The Cry of the EarthA Pastoral Reflection on Climate Change from The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
God our Father, open our eyes to seeyour hand at work in the splendourof creation,In the beauty of human life.Touched by your hand our worldis holy. – Opening Prayer Mass of 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Foreword G od, in whom we live and ‘environment is God’s gift to move and have our being, everyone, and in our use of it we has given us the gift of this have a responsibility towards the beautiful earth. Creation flows out poor, towards future generations and of the heart of an infinitely loving towards humanity as a whole … The Creator. Touched by God’s hand, our Church has a responsibility towards world is holy. creation and she must assert this responsibility in the public sphere’ Our earth is also complex. Its systems (nn. 48 and 51). of life are interdependent and finely balanced. Small changes in one part In this pastoral reflection, individuals, of the planet’s rhythms and systems parish communities and all people can have significant, if not dramatic of good will are invited to reflect consequences for the whole of the on ‘that covenant between human earth and its creatures. This makes beings and the environment, which global climate change one of the should mirror the creative love of most critical issues of our time. How God, from whom we come and we respond to climate change will towards whom we are journeying’ have consequences for the future of (CV n. 50). It is an invitation to every person and every form of life reflect on the challenges of climate on the earth. change and the actions we can take to address its potentially negative In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict consequences. XVI has reminded us that the
The first part of this pastoralreflection looks at the science In addressing the challenge of climateassociated with climate change. change everyone has a part to play.While not all scientists believeclimate change is caused by humanactivity, the reflection draws onthe analysis of the great majority effects of climate change. many of our day-to-day activitiesof climate change scientists The second part of this reflection on our natural environment and,who believe such a link exists. It takes up the theme of our natural consequently, on our global climate.includes analysis from international environment as ‘a wondrous work of In addressing the challenge of climategroups of scientists such as the the Creator containing a “grammar” change everyone has a part to play.un Intergovernmental Panel on which sets forth … criteria for its wise Every action taken in favour of a justClimate Change, the Environmental use, not its reckless exploitation’ and more sustainable environment,Protection Agency of Ireland and the (CV n. 48). It offers some reflections no matter how small, has an intrinsicexperts on climate change we have on sacred Scripture, key ethical value. Action at a global level, asconsulted in Ireland. In light of such principles and themes from Catholic well as every individual action whichoverwhelming consensus among Social Doctrine, which inspire and contributes to integral humancredible national and international guide our vocation as stewards of development and global solidarity,organisations working in this area, God’s creation. helps to construct a more sustainablethe precautionary principle means environment and, therefore, a betterthat we should react now to the Finally, this pastoral reflection world.risk of serious harm posed by the offers some practical actions whichplausible link between certain types individuals, parishes and others In the compelling words of Popeof human activity and the damaging can take to reduce the impact of Benedict XVI: ‘This invites contemporary
society to a serious review of itslifestyle, which, in many parts ofthe world, is prone to hedonismand consumerism, regardless oftheir harmful consequences. Whatis needed is an effective shift inmentality which can lead to theadoption of new lifestyles in which thequest for truth, beauty, goodness andcommunion with others for the sakeof common growth are the factorswhich determine consumer choices,savings and investments’ (n. 51).Grateful to God for the gift of hiscreation, I encourage all people ofgood will to reflect urgently on howwe can work together to take moreresponsible care of our planet nowand for the sake of generations yetunborn. Cardinal Seán Brady President of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference
‘What is needed is an effective shiftin mentality which can lead to theadoption of new lifestyles in whichthe quest for truth, beauty, good-ness and communion with others forthe sake of common growth are thefactors which determine consumerchoices, savings and investments.’ – Pope Benedict XVI
Some P eople in Ireland constantly t The last 50 years have been the talk about the weather warmest in the last 1,300 years inReflections because it is so changeable. While two or even three consecutive the northern half of the planet; t Ireland has been warming moreOn Climate wet summers do not indicate that climate change is happening, two quickly than some other parts of the world. Even though the winterChange or three decades of mild winters of 2008–2009 was the coldest for do point to climate change. Small 30 years, our winters are much changes in the climate will have a milder than they were 50 years significant impact on Ireland and on ago. other parts of the world. WHY THE EARTH IS GETTING OUR EARTH IS GETTING WARMER WARMER According to scientists on the Different factors can contribute to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate global temperature changes. Some Change (ipcc), climate change is changes happen naturally. Others already taking place. Our world is are cyclical and occur over many getting warmer. The scientists of the thousands of years. Increasingly, ipcc recently reported that: however, scientists agree that the most important factor influencing t The average temperature of the climate change is the loading of world is 0.74 degrees Celsius our atmosphere with man-made higher than it was 100 years ago; ‘greenhouse’ gases.
