i am almost finished with the environment chapter in my devil’s syrup book, which has to do with environmentalism. here is an excerpt for this year’s earth day.
I have a philosophy: every day should be earth day. One day a year is not going to convince the world that we need to be doing something to help out the planet. One thing I’m happy my parents deeply ingrained in me was the decency to clean up after my footprint on the planet. My parents are polarized when it comes to most politics, but the one thing they both agree on is conservation and stewardship of the planet. I have no recollection of a time in my life when I didn’t recycle, and it has been that way because I have parents who understand that part of being on this planet is a recognition that we need to keep it in good condition, if not better condition than when we arrived. Unfortunately, as a whole humans are not doing a great job at this philosophy, but as individuals, my parents passed along their awareness early on and more than well enough.
I remember in the Catholic grade school I went to celebrating earth day; it was a big deal. We decorated t-shirts, had poster contests more than once, recited the three Rs (Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!), planted trees, and pledged to turn the lights off when we weren’t using them. Maybe it was the culture of that particular school or it was the time period (the mid-to-late-80s), but I don’t remember as much of a focus on earth day once we moved away and my siblings and I picked up our studies at public school. This isn’t to say my family wasn’t still maintaining stewardship of the earth; it just wasn’t a huge focus in school, where an impressionable young person spends seven hours of the day.
Once I got to college, the tables turned again, and a focus on being green was once again in my educational life. I went to an all-girls’ Catholic college where a focus on easy recycling, reduction of paper usage, and even a major in environmental studies was offered. The Catholic Church, it turns out, has it straight when it comes to the environment. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has actually published a number of statements concerning social justice and climate change. In 1993, an Environmental Justice Program was created to “educate and motivate Catholics to a deeper reverence and respect for God’s creation, and to encourage Catholics to address environmental problems, particularly as they affect poor and vulnerable people.” Social justice and concern for the environment go hand in hand.
(If you are Catholic, or formerly Catholic with hints of guilt, or even if you aren’t anywhere near being Catholic and want to see what Catholics are doing about climate change, you can visit the Catholic Climate Covenant website at http://catholicclimatecovenant.org/. Once there, you can sign up for a newsletter that will keep you up to date on all Catholic statements on climate change and take the St. Francis pledge. As a person of the second variety, I found the site hopeful and enlightening.)