Theory to practice: positive ways to act, guided by faith 

By guest blogger Sian Pankhurst, December 3, 2019.

If you’ve followed by blog posts for the last few weeks, you’re probably thinking: “well, now I know that these things are happening, what can I do about it?” .

This is important to think about because although we can use force, have protests, undertake lobbying and sign petitions, this is not a suitable response for everybody for many reasons (inclination, accessability, socioeconomic situations, age and personal values spring to mind). This post is going to discuss practical ways which anyone can help the environment in small ways. If we start by small actions at the individual level, we are living the calls of Laudato Si’: message of looking after our common home and everyone within it.

“Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs” Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 113-114. In Laudato Si, 2015

I think we are seeing an increasing awareness and concern for our common home. Protecting the environment has a long history both in the secular and the Catholic worlds (just think of St Francis and care for creation!). This demonstrates just how many people have taken action on issues such as man-made dams, deforestation, chemical poisoning, animal rights, animal welfare, and food sovereignty (defined as people’s rights to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced in ethical and ecologically sustainable ways, and have the right to determine their own food/farming systems, Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, 2019).

These movements have come out of people wanting to do something about an environmental issue which has concerned them. Undertaking action on these issues allowed for changes to be made  big and small. These social movements have made an impact.

However, you do not need to be a part of a social movement to undertake environmental action. In some ways it is easier. The power of voice and power in numbers can present an advantage, but as discussed above, it is not for everyone. But, in the rise of this movement and the growing school of knowledge on environmental solutions has given us ways which all of us, bit by bit, can adjust our lifestyles to play a part. This can allow people to understand that people can be the change they want to see: they do not have to be militant, or perceived as extreme, or on the political outer – something that can come to mind when talking about the environmental movement, whether justified or not.

Here are some simple ways to put these emotions and ideas into practise

Individually

  • Be inspired by the hierarchy below. Not using and using what you already have is much more energy, resource and environmentally friendly. Remember, that energy goes into recycling, thrifting and repurposing (think that rainshell made from recycled bottles. We still needed to put energy in to make that jacket!).

Source: Sarah Lazarovic, The Story of Stuff, 2019.
  • Reuse: Since the introduction of major supermarkets and shops plastic bag ban, there has been an increase in reusable bags. Even though people may get a bit cranky about having to buy bags and if you are me, constantly forgetting your reusable bag so you have to carry your groceries in a cardboard box, it does make a difference. You can buy reusable bags online and place them in the back of your car or even have them in a box at the front door. You can also reuse by using reusable plastic containers for food and a reusable drink bottle. Reusing reduces the amount of single use products in landfill, or the energy input required to recycle and repurpose these goods. It might cost some money to buy these but, economically, it will save money in the long run – good for your wallet and good for the environment.
  • Buy less food, love leftovers and learn the art of a fridge-clean-out-casserole.
  • Otherwise… make a compost bin! A good compost bin will allow for all your food waste to be useful in another light if it is done properly. Since food waste is a large issue, making a working compost bin for fruits and vegetables can minimise your food waste and if you are an avid gardener, can save you money on mulch and fertiliser, a bonus. These need to be done properly and will take time and money, but this small change will allow for a change in eating habits and a better alternative for the planet
  • Try and support eco-friendly and ethical organisations: buy certified Fair Trade, locally sourced, small producers and just buy less stuff! This is easier for those who have a bit more financial security, but maybe this Christmas or for birthdays, buy something which not only looks after the environment, but looks after people at home and abroad. Newspaper makes a really eco-friendly wrapping paper alternative!

Hey, why not become an Earthcare leader?

This one takes a bit of work to do, but making a small Earthcare network in your community, even if it is three people from your school, church or social group will make a difference. This can allow for a practical way to do something and it can be as simple as having a tree planting day at a school or church, it can be that simple. If you’d like to join Earthcare as a young person, please get in contact with us here – we are here to help support you!

This is important because as with all these posts, this specifically links with Laudato Si (2015). When reading the document, it is not seen as much of a here is what’s going on sort of document, it calls for action, a duty to protect the earth. Laudato Si (2015) discusses how we are faced with global deterioration of the environment with impacts felt by all of us, especially the poor. To act is to listen and respond to the message of Laudato Si’.

Francis warns us in Laudato Si (2015) that if we do not do anything, our earth will become more of a pile of “filth”. Simply following this hierarchy avoids more ‘stuff’ going to into this pile of filth. And, since fair trade requires rigorous environmental and socially equitable conditions be met, we are answering the cry of the poor too.

21. Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected.

Laudato Si, Paragraph 21.

Composting, growing your own, purchasing local. All of this helps reduce the ‘stuff’, the filth in which we can contaminate our world, and His creation.

We can be guided by Laudato Si’ to make a difference. If you answer the call of the encyclical, you are doing something. And if we all come together and ‘do something’, then we start to create real change. Others feel supported and encouraged to join us on this journey. And although we may need collective action for positive global change, these small actions – even just having a tree planting bee at your local parish – will do something to play a role. Sometimes, alike Jesus’ parables, the smallest contribution sometimes is the greatest.

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