THIS week – even as the world mourns the tragic loss of life in the unprecedented Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippine Islands – political leaders have converged on Warsaw, Poland, in yet another anticipated meeting on climate change. Concerned citizens throughout the world are hoping and praying for prompt and practical results.
The conference follows on the heels of an important report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which warns of the urgency of immediately addressing the alarming escalation of climate change in order to avoid catastrophic consequences.
Scientists talk of “tipping points” and “abrupt climate change.” Political leaders talk of the “challenges” that lie ahead. Scripture speaks of human crisis and God’s forgiving grace. All three make it clear that the time will come when we must face consequences; the time will come when it is simply too late.
At first glance, it may appear strange for the leader of a religious institution concerned with “sacred” values to be so profoundly involved in “worldly” issues. After all, what does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul? It is commonly assumed that global climate change and the exploitation of our nature’s resources are matters that primarily concern politicians, scientists and technocrats. At best, perhaps they are considered the preoccupation of interest groups, naturalists or activists.
Nevertheless, there are no two ways of looking at either the world or God. There is no distinction between concern for human welfare and concern for ecological preservation. The way we relate to nature as creation directly reflects the way we believe in God as Creator of all things. The sensitivity with which we handle the natural environment clearly mirrors the sacredness that we reserve for the divine.
Moreover, scientists estimate that those most hurt by global warming in the years to come, are those who can least afford it. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, the questions that will be asked of us all at the final moment of accountability will not be about our religious observance but on whether we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, and cared for captives.