Jesus did not select the traditional Christmas color scheme
of red and green, but he would approve—especially of the hopeful green. The
Incarnation we celebrate at Christmas encompasses the happy truth that Jesus
lived on the very planet we inhabit. He loved it here.
He was poor, but healthy. His parents were on the road because of
the census, but he never viewed the human family as a head-count issue.
Yes, Mary and Joseph found poor housing. Yes, their son had nowhere
to lay his head at times. But that son wanted—and still wants—better for the
human family. He came that we may have life, a life supported by the diverse
plants, animals and atmosphere of earth.
Yes, it’s eternal life Jesus came to deliver. Yet, without nourishing
food, clean water, fertile soil and adequate shelter, the daily grind leaves
many too tired, too ill to question what lies beyond the visible. Such poverty
often inspires violence, not prayer.
In this season of gift-giving and gift-getting, children may
want toys for today, but they require security for tomorrow as well. The word
sustainability is essential to that tomorrow.
Sustainable Christmas spending means you’ll be able to pay all your
other bills without bankruptcy. Sustainable earth spending means that natural
resources will still be available for our children and our children’s children.
We will not have used them beyond their capacity to regenerate.
But we have overdrawn our environmental accounts. In their Joint
Declaration on Articulating a Code of Environmental Ethics issued last
June, Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople described
the challenge as “not simply economic and technological; it is moral and spiritual.”
They also said, “The most affluent societies must carry the greater burden,
and from them is demanded a sacrifice greater than can be offered by the poor.”
At last fall’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg,
South Africa, Archbishop Renato Marino headed the Vatican delegation. He said,
“No portion or member of the human family should be reduced to live in subhuman
social, economic, environmental, cultural or political conditions.”
But too many families across the globe are reduced to this.
Over-consumption, pollution and war share responsibility for such conditions.
President George W. Bush will not go down in history as a leader
who attended well to these concerns. He neither campaigned on a pro-environment
platform nor has he changed since his election.
In the second half of 2002 alone, President Bush skipped the Earth
Summit in Johannesburg, while the Environmental Protection Agency, under his
guidance, failed to enforce existing air-quality standards and admitted that
U.S. waters are dirtier than ever. We can’t allow his inattention to block our
way to a healthy future.
Gifts That Keep On Giving
With a reverence for earth rooted in the Incarnation, we must
act. We can change. We can influence our Church. We can
challenge this administration.
Make some personal decisions for the year ahead.
1. Choose the slogan “Reduce, reuse and recycle” as a motto
to live by. When possible, buy only what you can reuse or recycle.
2. Plan for your spring garden now. Use no (or fewer) chemical
fertilizers and pesticides.
3. Reduce your household’s demands for energy from fossil fuels.
Contact your local energy supplier for advice and assistance.
Take action on the parish or neighborhood level.
1. Begin (or rejuvenate) a parish environmental evaluation:
energy, materials and land use; recycling; cooperation in
neighborhood projects. For ideas, consult www.usccb.org/publishing/environment.htm
where the U.S. bishops provide a wealth of resources.
2. Encourage green space in your neighborhood.
3. Begin a Roots and Shoots group (see www.janegoodall.org/rs)
in a local setting. Or use it as a model for acting to help
people live humanely among animals and plants.
Choose one environmental challenge to track
in legislation during the year ahead.
1. At press time, the Energy Bill (S.517/H.R.4) was languishing
in the Senate/House Conference Committee, stalled over oil
drilling in Alaska. You can visit the Sustainable Energy
Institute Web site (www.s-e-i.org)
and click on “policy tracking” to see how it is faring
now. (Most librarians can assist you to access this site
or find the information in print.)
2. Join an organization that embraces the environmental concern
closest to your heart: pets, wild animals, national parks, alternate energy
sources, pollution, erosion, forests, farms—and war, which taxes all
3. Request that President Bush reevaluate his position on the
Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Restate the Vatican view that we who have
the most—and use the most—have the most responsibility.
Thinking green isn’t for Christmas only—just as Christmas
isn’t simply about a baby. Both are about the great mystery
of Jesus present in and to creation, showing us how to live
responsibly throughout the year.