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September 28, 2021

Archcbishop Gordon: Catholics must take decisive action to save our planet

Archbishop Jason Gordon said Catholics need to be “far more conscious” of what is happening with the planet, and they must take decisive action now.

“The Holy Father calls the planet our common home. We will not treat our house the way we are treating our planet, we have to become better than that,” the Archbishop said during CatholicTT’s Ask the Archbishop live chat on Facebook Wednesday, September 22.

He said the last United Nations (UN) report gave a red alert for the planet. “We have gone past [the] point where bringing it back would be easy”, however, he added that people must act decisively now.

Archbishop Gordon was responding to interviewer Darrion Narine’s question on his hopes for Laudato Si’ and the Church as the Season of Creation Month (September 1 – October 4, the Feast of St Francis of Assisi) draws to a close.

In August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a comprehensive report on the climate. Global temperatures are about 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels.

UN Secretary General Antonió Guterres has said, “The evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions are choking our planet and placing billions of people in danger. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible. We must act decisively now to avert a climate catastrophe.”

Archbishop Gordon said there are ways to turn the tide. He said the “carbon footprint” can be reduced if people look at how they used electricity and water. Another action is to stop using “single-use plastic.” He disclosed having a conversation with persons looking at a way to collect single-use plastic and exporting it to be recycled as new plastic.

“That is a big one. They’re already into paper, cardboard, other things like batteries and stuff.” He added that the idea of having a plant to recycle single-use plastic was raised, and if this happened, it would be a significant jump forward in the Laudato Si’ movement for the country.

Archbishop Gordon said, “It is no longer a problem than to use single-use plastic because we could be collecting it and reusing it.” He could see plastic bottles being collected and persons getting a sum of money for the number collected, just as it happened with glass bottles. “We can clean up city and country very easily,” Archbishop Gordon said.

Citizens also must be conscious of the flooding resulting from dumping garbage like refrigerators and stoves into the waterways and using slash and burn to clear hillsides.

Archbishop Gordon said if everyone planted a tree, they will be contributing significantly to Laudato Si’. Using his garden to illustrate, he said he was contributing positively to offset his carbon footprint as well as growing food.

Narine, the Programme Coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Social Justice (CSSJ)/Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (AMMR) sought a clarification on the role of suffering since there were Catholics who take on suffering as part of their journey and believe God wanted them to go through the experience.

Archbishop Gordon reminded that Jesus said renounce yourself, take up your cross and follow me, but the cross is not meant to be an instrument of torture.

How to discern if suffering is healthy or unhealthy? “If it is healthy, Christ is in it all the way.”  He said there is a stage in the Christian’s journey when they experience what St John of the Cross called the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.

“It is pure torture because there is no warm and fuzzy, in the prayer, in life; It feels actually naked and empty, but it is a stage of the journey. You’re not supposed to go and look for suffering; the suffering comes to visit you when God is ready, and it comes as a purification.”

Archbishop Gordon explained that the process builds character, patience, hope and brings faith in God.

—By Lara Pickford-Gordon