The National Interagency Fire Center’s report on Aug.15 began with this sobering news: “Fire activity continues across 12 states where 97 large fires or complexes have burned 2,104,669 acres.” More than 25,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel are engaged in fighting these fires — the Dixie, Antelope, Patton Meadow and Bull Complex fires in California and the Northwest, among others. Six days earlier, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first volume in its newest report making clear that climate change is a crisis.
Responding to that report, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken released his own statement Aug. 9. “Weather and climate events — such as extreme heat, heavy rainfall, fire conditions, and droughts — are becoming more severe and frequent because of climate change. We are seeing the detrimental impacts of these events on the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.”
The U.S. is among nearly 200 IPCC member governments that approved the IPCC’s first volume, which states “Human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 200 years.” Release date for the full report is 2022. Blinken said, “We cannot delay ambitious climate action any longer. As countries prepare for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26, Oct. 31-Nov. 12) in Glasgow, this report is a stark reminder that we must let science drive us to action. This moment requires world leaders, the private sector, and individuals to act together with urgency and do everything it takes to protect our planet and our future in this decade and beyond.”
We ought to seize the moment by participating in the Season of Creation, a worldwide celebration from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 during which the Christian family unites in prayer and action to protect our common home (seasonofcreation.org). The celebration concludes on the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, the launch date for the Laudato Si Action Platform, which will support Catholic institutions and families as we review our impact on our common home and take action to address these impacts. The Catholic Messenger will share more details on that initiative later.
Meanwhile, the Season of Creation provides the seedbed for us to plant and cultivate our faith communities and ourselves through prayer, education, reflection and action. “We are all in the house, the oikos of God. God gave humans the ministry to take care and cultivate this oikos of God,” the celebration guide for this year’s Season of Creation states. “The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have called the oikos of God, ‘the beloved community,’ a community in which all of life are equally members, though each one has a different role.”
Visit SeasonofCreation.org for a variety of ways and ideas to celebrate the season. Among suggestions in the guide:
• Host an ecumenical prayer service.
• Take up a collection to support a particular issue.
• Integrate creation-related themes and the “Abraham’s Tent” logo into weekend liturgies.
• Hold a worship service outside.
• Organize a Creation Walk or pilgrimage. The pilgrimage could take place at a significant ecological site or to a site that witnesses ecological or social injustice, (perhaps the neighborhoods in which shootings have occurred?). Pray an “ecological rosary” while walking.
• Encourage sustainable living. The Season of Creation sustainability challenge includes weekly themes related to diet, energy, consumerism and transportation.
• Make sustainable changes on an institutional level (an energy audit?).
• Participate in campaigns that call for ecological restoration. Ask Iowa legislators to support a mix of incentives, cost-share programs and regulations to reduce agricultural emissions and capture carbon with cover crops and other plantings (Iowa Capital Dispatch, Aug. 9, 2021).
Our diocese is discerning how to develop action plans consistent with the goals of the Laudato Si Action platform. Inspiration for the platform comes from Laudato Si, the 2015 encyclical Pope Francis wrote that emphasizes our connection with God, with one another and with all of creation. The seven goals call us to respond to the cry of the Earth, and to the cry of the poor. We are to address ecological economics, adopt simpler lifestyles, and to engage in ecological education, ecological spirituality, and emphasize community involvement and participatory action. Share your ideas with Kent Ferris, director of the Office of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport, who is Bishop Thomas Zinkula’s representative on this initiative (email@example.com).
Our common home is crying for help. We see it in the faces of families whose lives have been devastated by fires in the northwest, the derecho in the Midwest, floods and hurricanes in the south. Sadly, climate-related disasters are not the only tragedies calling for our response this week. We hear the cries of the Haitian people, suffering from injustice and natural disasters. We see the fear in the faces of Afghans struggling to escape the Taliban. Let us respond, in prayer and in deed, as companions on this journey of faith.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor