Home » Sustainable Development » Catholics should do more to honor World Environment Day

View of the São Francisco River from the Chapel of Our Lord of Bonfim (Good Death) in Piranhas in the state of Alagoas, Brazil. Photo by Flávio José Rocha.

World Environment Day on June 5 is an occasion for us to celebrate the generosity and abundance of our Mother Earth. It is also a day to recognize that our planet, even though it has been so generous to us, cannot produce everything at the high speed that the industrial society demands from it.

How can we celebrate this day when we see so much news about the devastation of the Amazon, the pollution of our rivers and the mountains of plastic in the oceans? How can we be happy when socioeconomic inequality forces millions of poor people to move to big cities, losing the way to live like their ancestors, while at the same time billionaires are buying desert islands to have a piece of pristine nature just for themselves? Not to mention the children who die every day because of contaminated water in rural areas or get sick in the big cities because of air pollution.

With so much bad news, it is sometimes hard to remain hopeful, but even with all these problems, we have so much to thank God for, including the abundance of our “common home.”

As people of faith who are connected to the Catholic Church, we need to reflect on our role in this common home. Few institutions in the world have more resources to help change this situation for the better than our church. Our presence in academia, grassroots movements and international organizations involved in major global decisions requires us to be more proactive in addressing the environmental crises.

Imagine all the parishes, dioceses, church groups, religious orders and congregations, universities and lay Catholic organizations using their material and intellectual asserts in different ways and networking to reverse global warming? Imagine the many positive results if this kind of commitment could be sustained.

We know that some Catholic groups are already very committed to protecting and restoring God’s creation, but we still need to attract many more faithful to this cause as any kind of global change is very slow and needs time to be realized. There is no better moment than the present, especially given the great advocacy by Pope Francis who has already demonstrated his environmental leadership through his Laudato Si’ encyclical and the Amazon synod.

We hope for an institutional conversion, not merely an individual one. To do our own parts is very important, but with only isolated actions we cannot achieve great results. This is a time to move from competition to cooperation in our groups. Without a great alliance now, it will be difficult for our children to celebrate this date in the future.

Flávio José Rocha
Flávio José Rocha is a Maryknoll lay missioner in João Pessoa, Brazil, whose ministries include alternative health, theater of the oppressed and research on water privatization and pollution in Brazil.