Good, soaking rains followed by warm sunshine awakened the earth in southeast Iowa last week. Overnight, green buds sprouted on trees and bushes; tulips bloomed in neighbors’ yards, and the grass turned a brighter shade of green. What an awesome reminder of the resurrection of Christ, who will bring us to the fullness of life at the end of our pilgrim journey. What an awesome reminder, also, of our responsibilities in being entrusted with care of God’s creation.
On April 22, our nation will observe Earth Day, an annual event that began on this date in 1970 in response to degradation of the environment. That first Earth Day and the groundswell of support for it inspired passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act among other significant environmental laws. A change in priorities at the federal level, however, could render these laws meaningless. The emphasis is moving toward an easing of pollution restrictions on industries that would adversely impact our air and waterways.
As stewards of God’s creation we must engage in proactive, self-disciplined and creative initiatives to establish positive co-existence between industry and the environment. We can no longer carelessly trample the earth with our exploitation of fossil fuels. We must walk gently on this earth and with one another, which requires an exercise of patience in a decidedly impatient, polarized world. We must, as Pope Francis suggests in “Laudato Si” (On Care for our Common Home) establish new habits and grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care toward others.
These efforts begin at the individual level, such as reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, but must encompass a wider, collective effort. “A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries,” the Holy Father says in “Laudato Si.” “Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water” (164).
We’ve got to make our voices heard at the state and national level concerning threats to the environment and human flourishing. One such threat: a recommendation by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt for the U.S. to exit the Paris Climate Agreement. Under that agreement, the United States — no. 2 in greenhouse gas emissions — has committed to a significant reduction of greenhouse gases by 2025.
An opportunity to raise our collective voice is the Peoples Climate Movement march in our nation’s capital on April 29. Catholics will have the opportunity to pray, attend Mass and visit their representatives on Capitol Hill. The march serves as one way to show grassroots support for federal action addressing climate change and opposing the rollback of environmental standards.
Closer to home, activist Ed Fallon is organizing an eight-day “Iowa Climate Justice Unity March” which begins on April 22 at 9 a.m. at Little Creek Camp (Millersburg) and concludes April 29 at 1 p.m. at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. For details, visit: http://tinyurl.com/mavmy2n.
Also, the Iowa Legislature is in the midst of hammering out a difficult budget that could adversely impact the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. The center supports projects that have contributed to water quality, diversified cropping systems, soil health and local food systems, among other initiatives, according to the Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Call the Senate switchboard at (515) 281-3371 and the House switchboard at (515) 281-3221 to express support for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
Consider participating in a “Good Life Redefined” workshop, a new initiative of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light. The workshop “examines how our stuff is getting in the way of what matters most — our relationships with each other and the earth.” That sounds like something Pope Francis would say!
Visit the Iowa IP&L website at iowaipl.org for more information.
Walking together gently on this earth can make a difference.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor