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Fostering Care for Our Earth and Our People as Purpose-Driven Leaders

It’s a balancing act of speaking up for truth and care for the sacred ecosystems that have been entrusted to us while at the same time being cautious to never inadvertently place anyone or anything before worshipping our one true God.

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“We use Stewardship as a Way of Life here but the part on stewardship of our Earth, looking at God’s gift of creation and how we’re stewards of this gift, we’ve actually never done at the parish. It's a little too groovy for Father.”

I listened as I interviewed a parish admin about her role at the parish for a project I’m working on and wondered why the stewardship for Earth model was too groovy for their priest. I guessed it had something to do with how our current environmental movements have taken a drastic nosedive against the most precious natural resource God has ever created- our children.

The modern environmental movement would have us believe that the world is overpopulated, that God makes mistakes and may have accidentally created someone in the wrong body, or that the Earth is a god itself that we must worship lest we want more natural destruction across the globe.

As a Catholic environmentalist, I’ve recently been feeling like I’m stuck in this lonely limbo of being too eco for my Catholic friends but too Catholic for my earthy friends.

It often feels like I’m walking on a tightrope with my words being the weighted pole keeping me balanced and moving forward. I’m careful to not say something that might be too offensive or off-putting to either side while also, planting seeds in the hearts of both, faithful and eco-friendly, that might inspire and influence towards living more holistically as stewards and servants of life.

It’s a balancing act of speaking up for truth and care for the sacred ecosystems that have been entrusted to us while at the same time being cautious to never inadvertently place anyone or anything before worshipping our one true God.

The Earth is a precious gift that has been given to us by our Creator, and as stewards, we have a responsibility to ensure that it is well cared for by reducing our impact on the environment, serving the poor, and regenerating our ecosystems to leave them better for our future generations.

One of the most effective ways we can put our care into action is by reducing our carbon footprint to combat climate change and serving as a bridge to lift communities out of poverty.

The fight against climate change is inherently linked to the issue of our global poverty. Oftentimes the effects of climate change-  natural disasters, severe drought, blazing wildfires, and strong storms are felt first and worst by the most vulnerable communities. We cannot solve one without addressing the other.

A Catholic friend once asked me, "I wonder how serious climate change really is and how aware I need to be of it, haven’t these natural climate cycles been around for millions of years?"

To her point, yes, the Earth's climate has always been changing and has experienced climate change naturally on roughly 100,000-year cycles for the last 1 million years. But today, temperatures are the highest we’ve ever experienced in the entire timeframe of modern human civilization with climates changing at an astronomical rate and intensifying like no other period in history.

But the solution is not to stop having children and depopulate entire nations. The answer lies in trusting in God’s will while at the same time doing our part to care for our corner of the world.

We’re not God so we can’t possibly take on the overwhelming  responsibility of “saving the Earth.”

One way that we can foster care for our Earth is by changing simple lifestyle habits to reduce our carbon footprint. You can try opting for clean transportation such as a subway or bike whenever possible, reducing your energy consumption at home and at work, starting a garden, taking shorter showers, unplugging electronics not in use, and supporting your local farmers who are paving the way for more sustainable diets in a growing population.

Another way that we can care for the environment as Catholic leaders in civil society is by serving the poor, and getting involved at our local parishes to feed and clothe those in need. We can also get involved in our local politics by joining a political campaign supporting and promoting environmental policies that align with our Catholic values of the dignity of all life on earth. This could involve advocating for change in our energy systems, conservation efforts of local ecosystems, policies that promote sustainable agriculture and waste management, as well as the integration and protection of the poor.

With small yet consistent lifestyle changes, we’re doing our part and inspiring others to do theirs in building and leading real change for the regeneration of our environment and our people. Plus, if we thought about Stewardship of our Earth in this holistic way with people and life rooted at the center, it may remove the “grooviness” feel with the possibility of priests being more willing to use it at their parishes.

“A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. . . . Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” (Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home [Laudato Si'],nos. 49, 91)

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