The atmosphere of our planetincludes a thin layer of ‘greenhouse’gases, the main components ofwhich are:t Water vapourt Carbon dioxidet Methanet Nitrous oxidet Ozone.Thanks to these greenhousegases, the current average globaltemperature is +15 degrees Celsius.This creates a climate favourable tothe wonderful diversity of life we findon the planet today. Without thesegases the average global temperaturewould be well below freezing.However, the levels of greenhousegases in our atmosphere are risingand this, in turn, is acceleratingglobal warming and climate change.
The ipcc and other scientific t A rise of 1 to 2 degrees Celsius cereals, in many parts of theorganisations have drawn particular could see the extinction of one- world;attention to the following: third of the species of the world; t Some low-lying tropical nations t Increasing heat waves, floods, will experience major flooding as storms, fires and droughts, a result of rising seas, especiallyt The levels of greenhouse gases causing death and displacement in the densely populated delta have been increasing since the for hundreds of millions of people; regions of Asia, Africa and Latin beginning of the Industrial t Increasingly severe health America. Revolution 250 years ago; problems from vector-bornet The levels are now higher than at disease and malnutrition; any time in the last 650,000 years; t Conflicts over dwindlingt They believe this is mainly as resources, such as water; a result of burning fossil fuel, t Flood waters could make life which is so central to our modern difficult for inhabitants of many of economy and way of life. the world’s largest cities; t Glaciers retreating in theTHE CONSEQUENCES OF Himalayas will affect two billionGLOBAL WARMING people in Asia and create tensIf the present upward trend in of millions of environmentalglobal warming continues, ipcc refugees;scientists and others predict serious t Yield from rain-fed agricultureconsequences for the planet and could be down 50% in Africa.humanity over the coming decades. Any further temperature riseThese include: will reduce crop yield, especially
If the present upward trend inglobal warming continues, floodwaters could make life difficultfor inhabitants of many of theworld’s largest cities.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF CLIMATE The eastern part of the country,CHANGE FOR IRELANd where the majority of the populationHeat Waves live, will be drier. This will put hugeScientists say that in Ireland our pressure on public authorities,average temperature has increased especially in terms of providingby 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past drinking water for Dublin and othercentury. Many scientists now predict cities and towns situated in thethat there will be an increase in eastern part of the country.temperature of about 2 degreesCelsius in Ireland by the middle of Agriculturethis century. By 2050, the south and Scientists say that this shortage ofwest coasts of Ireland may have an water will have an impact on ouraverage January temperature of 8 agriculture, making it difficult todegrees Celsius. This means we will grow potatoes. Up to 20% of Ireland’sexperience more heat waves. native species of plants will be vulnerable to extinction as a result ofRainfall the projected changes.It is also predicted that there willbe an overall increase in rainfall, These predictions are based on anespecially in winter months. The expected 2 degree Celsius rise in thegreatest increases are expected in average global temperature. We arethe north-west. already almost halfway to reaching this critical point.
