By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more
“Our planet is a mother for all of us. We must hand it on to our children, cared for and improved, because it’s a loan they make to us” (Pope Francis).
Today, April 22, the world observes International Mother Earth Day. God’s plan for humanity is that we should protect the natural world which He created to sustain us. He wants us to enjoy the beauty of creation and to live in harmony with His creation. Each year, millions of people commit to be proactive stewards and advocates for the earth, to address ecological degradation that continues to impact all areas of our lives. But are we doing enough to turn back the tide? Are we Catholics acting on the teaching of our Church e.g. in Pope Francis’ encyclical: Laudato Si: on care for our common home? Do we understand that authentic integral human development is inextricably linked to ecological justice? In 2015 Pope Francis said:
“I exhort everyone to see the world through the eyes of God the Creator: the earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated. The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and Creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations.”
Our actions continue to demonstrate that we have not yet embraced our interconnectedness with each other and with the natural world. It pains me to see individuals still sitting astride vulnerable leatherback turtles that come to our shores to lay their eggs.
On April 4, Rhondor Dowlat reported in the Guardian that “a 39-second video surfaced on social media showing a leatherback turtle attempting to return to the sea after laying her eggs but was being hampered by several men who were seen pulling on its flippers and trying to drag it back to the shore. One of the men was then seen stepping onto the back of the turtle while attempting to place a child on it. Another person was seen climbing onto the turtle’s back.” The EMA is investigating this incident. Please ring the EMA hotline on 680-9588 to report such incidents. The fine for ill-treating the leatherback turtle is $100,000 and jail for two years. Recent reports highlight the fact that our National Bird, the Scarlet Ibis, continues to be slaughtered.
According to the UNDP, “environmental degradation remains a major issue for Trinidad and Tobago. The country experiences many environmental problems, from flooding, widespread pollution of its waterways and coastal areas, illegal dumping, deforestation, excessive soil erosion, fisheries and wildlife depletion.”
Environmental degradation is considered to be one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today and the poor are disproportionately affected.
EcoWatch states that “over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Fifty per cent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. We currently recover only five per cent of the plastics we produce. Plastic constitutes approximately 90 per cent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans. Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.”
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). We need increased advocacy on environmental issues. Read CCSJ’s ‘Document on the Environment’ on our website under Special Focus for action that we can take.