World Environmental Day – 5 June 2010
Protection of the environment – a challenge for every child, woman and man
God the Creator made all things good (cf. Gn 1) and gave the earth to us humans to cultivate and take care of as stewards (cf. Gn 2:15).
Commemorated annually on 5 June (since 1972), World Environmental Day (WED) is one of the principal vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.
There are strong bonds that exist in our globalised and interconnected world and the Society of African Missions (SMA) see the protection of our environment and the call to be better stewards of creation as of vital importance for humanity but particularly the peoples of Africa where we work.
Our Christian faith calls us to bring together the biblical mandate to care for the “garden” (Gn. 1:28-30) and also to care “for the least of these” (Mt. 25). It combines care for God’s creation with protection for those who are poor and vulnerable.
We often forget that human beings are only one small part of a complex eco system. Everything in the world is linked in an interdependent chain from which nothing or nobody is exempt. We often forget too, that we as a human race are merely passing through a planet that will be used by future generations. We don’t have a right to exploit the world’s resources for our own short term gain, but rather have a moral obligation to take care of the world around us. There can be sufficient resources in the world for all species to live in harmony, now and into the future. But this depends on us to stand up and take action.
The range of environmental concerns in both Ireland and the continent of Africa are widespread and varied but protection of the world’s biodiversity is the key underlining feature of such issues.
“From the hot arid deserts of the Sahara, through the lush green rain forests of the Amazon, to the ocean depths and the bright corals, our natural world is a marvel of different landscapes, materials, colours and texture. The land, air and seas of our planet are home to the tiniest insects and the largest animals, which make up a rich tapestry of interconnecting and interdependent forces. This is life, this is biodiversity.” (1)
There are many dangers to the worlds biodiversity on which we all rely. Most of these threats are man made and include global warming, habitat loss and destruction, over exploitation of natural resources, and pollution and contamination to name a few.
In Africa the effects of global warming, caused primarily by the industrialised nations but felt by Africa’s poor are having devastating effects. Drought, loss of arable land, poverty and flooding are becoming more and more common in a continent, that has for centuries, been exploited by the more powerful nations of the world for their own benefit.
An example of this are the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro (cf photo) – the highest mountain in Africa – may soon be falling on bare ground following a study showing that its ice cap is destined to disappear entirely within 20 years, due largely to climate change.
We need to realise that our actions or lack of them in relation to the environment have direct effects on our fellow human beings and the biodiversity of the planet. We need to realise that it is often those in power that create a discourse that allows for only one economic model and one way of living life. There are however an infinity of ways to structure society, ways that provide for all peoples and all species. This way doesn’t just maintain the status quo for a minority in society but provides for an inclusive, sustainable world.
One way of demonstrating true solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Africa is by reclaiming our ancient traditions of caring for creation and for God’s people and use our voices and actions with a renewed sense of social justice and equity.
Fr Angelo Lafferty SMA
(1) Joana Benn, United Nations Environment Programme ‘What is Biodiversity?’, February 2010.