Climate and the green pope

Respect for creation is a requirement for a person of faith. You cannot say you are a believer if you are ignoring the accumulating evidence that our planet, our only home, is being destroyed by climate change. That seems to be the central message of Pope Francis’ universal letter, Laudato Si, Praised be Him, issued last week.

Those with a historical bent will have noticed that that same day was the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and the two events are connected! Waterloo, 1815, was the final denouement of the challenge Napoleon the Great presented to Europe. A flawed person but an astonishing leader, for 20 years he fought to defend the principles of the French Revolution throughout Europe and had dreams of extending it beyond. The forces of reaction, tradition and “legitimacy” responded furiously and after seven attempts finally succeeded in crushing him at Waterloo.

For 200 years people have interpreted the events of the “Napoleonic era” positively and negatively and even today there is no consensus, not even in France, the land of his triumphs and defeats. But what is indisputable is that it was a struggle between modernity and conservatism. The latter won and for decades the lid was kept tight on the boiling pot of liberty. It could not be held down for ever and exploded in country after country right up to the present.

As has often been said, you cannot suppress a movement born of an idea whose time has come. As it was with liberty and respect for human rights so will it be now with respect for our environment and our planet. Francis has leant his shoulder to the push we need. Every person of faith, and everyone who may say they have no faith but they have good will, is called to engage in this new struggle.

We have achieved so much in science and human rights. There is no reason why we should not succeed in changing the way we view our planet and all the materials that go into our way of life. In the poetry of Job there is a limit to the sea’s encroachments: “Who pent up the sea behind closed doors and said ‘come thus far and no further?” The sea today, as we know, is nibbling away at low lying islands, isolated prey of its “proud waves.” But we can hold back the sea, just as Jesus once said to it, “Quiet. Be calm! And the wind dropped and all was calm again.” As with the struggle for liberty, there will be doubters and spoilers. But as with that struggle there will also be the valiant, the engaged, who change their way of living in small things and in big, so that we save our planet and lead it back to the harmony designed for it by the Creator.

Post published in: Environment

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