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June 5, 2005
Celebrating the World Environment Day

orld Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5 in more than 100 countries around the world. It was established in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly to focus worldwide attention on the importance of the environment and to stimulate political attention and action on environmental issues. The event seeks to empower people to become active agents of sustainable development; promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues; and advocate partnership which will ensure that all nations and people will enjoy a safer and more prosperous future. There are many concerns about our environment. Three of those concerns are the focus here.

Climate Change

Climate change represents one of the most serious and far-reaching challenges facing humankind in the twenty-first Century. The international consensus of scientific opinion, led by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is agreed that global temperature is increasing and that the main cause is the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a result of human activities. Scientific opinion is also agreed that the threat posed will become more severe over coming decades. (Meeting the Climate Challenge; Recommendations of the International Climate Change Taskforce).

A recent article in America Magazine stated:

“Glaciers are disappearing; Antarctic ice shelves are collapsing, the Greenland ice cap is eroding; the Arctic winter has grown shorter; and polar sea ice is thinner. Penguins are deprived of nesting areas, and polar bears are losing breeding grounds. Across the Northern Hemisphere, flora and fauna are migrating steadily northward. Global warming is no longer a matter of forecasts generated by computers. It is more and more a confirmed fact. The world’s climate is changing and at a faster pace than climatologists had projected.” (America, Vol.192, No.9, March 14, 2005).

Global warming not only raises the temperature of the Earth, but also increases the likelihood of severe storms, threatens biodiversity, contributes to heat-related illnesses, and causes flooding in sensitive areas such as island nations.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Learn more about global warming. With humanity demanding more from the Earth than ever before, BBC News explores the planet's most pressing environmental problems in a six-part series: Planet Under Pressure.
  • Share the above information with at least three other people and discuss responses to this serious situation with them.
  • Click here to take an online quiz measuring your ecological foot print. (English, German, Portuguese, Spanish)

Water

Water is an important part of our environment and we need to improve our care and conservation of water resources. Did you know that there is no such thing as “new water”? Water is merely recycled and renewed versions of the same drop? In a perpetual cycle of movement and reformation, the water on earth has sustained and nurtured all life on our planet since the beginning of time. The water you are drinking today may once have been a wading pond for dinosaurs! (Every Body Counts, Every Drop Matters. Donna Goodman, UN Classroom Resource Guide on Water). The issue of accessibility to clean and safe drinking water for all is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Sustainable Development

The Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2015) provides an opportunity for consciousness-raising regarding environmental issues while the Social Doctrine of the Church provides us with foundational principles of our faith to guide our reflection and action

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Celebrate World Environment Day in a special way.
  • Sometime during World Environment Day take a contemplative moment to ask yourself: Are there concrete ways in which I display a reverence for the earth in my daily life? (gardening, recycling, careful use of fossil fuels, choices to consume less, organic options at the market, mindful consumption, memberships in co-ops),
  • Choose either global warming, water, or sustainable development and learn something new about that issue. The resources listed below may be helpful.
  • Become familiar with Catholic Social Teaching as well as the teaching of other religions and faiths on the integrity of creation and the environment.
  • Try to see the connection between the Earth Charter, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the Decade for Sustainable Development, and the Water for Life Decade.
  • Take another contemplative moment outdoors observing a bird, an insect, a flower, or just quietly be present to creation.
  • Promote the accomplishment of Goal 7 Ensure Environmental Sustainability by finding out what your country is doing to meet the MDGs.
  • Go for a walk and be aware of how many species of plant and animal life you see.
  • Be aware of how you use water in one day, at the end of the day give thanks for the gift of water.
  • Join the campaign of millions of citizens worldwide, who are asking our government leaders to be accountable for their promise. (World leaders will meet at the United Nations in September 2005 and review their performance over the last five years on their promise to significantly reduce poverty, illiteracy, inequality and disease in poor countries and help achieve the Millennium Development Goals.) See also http://www.svdcuria.org/public/jpic/mdg2005/index.htm

Additional Resources

If you wish to examine the critical issues of global warming and climate change more deeply, the following sites provide excellent information.

These sites offer rich resources to help you understand more fully the issues involved in water access, privatization of water and will also provide references to Catholic Social Teaching:

“It is manifestly unjust that a privileged few should continue to accumulate excess goods, squandering available resources, while masses of people are living in conditions of misery at the very lowest level of subsistence. Today, the dramatic threat of ecological breakdown is teaching us the extent to which greed and selfishness—both individual and collective—are contrary to the order of creation, an order that is characterized by mutual interdependence.”

(Pope John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace, No. 8.)

Look up these sites for more information concerning the environment:

“Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its life style. In many parts of the world society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these cause. As I have already stated, the seriousness of the ecological issue lays bare the depth of man's moral crisis. If an appreciation of the value of the human person and of human life is lacking, we will also lose interest in others and in the earth itself. Simplicity, moderation and discipline, as well as a spirit of sacrifice, must become a part of everyday life, lest all suffer the negative consequences of the careless habits of a few.”

(John Paul II, 1990 World Day of Peace, No. 13).

Prayer

We pray for the waters of the rivers,
That through God’s grace we will fill them again with bountiful life.
We pray for the soil of the earth,
That through God’s grace we will work for abundant harvests for all.
We pray for the birds of the trees,
That through God’s grace we can offer them sheltering green leaves.
We pray for all of this sacred earth,
That through God’s grace and with God’s help
we will renew the music of creation’s pulsating life.