The simple act of turning off a light when it is not needed can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. CNS photo

MORE and more, the “cry of the Earth” is ringing louder and louder. It is time to step away from our comfort zone and accept that we Christians have a moral responsibility to take care of God’s creation.

We can begin by re-educating ourselves, lest we get overwhelmed by the deluge of new buzz words in these ecological times.

What is ‘care for creation’? This is a God-centred response to the environmental crisis. When we use the word “creation”, we imply that there is a creator. Implicit in the call to care for creation is the belief that God made the world and all that inhabit it, and most importantly, that humanity has been given the role of the Earth’s stewardship.

Is this a new-fangled idea of the Church? “Care for creation is not a new component of Catholic identity,” says Mr Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. “It is as old as Genesis, and is written into the very fabric of Catholic mission.”

Genesis 2:15 tells of God’s gift of the garden of Eden to Adam: “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.”

Wasn’t man given “dominion” over the Earth?
We read in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fertile and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’.”

The problem lies with the word “dominion”, which in today’s context has a connotation of subjugation and control.

Scripture scholars have challenged this interpretation and Pope Benedict XVI has explained that it was never intended as a command for humans to subdue the earth. Rather, we are charged with the task of being “guardians of creation”.

It can be said that this “dominion” is to be understood as one that reflects God’s “dominion” over all creation, one that is based on love and justice.

What is climate change?
This is not just about natural climate variability. The key point is that such change is “attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere”, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

More significantly, climate change “can lead to desertification, more intense storms, melting of the polar ice caps and rising sea levels”, as we are now experiencing.

What is carbon footprint?
This term is used as a measure of one’s impact on the climate based on how much carbon dioxide one produces, which contributes to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Take a look at your travel habits. Do you drive to and from work, and to church? Are you a “frequent flyer” on business trips and love to fly on holidays abroad? Then, your carbon footprint is certainly larger than your less-affluent fellow parishioner who walks to church or takes the bus and MRT.
The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of caring for creation As Catholics, we are uniquely positioned to encourage the greening of our parishes. We also need the active support of our church leaders.

You can: start a Care for Creation group in your parish, Celebrate Earth Day (April 22) or St Francis Day (Oct 4); eliminate the use of styrofoam/plastic disposables, plant an organic garden and trees, carpool to work and church, fly less, eat less meat, use fans instead of air-conditioning, clean your home with earth-friendly products, use your own water bottle and stop buying water in plastic bottles.

The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in spiritual ecology

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