Noah went to great lengths to preserve earthly creatures so that future generations might enjoy the nuzzle of a canine companion, delight with their children in the uniqueness of an elephant, and be refreshed by a glass of milk.
I fondly think back to the Cook Islands when, from our porch, I watched in amazement as a humpbacked whale breached just outside the lagoon.
Fast forward to today, when the Center for Biological Diversity says that we’re experiencing the worst state of species die-off since the loss of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That fact brings to mind another whale incident in which I helplessly observed a Cuvier’s beaked whale named Temata die in Avatiu Harbor, Rarotonga from plastic ingestion.
Perhaps Noah is asking from heaven, “is humanity really taking Laudato Si seriously?”
Today’s Earth Day theme is, “Protect Our Species.” It may be overwhelming to consider how I can put the breaks on the disappearance of lions, tigers, bears, and whales in the midst of rampant destruction of habitats. But, imagine what could be accomplished if the world’s 7.5 billion people make every day Earth Day!
Laudato Si calls us to do just that. In the Encyclical, Pope Francis speaks of an integral ecology, one which preserves our common home. I grapple with exactly what “integral ecology” means and demands of me. What does it look like to be interconnected with creatures? Not stepping on bugs? Petting dogs? Talking to plants?
No. It’s much deeper than that. Laudato Si, along with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12 requires me to look at my consumption patterns and consider my daily choices; the ones which impact habits. It challenges me to reimagine my vow of poverty. We used to say “Live simply so that others (people) might simply live.” But today, we say “Live simply so that other people, primates, plants, and planet may live.”
On my best days, I refuse plastic bags at the grocery store and avoid purchasing a soft drink in single use plastic. It’s harder when scheduled are rushed and I’m distracted by deadlines. But I must pause and reflect on being consistent if I’m to truly “get” Laudato Si.
It’s recognizing that my shampoo probably contains a palm oil product and that vast habitats were destroyed to produce it. Orangutans and other species are affected. It’s being mindful of massive deforestation in South America so that I can eat beef.
ScienceNordic (February, 2016) reflects that 60-80 percent of environmental impacts come from household consumption. When I read that, images of laundry detergent containers, plastic packaging, and cleaning sprays came to mind. They are contents of a big bag I haul out to recycling regularly, hoping they really WILL be recycled.
I have some changes to make. I hope this Earth Day is not just a time to bear banners and plant a tree. I hope it’s a time of taking steps to make every day Earth Day.
Written by Sister Margaret O’Dwyer, D.C.
Picture of Temata is from Whale Research.