Tommy Thompson Park--Photo by Jeffrey Eisen on Unsplash
“The natural world is a vital source of humanity’s collective flourishing, and in its grandeur can be found signs of the Divine. Throughout history, and in all parts of the world, nature is the physical loom upon which the tapestry of culture, civilization, and peace is woven. Religious and spiritual traditions compel us to care for creation, of which we are an integral part, with love, respect, and reverence.”
-2020 Faith Call to Action for Biodiversitysigned by over 50 religious bodies and faith based organizations in the lead up to the UN Summit on Biodiversity
Protect the Web of Life: People of Faith Call for Ambitious Action at UN Biodiversity Conference
Not far from downtown Toronto lies the Leslie Street Spit,a 5-kilometre long peninsula jutting into Lake Ontario. It was formed by a dumping of construction and dredging waste, which began in the 1950’s, originally for a breakwater that was later not needed. Plants began to grow there from seeds in the landfill or washed ashore or brought by wind or birds. In the 1970’s, a local group of birdwatchers, naturalists and cyclists worked to gain access and soon came together as Friends of the Spit. They engaged in ongoing advocacy against various development plans so the area could “grow as nature intended”. In 1985 the part of the spit owned by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) became Tommy Thompson Park.
Over the years the TRCA, with support from community groups and others, have stewarded the evolving ecological communities as well as engaged in various habitat restoration and enhancement initiatives. To help deal with the Spit and other Toronto shoreline alterations contributing to erosion of the Toronto Islands, the TRCA built a nearshore reef at the islands which also provides fish habitat.
The Spit is now a “biodiversity hotspot” providing wetland, woodland, grassland, aquatic and other habitat homes for diverse and at-risk species. It is also recognized internationally as an Important Bird Area. Migrating birds, butterflies and other insects use the Spit as a critical stopover point. The Spit also provides a space for low impact recreation opportunities, ecological education and reconnection with nature—all contributing to the well-being of nearby city residents. A waste dump became a space for learning to live in harmony with nature.
“Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy” Ps 96:12
“During this Season of Creation, let us pray that COP27 and COP15 can serve to unite the human family (Laudato Si', 13) in effectively confronting the double crisis of climate change and the reduction of biodiversity. Mindful of the exhortation of Saint Paul to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom 12:15), let us weep with the anguished plea of creation. Let us hear that plea and respond to it with deeds, so that we and future generations can continue to rejoice in creation’s sweet song of life and hope.”
-Message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, Sept. 1, 2022, Pope Francis
“I have spoken of an “ecological conversion” which demands a change of mentality and a commitment to work for the resilience of people and the ecosystems in which they live. This conversion has three important spiritual elements… The first entails gratitude for God’s loving and generous gift of creation. The second calls for acknowledging that we are joined in a universal communion with one another and with the rest of the world’s creatures. The third involves addressing environmental problems not as isolated individuals but in solidarity as a community.” Pope Francis, 13 July 2022.
Catholics will journey together during Laudato Si’ Week May 22 - 29
Catholics around the world will listen and respond together to the cry of creation during Laudato Si’ Week, marking the 7th anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home. The 2022 theme is Listening and Journeying Together.
signed by around 40 faith leaders including Pope Francis, October 4, 2021
People of faith led, organized, collaborated and participated in many acts of justice and solidarity during the critical time leading up to and throughout the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow from 31 Oct. - 13 Nov.
In herreflectionat the end of COP26, Karri Munn-Venn withCitizens for Public Justice concluded that “as we look to the future, it is abundantly clear that one,much more needs to be done, and two, we are making a difference through our actions, our faithful witness, our amplification of the demands from the Global South, and our advocacy for climate justice.”
Some highlights of justice and solidarity in action along the way to COP26
Around 40 leaders from the world’s diverse religions signed a joint appeal at the "Faith and Science: Towards COP26" meeting hosted by the Vatican on October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. The joint appeal called world leaders to greater ambition at the UN Climate Change Conference including a 1.5°C limit to global warming, substantial financial support for vulnerable countries, and no more biodiversity loss. Recalling that “care for the earth and for others is a key tenet of all our traditions” they committed to taking greater action within their own religious traditions and urged everyone on the planet to join in healing our common home.
“This is the first time that the three of us feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability, its impact on persistent poverty, and the importance of global cooperation. Together, on behalf of our communities, we appeal to the heart and mind of every Christian, every believer and every person of good will. We pray for our leaders who will gather in Glasgow to decide the future of our planet and its people…
All of us—whoever and wherever we are—can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation.”
“A Joint Message for the Protection of Creation.” September 2021, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.
“May we not waste this moment”
The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion joined together in a historic “urgentappealfor the future of the planet” leading up to the two significant United Nations conferences taking place this fall onbiodiversityandclimate change. This is a critical time for calling on global leaders to take the urgent action needed to protect our common home.
In a joint message for the Season of Creation, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Justin Welby call on everyone to do their part in responding together ”to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation”. They warn that climate change is “an immediate and urgent matter of survival” which “tomorrow could be worse” for the children and teenagers of today. The statement emphasizes the profound injustice that the worst consequences of biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are affecting the poorest on the planet who have been least responsible for causing them.
“When we look around ourselves, what do we see? We see crisis leading to crisis…
we are warned that we have little time left – scientists say the next ten years, the span of this UN Decade – to restore the ecosystem, which will mean the integral restoration of our relation with nature… As we welcome this United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, let us be compassionate, creative and courageous.”
Pope Francis’ Message for the Launching of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration
“In this Easter season of renewal, let us pledge to love and esteem the beautiful gift of the earth, our common home, and to care for all members of our human family.” Pope Francis, Earth Day 2020
The growing signs of springtime wonder can help renew us as we deal with this third wave of the pandemic. Our own health and wellbeing is deeply interconnected with the health and wellbeing of others and our common planetary home. Yet inequalities are deepening as climate change, the pandemic and vaccine shortage continue to disproportionately affect the poor and vulnerable.
The pandemic has not put climate change on hold. Earlier this month NOAA reported that greenhouse gas emissions surged in 2020 despite pandemic shutdowns. Carbon dioxide reached a level last seen on earth around 3.6 million years ago when sea levels were about 78 feet higher and large forests grew in the Arctic.
“Advent is a continuous call to hope…Let us try to bring out the good even from the difficult situation that the pandemic imposes upon us” Pope Francis, November 29, 2020.
People of faith seeking to “change the wind” towards justice and compassion
In an Advent reflection, Fr. Ron Rolheiser gives an example of hope from Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, of how people of faith helped bring down apartheid in South Africa. They prayed and placed lit candles in their windows for all to see a sign of their hope that apartheid would end. Despite their government making the lit candles a crime, that prayerful act of hope “changed the wind in South Africa” and helped end apartheid. Wallis explains that politicians make decisions based on which way the wind is blowing so hope’s task is “to change the wind”.
“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family.”