SOCIAL AND ECOLOGICAL ISSUES

3.2 Caring for our planet: time for action?!

“Global warming is causing extreme weather conditions. Extremely hot and dry weather increases the number of natural fires.”

“The rate at which Antarctica is losing its ice has risen sharply in recent years.”

“Every year in the Amazon, an area the size of about one million soccer fields disappears from the forest. This accelerates climate change.”

“If we do not take action against climate change, one-third of all plant and animal species on earth will become extinct within a century.”

“The earth is sick and exhausted.”

ASSIGNMENT. Read the statements above and answer the following questions:
Are you worried about climate change? Why yes/no? What worries you the most?

In what way do you try to take care of the earth?

Do you have any idea how the Catholic Church handles the care of our planet?

3.3 The Catholic Church and the care for our planet

3.3.1 Introduction

Things are not going so well with the earth, environment, and climate right now. Humans have polluted the earth, and this has led to the current climate crisis. The climate crisis manifests itself, particularly in global warming. This warming has several serious consequences for man and nature, such as health problems, the extinction of animal species, water scarcity, the deterioration of available fertile land, natural fires, extreme weather conditions, conflicts between population groups, and so on.
For Christians, caring for the earth is very important. Christians believe that God created the earth. The earth is thus God’s creation and Christians want to take care of all of His creation.
To better understand this, we are going to read the story of creation. This is a story from the book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament.

3.3.2 The importance of Genesis 1

[26] Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
[27] So God created humankind in his image in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
[28] God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
[29] God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
[30] And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
[31] God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Source: NRSV, Genesis 1:26-31.

ASSIGNMENT. In the text, indicate verses

  • that you do not like;

  • that surprise you;

  • that you do not understand.

The story of creation is a very old text written a long time ago in a very different culture than ours. This story can be found in the book Genesis. This is the first book of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is more than 2000 years old. Although Bible stories were written a long time ago, they can still have an important meaning for us.
If we think about the relationship between man and nature, what can we learn from the creation story today? We will discover this step by step below.

3.3.3 ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE CREATED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

[27] So God created humankind in his image in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Source: NRSV, Genesis 1:27.

ASSIGNMENT. In the Bible fragment, it is written that humankind was created in the image of God. What does this mean?

ASSIGNMENT. Read the text below, and filll in the missing words.

care – responsible – symbolic meaning – reign – literally

If you read the Bible story in a literal way, it may indeed seem that man, as the one in charge, can over the earth and thus do what he wants with nature and animals. Yet this is not the message of the story. You should always look at the of every Bible story. This means that you must look and think beyond the words that are written down. Moreover, in Bible texts, you should not look for facts, but rather look at the images and symbols used to express a vision of God, the world and humankind.
Genesis 1 teaches us that man was created in the image of God. This means that man must for the creation of God, the earth, just as God would do. It means that man is for nature, animals and other people. Creation is a precious gift from God with which man must deal in a caring manner.

3.3.4 Man will ‘rule’. What does this mean?

ASSIGNMENT. Below you can find the Bible story again. Indicate in the Bible story the verses that make it seem that man is allowed to rule over the earth.

[26] Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
[27] So God created humankind in his image in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
[28] God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
[29] God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.
[30] And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
[31] God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Source: NRSV, Genesis 1:26-31.

In the Bible fragment we can read that man must ‘rule over’ creation. Important! This does not literally mean that man is allowed to be in charge of creation just like that! With the word ‘rule’ the story refers to the responsibility that man must bear towards all life on earth. So, we can better understand the word ‘rule’ as ‘serve’. Man is given the task by God to ‘serve’ the earth by taking care of life in creation: nature, animals and other people.

ASSIGNMENT. Do you think that humans today, as rulers, abuse the earth, nature and animals? Why yes/no? Is this an appropriate attitude?

ASSIGNMENT. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Would he think so today? Why yes/no? What would you ‘recreate’ in the existing world?

3.4 And what about caring for our fellow human beings?

The story of creation does not only want to tell us something about how humans should deal with nature. Man, just like all plants and animals, is part of creation. So, the story of creation is not only about caring for nature and animals, it is also about caring for others.

Did you know that climate change has a major impact on human relationships? Climate change can lead to a shortage of drinkable water or food, health problems, extreme weather (heat, drought, torrential rains), and so on. Because of the consequences of global warming, the living environment of more and more people is under threat. This can lead to a source of frustration and discussion among people!So, caring for the climate is also related to caring for each other!

ASSIGNMENT. Read the quote above. Do you agree with this quote? Why do you/do you not?

ASSIGNMENT. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Would he think so today? Why yes/no? What would you ‘recreate’ in the existing world?

2.4 GLOSSARY

Genesis
Genesis is the first book of the First Testament. ‘Genesis’ is Hebrew for ‘in the beginning’. This Bible book tells the story of creation, the Fall, and the history of Israel. The sacrifice of Isaac can also be found in this Bible book. Genesis contains stories of faith and does not aim to give a factual or historical account of the creation of the world.

Isaac sacrifice
In a symbolic reading of the Bible story about the Sacrifice of Isaac, we may also ask ourselves whether we are making an ‘Isaac Sacrifice’ today. Sacrifices are part of life. They teach us to reflect upon ourselves. This is also called ‘to bring an Isaac Sacrifice’. For believers, such an Isaac Sacrifice can cause them to question not only their image of humanity but also their image of God.

Middle East
The Bible, and thus the stories of the First Testament, originated centuries ago in the culture of the Middle East. All biblical stories are strongly influenced by the culture and the social life of the Middle East.
Jesus lived in the Middle East. That is why Christianity has its origins in this region. The Middle East has also contributed significantly to other developments in European culture, like for example, our alphabet, developments in agriculture, and so on.
The term ‘Middle East’ refers to the countries of Southwest Asia and some parts of North Africa, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and so on.

Polytheism
The term ‘Polytheist’ refers to someone who does not believe in one, but in several gods. The term ‘polytheism’ therefore refers to a religion with several gods.
The Greeks and the Romans of antiquity, for example, were polytheists as they believed in different gods.

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