By Barb Arland-Fye
Alone on a Saturday night, I tossed a load of laundry into the washing machine and returned to the family room to read. When the laundry was ready for drying, I placed it in the dryer, but with a heavy sense of guilt. If my husband Steve had been home the laundry would have been washed hours earlier and hung out to dry on the clothes line.
That’s the environmentally responsible thing to do, even if his main motivation is saving money. So I lived with my guilt as the dryer hummed.
The memory lingers because this week the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change planned to launch the Catholic Climate Covenant and the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. Launch date is April 22, Earth Day.
This initiative asks us to be good stewards of God’s creation by caring for the earth and its inhabitants, especially those most vulnerable to the effects of global climate change.
Catholic individuals, groups and institutions are being asked to take the St. Francis Pledge to:
• Pray and reflect on the duty to care for God’s creation and to protect the poor and vulnerable.
• Learn about and educate others on the moral dimensions of climate change.
• Assess how we contribute to climate change through our consumption and conservation habits.
• Act to change our choices and behaviors that contribute to climate change.
• Advocate Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact the poor and vulnerable.
This initiative has impressive support. Its partners include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, National Catholic Rural Life Conference and other Catholic organizations.
The initiative “offers Catholics a concrete way to live out our faith by caring for God’s Creation and the ‘least of these’ in response to the challenges of global climate change,” writes Bishop William Skylstad, former USCCB president, in a letter on the Web site of the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.
He notes that Pope Benedict XVI is leading these efforts, and quotes the pope: “Our earth speaks to us, and we must listen if we want to survive.”
Praying, learning, assessing, acting and advocating are actions I can incorporate into my life. As someone whose favorite season is spring, I am discovering daily reminders of God’s generosity in the world in which I live: the blossoming of buds on trees and lilac bushes, the greening of the grass and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Witnessing these natural gifts reminds me to give thanks to God in prayer.
This past season of Lent provided an opportunity for me to separate wants from needs, which meant that I consumed a bit less and put off purchases I might otherwise have made. I realized that running out of my favorite, scented bath powder would not result in any serious deprivation, particularly when I imagined myself as a Haitian or African woman preoccupied with trying to find food to feed her family.
The global economic crisis is forcing many people to consume less and to put off purchases, but maybe it’s also helping us to appreciate what we do have and what we have been blessed with, as a friend of mine said.
Whether or not I hang laundry to dry on the clothesline isn’t going to be a make-or-break deal in caring for all of God’s creation, but it speaks to changing behavior and attitude in one person — me — and passing that on to my children and those around us.
For more information on the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change, visit the Web site www.catholicsandclimatechange.org.