My spouse and I celebrated the end of the long, dry heat wave here on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia with an evening trip to the ocean for a swim. It was a delicious experience given that it seemed that every inch of our bodies were calling out for cool, cool water. We were not disappointed. In fact, as we swam in the water with the sun setting we marveled at the beauty of it all.
At the same time, we were very conscious that the night sky into which the sun was setting was eerily different than most nights. Even on this cloudless day the sky was dark and heavy. This was due to the week of smoke that filled our sky during the heat wave, smoke from the hundreds of forest fires burning throughout the province. The dry, hot conditions had given rise to scores of fires due to lightening and, unfortunately, due to human causes as well. So, while we were filled with gratitude for the ocean reprieve we were also very mindful of the seriousness of the weather changes we are undergoing. We are in trouble.
In my mind the draught conditions we are experiencing, truly unheard of here in this part of the world, are further evidence of global climate change. Evidence seems to be irrefutable now that this particular cycle of climate change is human caused and the impact of this change threatens many life forms on this planet, including human life. So, I join my voice with the rising tide of voices calling for political and economic actions to tackle the problems of climate change by addressing our relationship to our earth. There are many such voices from around the world and from differing horizons of meaning. Most recently, Pope Francis, in his encyclical Laudato Si (Praised Be!), has added his voice to the call for a global response to our current environmental crisis. He provides a comprehensive moral and ethical approach to the crisis and links the care of those who are poor and marginalized within unrestrained capitalism and the care of our earth. This encyclical, realistic, insightful and visionary, calls for a change of heart, a conversion, from exploiting our environment to living in communion with the earth.
Such a conversion will not be simple or easy. When has complex and substantial social change ever been? But, it is possible if hearts and wills align to pursue the common good. It may be that the environmental crisis will call forth the best in our species and we will rise to the myriad of challenges before us. It may be that we will reclaim our relational ways of knowing and honour the gift which nature is by relearning how to live in harmony with the earth rather than exploiting the earth. It may be that we will turn our scientific and technological knowledge along with our economic and political systems towards creating a global revolution where alleviating poverty and the caring for the earth become the focus of our lives. Yes, it all may be.
Yet, to move beyond the ‘may be’ to action I need to jump in and swim in the waters as they are. There is no time but the present and there is no time to waste. We are all in this together. I need to do my part; I need to take one small action each day to reach out to those who are marginalized or take one small action each day to care for the earth. Moreover, I need to continue to engage my political and economic leaders in fierce conversations about how we are going to move forward as a species. Through my actions, and the cumulative actions of others throughout the world, maybe we will be able to pass on a future to the seventh generation and then join in altogether and sing Laudato Si (Praised Be!).