Conservation is a luxury

On arrival in 1905, Fr Joseph Moreau, the first Jesuit to settle in Zambia, defended his insistence on farming before preaching by saying, ‘a hungry stomach has no ears’.  He brought a bible but he also brought a plough. 

I heard a modern version of these words this past week, again in Zambia, relating to our efforts to promote the use of sources of energy that do not lead to global warming: ‘Conservation is a luxury when you can’t feed your children’.

This powerful pause for thought arose in connection with a formerly protected forest, close to Lusaka, which is now being pillaged by developers – and by charcoal burners. The forceful and scientifically supported arguments, warning of looming catastrophe, carry little weight if a poor man cannot put food on the family table.

Governments have a problem.  Many of them genuinely want to address the issue but first they have to educate people about the urgency of acting now.  And if they are able to convince them they have to provide alternative sources of energy which are ‘green’.  But they also have to work in solidarity with other governments otherwise those lagging behind will drag the others down.

All the science is available.  What is lacking is the will. In his letter on ‘Care for our Common Home’ (Laudato Si’), Pope Francis analyses the human roots of the ecological crisis. ‘A certain way of understanding human life and activity has gone awry, to the serious detriment of the world around us’ (#101).  He describes this in detail but ends on a positive note; ‘there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty first century will be remembered for bravely shouldering its responsibilities’ (#165). This will happen if we heed the call for ‘a selfless ecological commitment’ which can show itself even in ‘little daily actions’ such as where ‘a person who could afford to spend and consume more heating regularly uses less and wears warmer clothes’. This may seem a small thing but it shows ‘the kind of conviction and attitude which help to protect the environment.’ (#211)

So the only problem we really have is a moral one: are we willing to act wisely now so that we save our common home for our descendants? When the Pharisee and the tax collector went to the temple, the former saw no need to ask himself questions about his way of life.  The tax collector, on the other hand, was conscious of his failure to live up to what his heart told him was the right way to live. Jesus praised him for his awareness and honesty.  The man knew he could not make it on his own.

The ecological crisis we face today calls us to realise that we are not so smart after all.  We need help to make the right decisions and carry them through. And the One who made our planet in the first place is ready and willing to provide that help.

27 October 2019                     Sunday 30 C

Sira 35:12…18                        2 Timothy 4: 6…18                 Luke 18: 9-14

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