Ecological Examen By Greg Kennedy, SJ
We are going to assess our relationship with God, Giver and Creator by examining how we receive the gifts of creation.
Before modern chemistry and physics, people used to think that every creature was a different combination of four basic elements: fire, earth, air and water. How do we receive these elemental gifts in our private and societal lives today?
Life began in water. It begins ever anew in the water of wombs and eggs. Nearly 800 million people lack adequate drinking water. We use water not only when we turn the tap or flush the toilet, but every time we buy something. For example, it takes 15, 000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef and every one liter of bottled water requires 3 liters of water in production. So even if Canada is blessed with an abundance of fresh water, our consumption of imported goods contributes to water scarcity around the world. How do I conserve, protect and share water? Am I grateful for life? If yes, then how can I take water for granted?
Consider what we eat, or more significantly, what we do not eat. Nearly half of all food produced in Canada ends up wasted before tasted. Canadian households discard 25% of the food they purchase. Producing all that wasted food adds substantially to the soil erosion, pollution and deforestation committed by industrial agriculture. How I treat my food is how I treat my home.
Do I take more than I can eat? How well do I know the land supporting me. How often do I get out to walk with and listen to the geography where I live?
Nothing is more communal than breathing. The particles that were in your lungs a minute ago could enter my lungs any moment. We are always drinking from the same airy cup. And not just we humans, but all animals, insects, plants. What do I bring to this universal neighborhood? Besides dirting the air, our greenhouse gases have made it warmer and wetter, inducing more storms, floods and landslides. Do I put my convenience and comfort ahead of the safety and stability of the atmospheric neighborhood? Do I experience my need to breath as an individual right or a common responsibility?
Warmth and light! The gifts of fire are so dear to us that we keep them in our hearts and our minds. Most Canadians receive these gifts today not from the hearth but rather from the wall socket. We plug in to draw out all the benefits of electricity. But every switch we flip or button we press means that somewhere energy is being generated and degraded.
Am I aware that my use of power here disempowers another environment somewhere else? Wheter it is nuclear waste, flooded valleys behind a dam or carbon emissions from coal and gas, most of my modern “fire” burns places I do not see. Is my use of electricity gently and enlightened or dark and heavy?
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