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September 29, 2020
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September 29, 2020

At the point of no return

Q: Archbishop J, what can the domestic Church do about our climate?

Once upon a time there was a family, the Maanavatas. They lived in the most peculiar way. They were reckless and wasteful beyond imagination. They threw things wherever they wanted, in rivers, seas, mountains and beaches. They littered and never looked back. Many commented about their reckless and cavalier nature. But the family took no heed.

The family had inherited much of its wealth from generations past, and also worked hard building on what they received. But they also squandered their wealth on a lifestyle of pleasure, comfort and elegance, prestige, and notoriety.

As some family members squandered their resources, the fate of others became dire. The plight of these was of no concern to those who were having a good time; their lifestyle was far more important.

So blinded were the rich, they even tried to act as if the other members were not real family, as if there was no obligation to help, to share or care for these unfortunate members of their family.

Those that were doing well got so blinded they even threatened the goose that lay the golden egg—the family business. They sold off assets to support their lifestyle and began to use the children’s education fund to accommodate their greed.

They damaged the land by over planting and using bad chemicals. They began cutting and selling the wood of the forest they had inherited from successive generations as a family reserve, without replanting. They reaped what they did not sow and were unbothered about depleting the resources intended for the next generation.

Everywhere they went those who lived wantonly left the place in an absolute mess for others to clean up. They went to church often and even were generous in their giving to the Church.

Yet, they were blind to their poor relations and to the fact that they were squandering the inheritance of future generations. They were wasteful in every way possible, using electricity, water, the forest, streams, and seas, in an extravagant manner.

All the while, the other relations were starving before their eyes. They did not care! They only cared about their lifestyle, their pleasure, their appearance.

Those who were impoverished appealed to the Church for help. Their rich relations labelled them as lazy. The children of the poor relations also appealed to the Church, arguing that the business and property was left to all of the family, not just to the wealthy.

They said if the rich relations made even a moderate change in their lifestyle, everyone would have enough to live well. The Church tried but the rich ones would not listen.

Some of the children of the rich relations realised that at the current rate of expenditure things would go very wrong during their lifetime. They appealed to the elders for a family conversation, but they were ignored.

In fact, the elders began to label them as socialist and described the whole thing as a hoax that was dreamt up by the poor to indoctrinate the youth to take control. There was bitter tension in the family, much name calling, labelling, and dismissing of each other. Each part of the family had their version of truth and could not see any value in the other side’s position.

A few of the young—both rich and poor—could see there was little time, if disaster was to be averted. But those who made the decisions refused to listen and to believe there was a real problem, and thus did nothing differently. The clearer the signs that things were drastically wrong, the blinder the elders became.

The young who believed they could see clearly believed they were heading to the proverbial precipice, the point of no return. The old indulged and humoured them but took no notice. Things were changing for the worst all round and those who had the power refused to see or act or believe. If this was your family, what would you do?


Some facts

“Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history—and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world.” This claim is made by a UN report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The summary of the report was approved at the 7th session of the IPBES plenary meeting, Paris, April 29–May 4.

The report is frightening in its claims—not just about what has gone wrong; the acceleration of the decline is even more daunting. We are presently damaging the Earth at an unprecedented rate and we do not have long before the damage is irreversible.

The report claims that 75 per cent of land has been “severely altered” by human actions. Similarly, 66 per cent of the world’s ocean area has been “severely altered”.

Further, “around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades, more than ever before in human history. The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened,” according to the report.

It states: “Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100 – 300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.”

We have run out of letters in the alphabet to name storms this year. Extreme floods, fires and storms have been unprecedented in 2020. Add to this COVID-19, with approximately 33 million cases and nearly one million deaths to date. Human action has significantly contributed to all of this. We can have an impact for the good if we act now!

Oh! The name of the family—Maanavata—is the Hindi name for humanity.



Key Message:

The human family has contributed significantly to climate change. If we choose to act now, we can have a great impact for the common good.

Action Step:

Reuse, recycle, reduce, and restore to decrease your carbon footprint.

Scripture Reading:

Genesis 1:1–31