Earth Day and Remembering Adam


“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.” (Psalm 66)

Today is Earth Day. Back in 2001, the US Conference on Catholic Bishops issued a statement in support of addressing climate change responsibly in light of the good of the whole human family. Their document opens: “As people of faith, we are convinced that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all it holds’ (Ps 24:1). Our Creator has given us the gift of creation: the air we breathe, the water that sustains life, the fruits of the land that nourish us, and the entire web of life without which human life cannot flourish. All of this God created and found ‘very good.’ We believe our response to global climate change should be a sign of our respect for God’s creation.”

The USCCB document calls for the use of prudence to address the issue, and especially calls attention to the disproportionate impact of global climate change on poor people in developing countries who are often without sufficient resources to respond to the effects of climate change. Global warming may cause food shortages, water shortages, flooding, all of which also affect the political stability and peace of different communities. Food and water insecurity are humanitarian problems and political problems. With the forthcoming encyclical from Pope Francis  (and Vatican Summit), I hope we will also see climate change as a central spiritual problem.

In Genesis, the first man is created from dust of the earth and divine breath. The author of Genesis plays off of Adam’s name in connecting it to the Hebrew term for earth, adamah. Adam’s name reminds us of the dual nature of the human person. On the one hand, we are already infused with the divine, interconnected to God, persons with a distinctively spiritual dimension. On the other hand, our being is earth: we are water, sodium, iron, and a host of other minerals that literally enter our body through eating and drinking the Earth. We are interconnected to all of the physical being of the cosmos. These two sides of us, the earthly and the spiritual are one, not a dualism of opposites, but a unity where we find the earthly is infused with the spiritual and the spiritual is embodied and enfleshed.

For more resources on Catholic organizations supporting activism in light of climate change, see:

Catholic Climate Covenant: http://catholicclimatecovenant.org/

The Global Catholic Climate Movement: http://catholicclimatemovement.global/

See the USCCB resources on social justice and the environment here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/