine, especially now in East African nations and India, becomes a second threat to these people who face Covid-19 with far fewer resources than we have. May the agencies of the United Nations take the initiative to help those in need! Besides prayer, you may also want to visit the following websites to learn how you may help:

  • The ecumenical initiative, Season of Creation, which encourages a worldwide celebration of prayer and action to protect our common home

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.” A brief report was presented by L’Osservatore Romano (English weekly on July 26, 2019).  That should be available soon at

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

Nature, Tree, Dawn, Landscape, Panorama, Sun, BranchesPeople 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 for additional information on climate change and how you can make a difference.