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Think Green This Christmas

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.

Sustainable Living

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 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 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 ( 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 our resources.

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.

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