God has given us the gift of this beautiful earth to live on. God’searth provides for us by giving us every material thing we needfor our well-being. God also gave us the intelligence and skill tocare for the earth. CREATION AS GIFT ANd A RESPONSIBILITY For followers of Jesus Christ, climate change raises urgent spiritual and moral concerns. God has given us the gift of this beautiful earth to live on. God’s earth provides for us by giving us every material thing we need for our well-being. God also gave us the intelligence and skill to care for the earth. In the very first pages of the Bible we are reminded that God took man and put him in the Garden of Eden to ‘till it and keep it’ (Gen 2:15). In the original language, these words
imply a call to take responsibility for We believe that this good and understand our earth and how itthe earth and to keep it from harm. beautiful earth has been brought works. This requires that we first forth by the community of love that seek to understand why the earthIn the words of Pope Benedict xvi: is the Triune God: Father, Son and is getting warmer and then act‘Nature speaks to us of the Creator (cf. Holy Spirit. Creation itself is an act urgently and responsibly to ensureRom 1:20) and his love for humanity. of Divine love. It is given to us as a the harmony and sustainability ofIt is destined to be “recapitulated” in free gift. God’s creation.Christ at the end of time. Thus it toois a “vocation”… a gift of the Creator In the words of Pope Benedict xvi:who has given it an inbuilt order, ‘The environment is God’s gift toenabling man … “to till it and keep it” everyone, and in our use of it we(Gen 2:15)’ (CV n. 48). have a responsibility towards the poor, towards future generationsThe Book of Job also reminds us that and towards humanity as a whole …the wisdom of God is embedded in If this vision is lost, we end up eitherthe Earth (Job 38:2ff). The Book of considering nature an untouchableWisdom tells us that God loves all taboo or, on the contrary, abusing it.that exists because his ‘immortal Neither attitude is consonant withspirit is in all things’ (Wis 11:24–12:1). the Christian vision of nature as the fruit of God’s creation’ (CV n. 48).The psalms frequently invoke thebeauty and wonder of creation as This respect for the integrity ofa reason to give praise and glory creation suggests that we mustto God. use our intelligence and reason to
‘The environment is God’sgift to everyone, and inour use of it we have aresponsibility towardsthe poor, towards futuregenerations and towardshumanity as a whole …’ – Pope Benedict XVI
THE CALL TO ‘ECOLOGICALCONVERSION’In his World Day of Peace Messagefor 1990, Pope John Paul II suggestedthat the ‘greenhouse effect’ hadreached crisis proportions as aconsequence of industrial growth,massive urban concentrations andvastly increased energy needs. Hewent on to call for an ‘ecologicalconversion’, pointing out that‘modern society will find nosolution to the ecological problemunless it takes a serious look at itslifestyle’. This includes developing anattitude of ‘simplicity, moderationand discipline as well as a spirit of of sustainable development and and social development’ (Letter to thesacrifice … lest all suffer the negative particular attention to climate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 1consequences of the careless habits change are matters of grave September 2007).of a few’. concern for the entire human family. No nation, no economic The ethical, social and environmentalMore recently, Pope Benedict has domain’, he went on to say, ‘can implications of not addressing ouremphasised that ‘Preservation avoid acknowledging the ethical responsibility to care for the earth areof the environment, promotion implications linked to all economic becoming increasingly evident.
A Christian Catholic moral tradition and social doctrine, based on the Gospel’s nations need to work in solidarity and this will require ‘a spirit ofResponse teaching on the dignity of the person and God’s love for all creation, cooperation and a willingness to sacrifice short-term gains, or even provides guiding ethical principles for national interest, for the sake of our response to the global warming the global common good’ (n. 4). challenge. Many of these can be found t Actions we are taking today in the Compendium of the Social could undermine the well-being Doctrine of the Church. They include: of millions of people, especially the poor, and condemn future THE COMMON GOOd generations to live on an ailing t The earth is our common home. planet. We are interdependent on one t Given our powerful technologies, another and we have a common we have a unique responsibility responsibility for the well-being of to use these technologies for the all the life-systems of the planet. sustainability and well-being of t The good of each one of us all living creatures, as well as the depends on the well-being of all. atmosphere, land, water and other Each one of us has a responsibility resources. for the well-being of others and for the whole ‘web’ of life that THE UNIVERSAL dESTINATION OF sustains our earthly home. THE GOOdS OF THE EARTH t As we said in our pastoral letter, t The Creator gave the gift of the Towards the Global Common Good, earth to the whole human race.
Action at personal and locallevel is critical to addressingcommon or global issuessuch as climate change.
t Each person is entitled to have of the world by exceeding our t Each of us ought to review our access to what he or she needs to greenhouse emission targets. own practices and establish live and develop. challenging targets to ensure wet Our responsibility for the well- SUBSIdIARITY meet our moral obligations to care being of other species must also t The principle of subsidiarity for creation. be taken into account as part of means that each person or group the universal destination of the should do what they can locally, SOLIdARITY goods of the earth. and within their immediate t As Christians we can nevert The climate is a global public good influence, to address an issue that consider ourselves or our that must be protected. is common to all. obligations in isolation fromt No one individual or country can t Action at personal and local level others. Though we are many, we claim ownership or dominance is critical to addressing common are one body. over the climate. or global issues such as climate t True solidarity is found in ourt Every individual and country has change. willingness to commit ourselves a responsibility to promote and t In this pastoral letter, we renew to the good of our neighbour, protect the global common good. the appeal we made in Towards especially the poor (cf. Mt 10:40-t This common good is promoted the Global Common Good when 42, 20:25; Mk 10:42-45; Lk 22:25-27). by internationally binding we said: ‘It is a moral imperative t Solidarity implies a willingness to agreements seeking to reduce the that the measures set out in the sacrifice self-interest for the sake amount of greenhouse gases in National Climate Change Strategy of others and the greater good. the atmosphere. 2000 are implemented with greater t Solidarity demands that we actt In Ireland, at the moment, we speed. All of us have a part to play: responsibly towards all life on our are in breach of our moral and homes, schools, parishes, businesses endangered planet. legal obligations to the rest and government’ (cf. p. 10).
dISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE countries in addressing the impact ‘The international communityt Rich nations, which are responsible of global warming. The present has an urgent duty to find for most of the pollution in our economic downturn cannot be institutional means of regulating world, have a moral duty to provide allowed to undermine our existing the exploitation of non-renewable adequate compensation for the commitments to international resources, involving poor damages caused to others by their development aid and our general countries in the process, in order polluting activities. responsibility to help poorer to plan together for the future …t The ‘Polluter Pays’ principle holds countries in sustainable integral there is a pressing moral need for that those most responsible for development. renewed solidarity, especially in causing environmental pollution t The global impact of our failure relationships between developing should be held most liable for its to meet our targets under the countries and those that are consequences. Kyoto protocol has the potential highly industrialised’ (CV n. 49).t As an expression of the principle to undermine much of our of distributive justice, we support contribution to international OUR LEGACY TO FUTURE calls for greater commitment development aid. GENERATIONS by richer countries, including t We urge the Irish Government and t Solidarity also implies a Ireland, to the Adaptation Fund, the international community to commitment to act justly now to set up under the United Nations ensure that sufficient carbon-free ensure a sustainable future for Framework Climate Change technologies are made available to generations to come. Convention (unfccc) to help poor poorer countries so that they can t We have a moral responsibility to nations adapt to climate change achieve sustainable development ensure inter-generational justice that is already occurring. without having to employ carbon- in how we care for the earth.t Rich countries like Ireland have an rich routes to greater prosperity. t In the words of Pope Benedict xvi: urgent moral duty to assist poorer t In the words of Pope Benedict xvi: ‘On this earth there is room for
everyone: here the entire human family must find the resources to live with dignity, through the help of nature itself – God’s gift to his children – and through hard work and creativity. At the same time we must recognise our grave duty to hand the earth on to future gen- erations in such a condition that they too can worthily inhabit it and continue to cultivate it’ (CV n. 50).t Failure to act now to address global warming and sustainability may well make areas of the earth t The implications of climate and consumerism, regardless of uninhabitable for humans. change for humanity and for their harmful consequences. Whatt The irresponsible use of fossil our planet are so serious that is needed is an effective shift fuel by this generation will have a we should take the warnings in mentality which can lead to detrimental effect on the lives of of science seriously and make the adoption of new lifestyles in all future generations. changes to our behaviour. which the quest for truth, beauty,t The Precautionary Principle t In the words of Pope Benedict goodness and communion with dictates that we take preventative xvi: ‘This invites contemporary others for the sake of common action now to avoid potentially society to a serious review of its growth are the factors which destructive consequences in the lifestyle, which, in many parts of determine consumer choices, future. the world, is prone to hedonism savings and investments’ (CV n. 51).
Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.Through your goodness we have thisbread to offer, which earth has given andhuman hands have made. It will becomefor us the bread of life.Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation.Through your goodness we have thiswine to offer, fruit of the vine and workof human hands. It will become ourspiritual drink. – From the ‘Offertory’ of the Mass
Is There The resurrection of Jesus is the source of hope for all creation. All of all creatures and the planet. As the bread and wine is transformedHope? creation is united in Christ and, therefore, has a future in God. This into the Body and Blood of Christ for our nourishment, we are also drawn hope is anchored in the presence of into ever-deeper communion with the Spirit in our world from the very the Blessed Trinity, with humanity, first moment of creation. We believe past and present, and with all God’s that the Holy Spirit, the ‘Lord and creation. giver of life’, is now inspiring people to dedicate themselves to ‘renew the WITNESSES TO HOPE ANd face of the earth’ by serving others ECOLOGICAL CONVERSION in solidarity and by living a more In 1979, Pope John Paul II proclaimed just and sustainable lifestyle rooted Francis of Assisi as the patron saint in the principles of Catholic social of ecology. Francis did not look at teaching. the natural world in terms of human usefulness alone, how it provides The Eucharist immerses us in this food, clothing and shelter for humans. hope. It draws us into the celebration Rather, his response to the gift of and transformation of all that the creation was joy, wonder, praise and ‘earth has given’ and ‘human hands gratitude. One of the great legacies have made’. It challenges us to of Francis is that he expanded the share the goods of the earth with concept of ‘neighbour’ to include not everyone, especially the poor, and only the human race, but the whole to be concerned for the well-being of creation and all of its creatures.
Many of our Celtic saints, such as to take up the challenge of climate only earth, water and air as gifts ofPatrick, Ciarán, Bridget, Columba and change now for the sake of this creation that belong to everyone.Columban, also showed special love generation and for generations [We] must above all protect mankindfor God’s creatures. In his letter on yet unborn. In the words of Pope from self-destruction’ (CV n. 51).Grace, St Columban wrote: ‘If you Benedict XVI: ‘[We] must defend notwish to know about God, learnabout his creatures.’ Lord, grant us the wisdom to care for your earth and till it. Help us to act now for the good of future generations andTime is running out. We need toact now for ourselves, for future all your creatures.generations and for the future of Help us to become instruments of a new creation,our planet. founded on the covenant of your love. Amen.In the climate change packthat accompanies this pastoralreflection, we have provided somepractical resources to supportindividuals, families, parishes,schools and all those of good will,in reflecting further on this issueand the practical steps that canbe taken to address the harmfuleffects of global warming. Weappeal to all, as we do to ourselves,
From The Lorica of St PatrickI arise today; Christ to right of me, Christ to left of in vast might, invocation of the me, Trinity, belief in a Threeness Christ in lying down, Christ in sitting,confession of Oneness Christ in rising up,meeting in the Creator. Christ in the heart of every person, who may think of me!I arise today: Christ in the mouth of everyone, whomight of Heaven may speak to me!brightness of Sun Christ in every eye, which may lookwhiteness of Snow on me!splendour of Fire Christ in every ear, which may hearspeed of Light me!swiftness of Winddepth of Sea I arise today:stability of Earth in vast might, invocation of the Trinityfirmness of Rock. belief in a Threeness confession of OnenessChrist with me, Christ before me, meeting in the Creator.Christ behind me, Christ in me,Christ under me, Christ over me,
