“…and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”
I was struck by this passage from Luke chapter 21 this morning at church as we begin the new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent. Every day there is news on television of some severe weather disaster, whether it is hurricane/typhoon, flood, tornado, drought, heat wave, landslide, ice storm, or blizzard. I am also acutely aware that the nations are gathering in Paris to begin the climate talks which are our best hope to avert the worst level of climate change which would destroy major ecosystems, cause extinction of many species, and kill millions and millions of people.
I realize that sounds very apocalyptic, but these are the effects that science indicates would happen under a “business as usual” scenario regarding the continued burning of fossil fuels.
This afternoon, I attended an event in solidarity with climate activists around the world in preparation for the Paris talks. We were sharing what brought us together and I said that during my years of writing commentary against fracking, while using science and economics in my arguments, I was energized by the moral and ethical grounding that I received from Catholic social justice doctrine, which teaches care for creation and upholding the dignity of each person. I thanked Pope Francis for his encyclical which is addressed not only to Catholics but to all people of good will, which makes clear that we must care for the world and for each other. Francis calls this “integral ecology.”
We do need systemic change and Paris has to be the start of it. Like the wounded-yet-strong city of Paris, the wounded-yet-strong earth needs our love, care, and attention. All the species of the earth need each other to survive and thrive. All the people of the earth bear responsibility for their neighbors, with those with the largest share of the gifts bearing the most responsibility to help those who are most vulnerable.
On December eighth, Pope Francis will open a Jubilee year dedicated to mercy. This is a particularly powerful symbol at this time. The works of mercy include such actions as feeding the hungry and comforting the afflicted. In the letter declaring the Jubilee, Francis writes of “the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one.” We are called to exclude no one on earth from our love and care at the precise moment when we are facing the challenge of climate change.
The United States and the European nations that have contributed the largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions must bear the most responsibility as we move forward. Besides making our own rapid shift to renewable energy, we must help less developed nations build their own renewable energy capacity to help and protect their people and environment, as well as extend assistance and welcome to climate refugees.
Today’s reading from the third chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians begins, “Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…” May we all, those who believe in divinity and those who do not, join in an advent of love and mercy to heal our societies and our planet.
It must begin. Now.