By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ (http://rcsocialjusticett.org) & Director, CREDI
“A Christian who doesn’t safeguard creation, who doesn’t make it flourish, is a Christian who isn’t concerned with God’s work, that work born of God’s love for us.” Pope Francis, February 9, 2015.
How many of you have read Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si? This is a must read. In it, the Holy Father highlights the environmental crisis that the earth faces. He also explores the causes/roots of the crisis and shares remedies to promote integral ecology.
Years ago, CCSJ prepared a Draft Framework towards an Environmental Policy – see our website under the heading: ‘Special Focus’. The Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference issued two key pastoral letters on this issue in 2003 and 2005: Stewardship and the revitalization of parish life in the Caribbean and Caring for the Earth – Our responsibility.
News in T&T’s media that “the graceful flamingoes and Scarlet Ibis that tourists venture to the Caroni Swamp to view are now finding their way into hunters’ pots” should spur us to action. According to Stephen Broadbridge, Vice President of T&T Incoming Tour Operators’ Association, through their illegal activity, “poachers are fast wiping out the stunning birds… it is common to hear gunshots ringing out in the swamp”.
He says “the Sanctuary is also usually under-patrolled, due to the Wildlife Division claiming that thieves have made off with the wardens’ boat engines, giving the poachers free reign over a plethora of protected and endangered animals” (Trinidad Express, May 3). The Conservation of Wildlife Act (Chap 67:01) is of little use if there is no implementation by those in authority. Swift action is required by those in the Wildlife Section of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries who have responsibility to oversee these areas and protect our wildlife.
And then there is the sad news – reported by the Blanchisseuse Environment Community Organization (BECG) that approximately 85 turtle hatchlings were burnt/perished after a beach party bonfire at Marianne Beach, Blanchisseuse in June this year. This is one of the beaches where endangered Leatherback Turtles nest in T&T.
Many were outraged by the photographs and videos on social media of the bonfire and the dead baby turtles. Turtles and their habitats are protected by law and it is illegal to damage their nesting grounds; harm, keep or sell them. The Turtle Village Trust reminds us that “sea turtles have been an important part of ocean ecosystems for over 100 million years. Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill, Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles have been recorded in the waters of TT…sea turtles are increasingly vulnerable to extinction.”
The event company, Sunsetters, issued a statement, inter alia, that “the core concept of Sunsetters is enjoying our environment responsibly… it is our duty to work with the community to ensure an incident such as this never occurs again. In our talks with a (BECG) representative today, Ms Sabia Fournillier, we have committed to working together to help develop a nesting area on the beach, where eggs can be safely deposited for hatching, so that no harm can come to them accidentally or otherwise…We remain extremely apologetic that our event may have harmed these creatures in any way…” (see full statement:http://www.looptt.com/content/sunsetters-responds-turtle-group-after-hatchlings-killed )
In September 2016, to mark the Catholic Church’s World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Pope Francis called for care for the environment to be added to the seven spiritual works of mercy outlined in the Gospel. He said: “We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence … We have no such right.”
As CCSJ has stated, creation is the work of God and is God’s gift to us. Human beings were created in God’s image and likeness and given the responsibility to ‘cultivate and care for’ God’s Creation (Gen 2:15). The Church has always urged humankind to care for, preserve, develop and restore the environment.
Our responsibility as stewards of God’s creation must be placed within the context of the mystery of the Incarnation of God, which, as St Ambrose says ‘is the salvation of the whole of Creation’. We all have a role to play in addressing the environmental/ecological crisis which, as Pope Benedict XVI said, is a moral crisis.
Let us pledge to become advocates for God’s creation and make changes that will improve the ways in which we impact on and interact with the environment.