What Can Our t Set up a group in the parish to study the Bishops’ pastoral and the needs of the developing world, produced by Trócaire, is alsoParish Do? reflection. The following resources may be helpful: available as part of the special feature on the Pastoral Reflection on Climate t A ‘Long Version’ of the pastoral Change on the website of the Irish is available as part of the parish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, resource pack, which accompanies www.catholicbishops.ie. this pastoral. A copy is also t Support the Trócaire Climate available online, with other Change Campaign by signing supporting resources, at www. and returning the postcard catholicbishops.ie. which accompanies this pastoral t The parish pack also contains a reflection. Trócaire will send ten-minute video reflection on dvd details of all those who have on the theme of caring for God’s signed these cards to elected creation. This can be viewed as representatives who will be one reflection or broken into three attending the UN Climate Change shorter reflections on the following Conference in Copenhagen this general themes: December. Trócaire is calling f The beauty of God’s Creation; on rich countries to do more f Caring for God’s Creation; to support poorer countries in f The Celtic tradition of respect adapting to the devastating for God’s creation. impacts of climate change in A ten-minute reflection on the link certain parts of the developing between caring for God’s creation world. The campaign is an
‘This too is a vocation … The way humanity treats the environmentinfluences the way it treats itself, and vice versa.’ – Pope Benedict xvi, Caritas in Veritate, nn. 48 and 51) important expression of the ‘carbon calculators’ are available for God’s creation as part of their principle of solidarity outlined in online, including at www.change.ie Christian faith. the pastoral. and www.carboncalculator.co.uk. t Include the theme of care fort Conduct an ‘Environmental Audit’ t Join with ‘Churches Together in God’s creation in homilies, prayers of your parish. This might include: Britain and Ireland’ (cbti) each of the faithful and examinations f Establishing a group with year in celebrating the ‘Creation of conscience. responsibility for auditing Time’ initiative. This runs from t Have occasional displays and current environmental practice; 1 September to the Sunday other activities in your parish on f Drawing up an environmental following the Feast of St Francis of the theme of caring for God’s policy; Assisi. Information and resources creation. Regularly include details f Monitoring targets and are available at www.cbti.org.uk. of initiatives being taken or promoting good practice in t Enrol in the Eco-Congregation proposals for action in your parish the parish. Ireland environmental programme newsletter.t Invite families, schools and for Churches. This programme t Some practical actions you might individuals in your parish to offers resources and practical take at home, in the parish, in calculate their carbon footprint suggestions for Churches and parish organisations and in parish and to set targets for reducing individual Christians who wish schools include: carbon emissions. A number of to live out their ‘vocation’ to care t Monitor and improve the
efficiency of your energy use having documents. Review the default rating. For further details see first completed an energy audit; margin settings on your www.sei.ie or contact Sustainablet Explore how more use could be computer software to use Energy Ireland. made of renewable energy sources; more of the page.t Assess your level of waste t Look at shared spaces in the These are only some of the practical generation and set targets for parish, in the local community, actions you might consider taking. In reducing waste; around your home and consider deciding what actions you can taket Use recycled and recyclable how they might be used to it is worth recalling the words of materials wherever possible. promote tree planting or Cardinal Brady in the Foreword: For example: conservation projects. f Refrain from using disposable t Engage with statutory, voluntary Every action taken in favour plastic cups and other utensils and community groups in your of a just and more sustainable at parish functions; area to explore ways of working environment, no matter how f Use recyclable shrine candles. together to improve the local small, has an intrinsic value. Action Ask your supplier to provide environment and promote good at a global level, as well as every them; environmental practice. individual action that contributes f Use environmentally friendly t Display an energy certificate to integral human development cleaning materials; in a prominent place in parish and global solidarity, helps to f Use recycled paper. Assess your buildings. Since 1 January 2009 construct a more sustainable use of bulletins and missalettes all public buildings in Ireland environment and, therefore, a and explore the viability of more over 1,000 square metres in size better world. environmentally efficient options; are required by law to display a f Use more of your page ‘DEC’ (Display Energy Certificate), when typing letters or other showing their energy efficiency