Renewing the earth: A continuing moral challenge for each one of us Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, May. 19, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. UhlerEarth Day has come and gone. Perhaps it was not emphasized as much by Catholics this year since it fell on Good Friday.

However, concern for creation should be something we remember all year long. As we observe the awakening of nature in springtime and the beginning of our planting season, it is an especially appropriate time to think about the earth and our environment.

In researching what the  Catholic Church has said on this topic, I came across a pastoral statement called Renewing the Earth: An Invitation to Reflection and Action on Environment in Light of Catholic Social Teaching issued by the United States Catholic Conference on November 14, 1991. It is a comprehensive look at the environmental crisis which is still very relevant today. I would encourage people to read/reread this document on the bishops’ Web site:

A moral challenge

This statement reminds us that at its core, the environmental crisis is a moral challenge. It calls us to examine how we use and share the goods of the earth, what we pass on to future generations, and how we live in harmony with God’s creation.

We all know that the effects of environmental degradation surround us and the statement reminds us of some of them: “The smog in our cities; chemicals in our water and on our food; eroded topsoil blowing in the wind; the loss of valuable wetlands; radioactive and toxic waste lacking adequate disposal sites; threats to the health of industrial and farm workers.”

Response to these challenges

We know that opinions vary about the causes and the seriousness of environmental problems. Still, we would have to be blind and deaf not to experience their effects.

The Catholic bishops admitted in this statement that they are not scientists. However, as pastors they called on experts, citizens, and policymakers to continue to explore the serious environmental, ethical, and human dimensions of these ecological challenges. They specifically asked:

• Scientists, environmentalists, economists, and other experts to continue to help us understand the challenges we face and the steps we need to take.

• Teachers and educators to emphasize a love for God’s creation, a respect for nature, and a commitment to practices and behavior to bring these attitudes into the daily lives of their students and themselves.

• Parents to teach their children to love the earth and delight in nature.

• Theologians, Scripture scholars, and ethicists to help explore, deepen, and advance the insights of our Catholic tradition and its relation to the environment and other religious perspectives on these matters.

• Business leaders and representatives of workers to make the protection of our common environment a central concern in their activities and to collaborate for the common good and the protection of the earth.

• Pastors and parish leaders to give greater attention to the extent and urgency of the environmental crisis in preaching, teaching, pastoral outreach, and action.

• Members of our Church to examine our life-styles, behaviors, and policies — individually and institutionally — to see how we contribute to the destruction or neglect of the environment and how we might assist in its protection and restoration.

• Environmental advocates to join us in building bridges between the quest for justice and the pursuit of peace and concern for the earth.

• Policy makers and public officials to focus more directly on the ethical dimensions of environmental policy and on its relation to development, to seek the common good, and to resist short-term pressures in order to meet our long-term responsibility to future generations.

• Citizens to participate in the debate over how our nation best protects our ecological heritage, limits pollution, allocates environmental costs, and plans for the future.

Even though this statement was written almost 20 years ago, it still has many excellent suggestions on how to protect God’s creation. I encourage people to consider ways you can help renew the earth and put them into practice every day.