By Fr. Oskar Wermter SJ
HUMANITY still has the ability to work together to build our common home. There is an intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the belief that everything in the world is linked. . . The disposable culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle.
The climate is a common good, belonging to all and intended for all.
Humanity is called to recognize the need for a change in lifestyle, production and consumption. Fossil fuels are at the heart of the global energy system, another determining factor has seen the multiplication of changes in land use, mainly deforestation for agricultural purposes.
Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. This creates a vicious circle that further aggravates the situation, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions. These are activities that can cause sea level rise.
Our failure to respond to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters indicates the loss of that sense of responsibility towards our fellow human beings, men and women, on which all civil society is based.
Drinking fresh water is an issue of prime importance since it is essential to human life, as well as to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Water supply was once relatively constant, but today, in many places, demand exceeds sustainable supply, with dramatic short- and long-term consequences.
A particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water leads to many deaths from micro-organisms and chemicals. Dysentery and cholera, linked to poor sanitation and water supply, are a major cause of child suffering and death.
Groundwater sources in many places are threatened by pollution produced by mining, agricultural and industrial activities, especially in countries without regulation or control. It’s not just a matter of industrial waste. Detergents and chemicals commonly used in many places around the world continue to flow into rivers, lakes and seas.
Water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world, but also in developing countries that have it in abundance. This shows that the water problem is partly an educational and cultural issue, because the seriousness of such behaviors is little known in a context of great inequality.
The marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a large part of the population, is affected by uncontrolled forms of fishing, which discard a large part of what they harvest and which we tend to be neglected, such as certain forms of plankton; they are an important part of the ocean food web and the species we use for our food ultimately depend on them.
Because all creatures are connected to each other. Each zone is responsible for the care of this family.
When media and the digital world become pervasive, their influence can prevent people from learning, living wisely, thinking deeply, and loving generously.
Indeed, the degradation of the environment and society affects the most vulnerable people.
Instead of solving the problem of the poor and thinking about how the world can be different, some of us think only of a reduction in the birth rate.
Developing countries, faced with international pressure, make economic aid conditional on the implementation of certain “reproductive health” policies.
Creation and ownership
For a long time, it was taken for granted that the world and everything in it was available to everyone and anyone could take it and use it as they pleased.
There were no limits and no prohibitions or restrictions; people could take what they saw and liked.
The world and everything people saw in it was disposable and available to everyone. People could just pick up anything and take it anywhere for any purpose. People felt they owned all of creation. They were in charge and in command. No one could forbid anyone to account for the use he made of created things. There was no owner or major owner. People took the things they liked and used them as they saw fit (minerals, plants, trees, wood, animals, atmosphere, air, space, day and night: everything was available to everyone, no one asked permission, everything was freely available, the stars, the sun and the moon and all the stellar phenomena).
The people were the owners. No one asked them where they got what they used and considered their own.
People were no one’s servants or slaves or in no one’s service. They shared the goods of the earth as their own, they valued what they loved and kept as precious.
The trees were owned by the people who lived under them and felled them as they pleased or replanted them.
The fish belonged to the fishermen, who could tell who the fish belonged to. The air belonged to everyone again. Water was available to all of us. There was an infinite amount of treasure. The owners used the water (river, lakes, sea) as private property.
Nobody had a special right to water, there was no obligation to use water with circumspection, prudence, respect. Nobody used water as a treasure to be kept for future generations, everyone used water as a common good to be kept for use by this generation and the following ones.
Water was a treasure to be kept as something precious, everyone should treat water as a treasure to be used only by people with expertise, understanding and wisdom.
It’s not like that anymore. Water is now for everyone. Water can be polluted, misused and its use enjoyed by anyone with or without responsibility.
Water is no longer reserved for experts and people who respect it, use it sparingly and pay attention to its great value at all times. Water is no longer seen as something of great beauty and attraction.
It is considered something precious and expensive, admirable in its transparency and its absolute necessity for the maintenance of life.
The seas and oceans are limitless and traffic by boat or other vessels must be controlled and regulated so that there is no abuse or mixing of precious substances.
Industry needs water and uses water as a means of transportation. But the State also has the right to legislate for the proper use of this universal good without which there is neither life nor growth.
The Gospel of Creation
The Bible teaches that every man and woman is created out of love and made in the image and likeness of God.
The Creator can say to each of us, “Before forming you in the womb, I knew you. (Jer 1:5). Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is wanted, each of us is loved, each of us is needed.
Human life is based on three closely intertwined relationships with God, our neighbor and the earth.
God is sovereign. He cannot be dominated. He is greater than any created being.
We humans must take the earth seriously, we cannot abuse it. There is therefore a hierarchy that must be respected.
God is greater than humanity, humanity is greater than the earth, greater than plant life and animals. But the hierarchy should not be changed either.
Francis of Assisi, the medieval mystic, poet and writer who sang of the beauty of all creation, called the water “Sister Water” and wanted it to be treated with the respect one would give to a well-behaved sister. -loved.
Water was created by the creator of all natural beauty, and we can’t do better.
Water is the source of all life. Without it there is no vegetable life, no animal life and finally no human beings, whose vital power rests on “Sister Water” and without which we can do nothing. Water is at the center of our life, of all growth.
Water has a beauty that nothing can replace.
Marveling at the flowing water, we really sing the praises of the creator, as did François, the poet and admirer of everything that comes from the hands of the one “who holds the whole world in his hands”.
This is not just a warning against pollution and making water look ugly and repulsive by turning it into a receptacle for dirt and filth. Here we enter paradise, making it our own and singing of its unseen beauty. It no longer belongs to us, but belongs to all of us, because Francis gave it to us as a reward, gift and prize from his Lord.
- Father Oskar Wermter SJ is a social commentator. He writes here in a personal capacity.