“You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.”
– Nehemiah 9:6
I recently bought a new reusable water bottle. You may ask what is the big deal. Hopefully it is the beginning of a new life, with a more caring attitude towards our common home. For the last few months, with COVID-19 cabin fever, I have grown complacent, buying disposable water bottles just in case essential needs become unobtainable. I am aware these would add to the rubbish ravaging our earth.
Statistics reveal that each year, we dump a massive 2.12 billion tons of waste. This stunning amount of waste is partly because 99 percent of the stuff we buy is trashed within six months. Wikipedia lists over 50 different types of waste. The heavy metals and chemicals are known to affect the central nervous system, the reproductive and endocrine system, the immune system, our blood, skeleton, digestive and respiratory systems… basically everything in the human body.
About 64 million people are directly affected by dumpsites created by the global waste trade. By the time this article is published there would probably be six million tons of plastic waste dumped in the oceans!
Australians produce 540 kg of household waste per person each year. In June 2017, Australia generated 67 million tons of waste. An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year and the amount of food lost costs 2.6 trillion USD annually, enough to feed all the 815 million hungry people around the world, four times over. There are still over 1 billion people without access to clean water.
Do we really care?
Laudato si’ is the second encyclical of Pope Francis, and has the subtitle “on care for our common home”. The Pope critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”
The Pope asks us to reflect on how to reshape the world that will arise after the pandemic has passed. The present crisis is “an opportunity to start anew, and to make sure that the world that arises after this crisis has passed is sustainable and just. It tells us that ‘everything is connected’ and tragically, this health catastrophe has much in common with the ecological catastrophe.
We cannot be healthy as humans if the planet is unhealthy. Around the world, we see that the human family is part of the natural world and that the way we treat nature, each other, and the Creator are all connected.”
It is a mammoth task for those doing their best to conserve, preserve and protect Mother Earth. Now for the first time, sincerely, I want to heed to their call and do my part, consciously, if I were to leave a world worthy of life for my children, their children and the future generations.
There are many things we can do to help Mother Earth. Simple ways, such as – using reusable bags, printing as little as necessary, recycling, using reusable beverage containers, not throwing your notes away, saving electricity, saving water, avoiding taking cars or carpool when possible (walk, bike, take public transport), buying local, composting, unplugging unused electronics, and many more. The little things, they say, can make a big difference.
The Pope remarks: “God has written a precious book whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe; no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God.”
One of the “spiritual blessings” COVID-19 forced me to inspect is my lifestyle – how much waste I produce. I am guilty of over-shopping because of fear. Until now I am struggling to finish the boxes of laundry powder, the many bottles of spray and wipe, the food items nearing their expiry date, the bottles of water in the pantry.
I pray that I can begin again. I repent for contributing to the groaning of Mother Earth. I look at my new refillable water bottle with more respect. It is a very small gesture to help our common home – our earth that has housed us for about four billion years, nourished and protected us and continues to take our breath away by its grandeur. “From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine,” says Pope Francis.
I look out of my bedroom window. The Parkland Pillar Birch tree on council strip is shedding most of its golden leaves, ready to hibernate for winter. Soon it would stand as a lonely, dried-up tree, seemingly lifeless. Along our front garden, we have three lemon trees – all in full bloom, jubilant of their prolific yellow fruit. I wonder which one I am at present. I bow, making a humble gesture of thanks for our common home, in full respect of its seasons.
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