Boys plant mangrove seedlings on the Indonesian island of Nias. The mangroves will grow to provide better habitat for seafood as well as limited protection against tsunamis. CNS file photo
Since the beginning of time, God has provided for our every need through creation. We could say that from God, we received the sacred gift of the dance of the universe – one that sang of harmonious relationships among all creatures.
In the language of science, we call this ecology. From the Greek oikos, the word eco means “house” or “home”. Ecology is the study of how organisms interact with their environments, in their one big home, Earth.
Life on Earth is made up of ecosystems of all shapes and sizes. These are complex webs of interconnected relationships. Any area that supports a population of living things – from a puddle of water to the Pacific Ocean, from our tiny Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to the Earth and the entire universe – is an ecosystem.
Life on our planet is about the movement of energy that flows in cyclic patterns of producing nutrients, consuming and decomposing, only to support life again and again. How do we know this? Take a look at what scientists call the food chain. Not only are its components interlinked, they are constantly “cycling”.
In an ecosystem, there are three primary categories of living organisms known as producers, consumers and decomposers.
Plants are producers that make food with the help of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. Animals (including us) eat plants, so that makes us consumers. When plants and animals die, the nutrients in their tissues break down with the help of bacteria and fungi, and are released back into the soil. Micro-organisms feed on the bacteria and fungi and populate the soil, continuing the cycle.
A healthy ecosystem does not deplete resources but maintains a state of equilibrium among its members. Any change in one ecosystem will cause changes in others. Too much change will result in a collapse of ecosystems. Today, we are seeing increasing evidence of this in climate changes.
Consider this: after nearly four billion years of evolution, it took humans only 200,000 years to upset the balance of the planet (watch the Home movie on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU). Activities such as livestock grazing, logging and fishing have put a tremendous strain on ecosystems.
Each time we wipe out animal and plant species with our exploitative practices, we compromise the ability of our ecosystems to support life.
This Holy Week, let us remember that this Earth was created for the Incarnation. “Creation became the material home for the Incarnation during Jesus’ life on Earth. Creation was capable of holding Jesus’ body, and Jesus left footprints for us to follow.” (Delio, et al, Care for Creation, p 33-34.)
April 22 is Good Friday. It is also Earth Day. When we fast and abstain from meat, let us do so with a renewed sense of “eco-conscienceness”.
This Easter, we have another chance at “dying to the old self” and living the resurrection – living in our true Christian identity.
By Anne Lim
The writer is a parishioner of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with a special interest in spiritual ecology.