“The End of the World is Nigh!”
Nowadays, sober scientific reports about the environment can sound like old-time street preachers. If we really believe them, they leave us paralysed with anxiety. The problems seem too vast. What difference can one person make anyway?
So let’s just carry on consuming at the same frantic pace – at least it will take our minds off the future.
As Christians, we are called to hope, not despair, to trust not to fear, not to gloom, but to joy.
When it comes to God’s Creation, there are three good reasons for this.
First, my own little bit does matter. It is the ‘simple daily gestures,’ Pope Francis tells us, which ‘break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness’ (LS 230). Recycling, switching off lights, planting trees, reducing waste, can be ‘an act of love’ (LS 211).
It is not our responsibility to save the planet: that is in the hands of God. The tasks to which we are invited are limited, manageable, and valuable in themselves. Step by step we can learn to live more simply, and by doing so grow in love.
Secondly, we are not alone. We live in communities: towns and villages, neighbourhoods and networks, groups of families and friends. ‘Society is … enriched by a countless array of organisations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment’ (LS 232). (One expert has counted over a million of these across the world.)
Maybe you belong to one: a local gardening scheme, a renewable energy project, a conservation charity for children.
Christians are especially blessed here: the Church is a network of parish and diocesan communities, ready-made for us to work together. We cannot, indeed, do it alone. Thank God, we don’t have to.
Thirdly, simple living is a win-win situation. The Popes call this ‘integral ecology’. We cannot separate ecological well-being from political, economic, social, familiar, personal and spiritual:
‘everything is interconnected’ (LS 70)
Isn’t that what we’d expect when we believe in One Creator God, who loved all his creatures into being? It shouldn’t be a surprise that simpler, slower, more attentive, living also makes us healthier and less stressed, reduces conflict and debt, beautifies our surroundings, and turns neighbours into friends.
Together we can make a difference. And doing so will bring us joy. What better response to this good news than the words of St Francis: Laudato Si’ – ‘Praise be to you, my Lord’?