Pope Francis has slated September 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. And we will certainly need all the prayers we can muster. The state of creation is not good: depending on whether we refuse or agree to change our economy and society, drastically curbing our greenhouse gas emissions within the next 10 years, life could be very devastating for the generations of creation to come.
This is not hyperbole; it is a conclusion arising from well-thought-out research by a multitude of scientists who have connected the dots and mapped likely scenarios given current and proposed actions (or inaction) by our governments and the many corporations and individuals that are responsible for creating the bulk of these emissions. [See * below]
So what sorts of prayers might be needed?
Prayers to get politicians to finally listen and enact laws to stop climate change? That would be a miracle indeed! Cardinal Turkson, former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, suggests we invite God to raise our hearts in gratitude for the beautiful creation we are part of. That is certainly good. I like that.
I’d like to suggest another sort of prayer, one that asks God to help us change our relationship with creation.
This might sound like an odd thing to pray for at this dire moment in time when time itself seems to evade us. Consider, however, what Catholic thinker Stephen Bede Scharper says in For Earth’s Sake: Toward a Compassionate Ecology (Edited by Simon Appolloni, Toronto: Novalis, 2013). Scharper writes: “We can make ourselves more knowledgeable, change all our laws, fashion new policies, and even design cutting-edge sustainable technologies, but none of these will take hold until we change our relationship with creation” (185).
What Scharper is pointing out is something about our species that is really important to acknowledge at this time: our desires – certainly now, and certainly among Western industrialized nations like Canada – are in disorder, as sufficient is never enough. Evidence points to this: whenever some new technology offers us greater efficiency (not necessarily a bad thing), humans tend to take the savings they gain and simply use it to consume more or buy bigger.
A change in our relationship with creation will help us consider first and foremost whether our actions will harm Earth, regardless of policies, and irrespective – because of some new technology – whether we’d be harming Earth less than before. Harming Earth would become a taboo, an anathema!
In suggesting we change our relationship with creation, Scharper understands that this first requires a change in us. To get there, we’ll need God and a whole lot of prayer!
–Simon Appolloni, Associate Publishing Director
*As this blog entry is not the best place to go into what ‘devastation’ might look like, I suggest Lorna Gold’s excellent new book, Climate Generation: Awakening to Our Children’s Future (New York: New City Press, 2019) which describes it well – it is available through Novalis.