If you don’t think climate change and caring for the planet are matters of faith, it’s time to think again.
That’s the message of Pope Francis in a letter to the Catholic church worldwide.
In fact for Christians, environmental action goes hand in hand with loving others, says the Pope says in his latest “encyclical”. By caring for the world around us, we also care for our neighbours and future generations, he says, since planet earth is their home too.
The Pope’s Passion For Our Planet
Sydneysiders can hear leading environmental thinkers unpack the Pope’s message, at a series of talks hosted by the multi faith organisation “Australian Religious Response to Climate Change” (ARRCC).
ARRCC president Thea Ormerod said the event, titled “Pope Francis Has Written You A Letter”, will give people a chance to hear the current Pope’s passion for the environment.
That passion is wrapped up in his very name, which is taken from St Francis of Assisi – the ‘Patron Saint Of Ecology’, and a man who loved nature.
“This is the first papal encyclical devoted to environmental issues, particularly climate change,” Mrs Ormerod said.
“It’s the Pope’s response to the climate change talks coming up in Paris in November this year. He’s trying to give a boost to a much stronger binding climate agreement being signed.”
She said he’s very concerned about global warming and is calling on believers to take personal responsibility.
“Because of the environmental degradation of the oceans and atmosphere and forests, he is, in a sense, calling people to an ecological conversion,” she said.
In other words, he wants people to change the way they treat nature, and each other.
A Flawed Economic System
“Our neighbours in poor countries are affected by climate change,” Mrs Ormerod said. “This letter from the Pope is standing with them, because they’re suffering the impact.
“He says that we’ve been caught up with consumerism and material things, and he calls into question our economic model which assumes profit is the only goal.
“Profits shouldn’t trump every other consideration. Indigenous people, for example, supposedly have some kind of rights over the land, but as soon as a mining company wants the land, that is forgotten.
“Businesses are not addressing their impact on the environment – they just make their profits and run. It’s high time we heard from such a high authority on this.”
Christians Are Responsible To Make A Change
Mrs Ormerod, who is married to the prominent theologian Professor Neil Omerod (also a speaker at the seminars), says humans have had a responsibility to care for the earth since it was created.
“The world is a gift from God,” she said. “It’s something that we need to be taking care of, not just exploiting to the last ounce. We can’t say we love God and then trash creation.”
Christians need to realise that their faith is not only about the spiritual world, but about tangible things too, she says.
“The kingdom of heaven is not just about spiritual issues, it’s about human relations and how we order our society,” she said.
“Unless Christians get involved, powerful people who are creating these problems for the poor are just going to keep doing what they are getting away with. While ever we are silent, we are complicit.”
She said despite the media-fuelled debate about about climate change in years gone by, there is a solid consensus among around 97 percent of scientists that our climate is changing and that mankind needs to do something about it.
How Can We Make A Difference?
Mrs Ormerod said are many small changes we can all make to help reduce our impact on the planet.
She suggests the following:
- Use public transport
- Reduce your use of fossil fuels
- Convert to solar energy
- Hang washing out on a clothesline and avoid the dryer
- Only use a dishwasher when it’s full
- Switch off lights when they’re not in use
- Insulate your home to reduce the need for air conditioning
- Buy organic food
- Drink tap water instead of bottled water
- Recycle your rubbish
- Eat less meat – particularly red meat, which has a high ‘carbon footprint’
- Get involved in action groups
Every Little Bit Counts
While we might feel that one small action won’t change the world, what’s most important is that it changes you as an individual, says Mrs Ormerod.
“Clearly me eating less meat isn’t going to change the world on its own, but it’s about a transformation process,” she said.
“As we take these steps as individuals, it actually generates in us a desire for a better world, and that makes a difference. We’re talking about the conversion of the whole human being, and becoming more positive contributors to society.”
About The Seminars
Speakers at the seminar include Thea Ormerod, as well as Professor of Theology Neil Ormerod of the Australian Catholic University, and Dr Hamish Clarke, a Senior Climate & Atmospheric Scientist from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.
For details of ARRCC events see their website.