THE EDITOR: Tomorrow the world observes International Mother Earth Day. God’s plan for humanity is that we should protect the natural world which He created to sustain us. He wants us to enjoy the beauty of creation and to live in harmony with His creation.
Each year millions of people commit to be proactive stewards and advocates for the Earth; to address ecological degradation that continues to impact all areas of our lives. But are we doing enough to turn back the tide? In 2015 Pope Francis said:
“I exhort everyone to see the world through the eyes of God the Creator: the Earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated. The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations.”
Our actions continue to demonstrate that we have not yet embraced our interconnectedness with each other and with the natural world. After the long journey to TT, leatherback turtles that come to our shores to lay their eggs face the danger of internal bleeding and death as a result of the selfishness of a few humans who continue to sit on their backs, pull their flippers etc – as was seen in the recent video on social media. Recent reports show that our national bird, the scarlet ibis, continues to be slaughtered.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, “environmental degradation remains a major issue for Trinidad and Tobago. The country experiences many environmental problems, from flooding, widespread pollution of its waterways and coastal areas, illegal dumping, deforestation, excessive soil erosion, fisheries and wildlife depletion.”
Environmental degradation is considered to be one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today and the poor are disproportionately affected. Examples of such degradation include: air, land and water pollution that leads to health issues in humans, animals and plant life; the depletion of the ozone layer; global warming; resource depletion; the destruction of ecosystems; the extinction of wildlife.
The State of Global Air Report by the Health Effects Institute (published on Tuesday) states that more than 95 per cent of the world’s population is breathing unhealthy air, leading to, eg, strokes, heart attacks, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and premature deaths. The poorest nations are the hardest hit. “Long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to an estimated 6.1 million deaths across the globe in 2016,” the report states.
“It is estimated that up to 12 million metric tonnes of plastic enter our seas worldwide every year. The sea is choking and can’t cope” (Greenpeace).
EcoWatch states that “over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times. We currently recover only five per cent of the plastics we produce. Plastic constitutes approximately 90 per cent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans. Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.”
Creation is the work of God and is God’s gift to us. Human beings were created in God’s image and likeness and given the responsibility to “cultivate and care for” God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). We need increased advocacy on environmental issues.
Read the Catholic Commission for Social Justice’s document on the environment on our website under Special Focus for action that we can take. Let’s educate ourselves about how our own actions affect the environment and embark on a new path to protect the natural world.
LEELA RAMDEEN, chair, CCSJ