by Xavier Savarimuthu SJ
“The future we want” for our well-being is going through a sea-change due to human and natural activities. Humankind has not paid heed to the Lord’s request of “till and take care,” turning the lands toxic by indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, depleting groundwater resources, pillaging the wombs of mother earth, destroying the fragile ecological balance, and even polluting outer space with debris. The earth is groaning and calls for reconciliation with creation.
On the one hand, there is the warming climate resulting from human activities and rising sea levels that threaten to inundate vast tracks of coastal land and turn millions of people into climate refugees. On the other hand, the “civilized,” “advanced,” and “prosperous” world has yet to reckon with this climate-induced migration and to take steps to address the situation, even as they apply stringent immigration laws and tighten their borders and build walls.
Where is the compassion “He” taught us? In our hedonistic quest for conspicuous consumption, we chose to ignore God, to give back to Him in terms of “environmental dividend” what He gave us in the first place to enjoy.
Mother Earth seeks an inner order in the conscience of the human beings, which Pope Francis names as total conversion (change) of hearts in Laudato Si’. (218)
The journey we begin on earth is given by God and as pilgrims on earth we are journeying towards the Creator (the Omega Point). And the well-being of the Universe is achieved when we put our “inner house” (attitude) in order and we become eco-conscious citizens because “the earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who live there.” (Ps 24:1)
Care for the environment affects the quality of our relationship with God, with other human beings, and with creation itself. The orderliness in the Universe will be maintained if we have the answer, not from science and technology, but in the Ignatian wisdom of tilling our hearts with compassion and stewardship towards maintaining the harmony of the planet Earth.
In the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, “man fully alive is the glory of God.” We can be fully alive to God’s glory by living in harmony with one another and with the entire creation. We, as co-creators, are to contribute towards the equilibrium of mother Earth by our attitude and lifestyles. Pope Francis calls this as integral ecology.
Our heart’s desire should be to store up riches in heaven and not worry about what we will eat or drink or wear on earth. “But seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
In the words of Confucius:
“If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nations.
When there is order in the nations, there will be peace in the world.”
Dr. Xavier Savarimuthu, SJ is Chair of the Department of Environmental Studies, Saint Xavier’s College in Kolkata, India and he can be reached through his email envsxavi(at)gmail.com.