Earth Day 2020

A reflection from Caritas Internationalis secretary general Aloysius John

This year the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is marked by two major events, the global human tragedy created by the coronavirus infection and the fifth anniversary of Laudato Sì.

It is in this context where our hearts and minds are overshadowed by the clouds of despair and uncertainties, the Holy Father, Pope Francis through Laudato Sì is leading us to hope through the experience of conversion or change of heart.

Covid-19 has brought to light our vulnerability and the fragility of our existence. This virus has brought our modern world to a grinding halt followed by an economic recession, challenging our cultural and ecological attitudes of indifference to the suffering of Mother Earth.

This important day, Earth day, is a reminder for us to create “an awareness of the gravity of today’s cultural and ecological crisis which must be translated into new habits”(Laudato Sì #208-209). This means nurturing a culture of solidarity, concern for our neighbour, responsibility and compassionate care in particular for the vulnerable.

Before the propagation of the virus, the international community was able to show solidarity and act collectively. Let us affirm our conviction on Earth Day and on the eve of the fifth anniversary of Laudato Sì, to act together to protect Mother Earth, our common home and also manifest solidarity and global fraternity to nurture communion as one human family.

Caritas organisations all over the world are actively promoting people’s participation to manifest care for Mother Earth.

Among them, Caritas India organized a webinar to discuss how our interconnected lives can change for the better and help beat climate change after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

The following is a reflection by Dr Haridas V.R, Caritas India climate desk:

The Earth needs our care: Caritas India Earth Day reflection on climate lessons learned from COVID-19

As the globe marks Earth Day on 22nd April, Caritas India organised a webinar to discuss how our interconnected lives can change for the better and help beat climate change after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, as fear and illness sweep the globe, Caritas India is listening out for voices that speak of wisdom, generosity, courage and hope.

We are asking ourselves what the future could look like if we took the lessons we’re learning in the COVID-19 pandemic, and we rebuilt a world where everyone could thrive and where we would all have a fierce commitment to take care of each other.

The theme of Earth Day this year is climate action, which is the biggest challenge to the future of humanity. God has created this universe in such a way as to ensure interconnectedness and interdependence among its creations.

It is high time that we re-set the lost equation among the living beings and we bring the diseased earth and its ecosystem back to its state of harmony and peace. If there is ever a time in which humanity can finally recognise that we belong to one connected family on Earth, this is it.

When COVID-19 is finally behind us, instead of returning to normal life, we must hold on to the lessons we are currently learning and use them to fight against climate change.

Below are six lessons the coronavirus pandemic can teach us about our response to climate change.

    1. Science matters – We can save lives by funding, accessing and understanding the best science available. The science on climate change has been clear for decades, but we’ve failed in communicating the danger to the public, leading to slow action and widespread denial of the facts.
    2. How we treat the natural world affects our well-being – The loss of habitat and biodiversity creates conditions for lethal new viruses and diseases like COVID-19 to spill over into human communities. And if we continue to destroy our lands, we also deplete our resources and damage our agricultural systems.
    3. The sooner we mobilise for action, the less suffering will take place – Quick and drastic action can flatten the curve for coronavirus and free up healthcare resources, lowering death rates. Similarly, drastic action on climate change could reduce food and water shortages, natural disasters and sea level rise, protecting countless individuals and communities.
    4. We have the ability to make drastic changes very quickly – When sufficiently motivated, we can suspend business as usual and help each other. All over the world, healthy people are changing their lifestyles to protect the more vulnerable people in their communities. Similar dedication for climate change could transform our energy consumption immediately. All of us can make a difference and play an important role in the solution.
    5. All of us are vulnerable to crisis, though unequally – Those with underlying social, economic or physical vulnerabilities will suffer most. A society burdened with social and economic inequality is more likely to fall apart in a crisis. We must also recognise that industries and people who profit from an unjust status quo will try to interrupt the social transformation that a crisis requires.
    6. Holding on to a vision of a just, peaceful and sustainable Earth will give us strength for the future – Earth Day 2020 will be remembered as a time when humanity was reeling from a pandemic. But we pray that this year will also be remembered as a time when we all were suddenly forced to stop what we were doing, pay attention to one another and take action.


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