Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletDecember 15, 2017

Earth Concerns News

The Earth Charter, Principle 8: Ecological Sustainability by Sister Lin Neil, CSJ


The Earth Charter, Principle Eight: Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.

This principle of the Earth Charter asks us “to advance the study of ecological sustainability” and sounds more like the purview of governments or educational institutions. However, in this principle we can hear the call to live in an ecologically sustainable way. What is that exactly? To me, sustainability comes down to living in the spirit of the seventh generation. The great law of the Iroquois stated that, “In every deliberation we must consider the impact on the seventh generation.” Depending on how you calculate a generation, that could be 170 years or more! I can't think that far ahead, so I consider my grandnephews. What do I want the world to be like for them? I want them to have natural places where they can have adventures and connect with wildness. I want them to have clean air and water. I want them to enjoy an environment that is not poisoned with chemicals, so that they can be healthy. I want them to have imaginations that are fired by nature, nature that is full of vast numbers of species, not one depleted and poor because of extinctions. I want them to be able to eat nourishing food that is grown in real soil, not in chemicals. If I want all this for them and for the young of all species, then I have important decisions to make right now.
 
So I need to make sustainable choices in every aspect of my life: how I eat, how I shop, the clothes I wear, how I drive and what I throw away. What I eat is a huge choice. Locally grown and/or organic foods are sustainable. Food that comes from local farms prevents long trips across the country or across the world which necessitate large amounts of fossil fuels and mega-packaging (Check labels to see how far your food has traveled.) Organic food preserves soil and water from the ravages of industrial agriculture.
 
Check how and where natural resources are obtained because the manufacturing process can put a huge strain on Earth. For example, paper that is made from post-consumer recycled waste is most sustainable. Buying this kind of paper keeps paper out of the landfill and spares trees. Reusable mugs and water bottles prevent waste. Checking on the environmental and worker-rights' records of companies from whom we purchase may be done at www.responsibleshopper.org.
 
Reducing our consumption is urgent! We are eating Mother Earth alive with our American habits of consumption! Sustainability demands that we reflect on our needs and wants and that we consider the life span of a product before it enters the waste stream. The frenzy of holiday shopping is upon us. Fair-trade products from Equal Exchange or Heartbeats make Earth and worker-friendly gifts. Gift certificates from Heifer International help to feed the hungry and to teach them sustainable farming methods. Homemade items or those bought in our Carondelet Shop or Woodworking Shop are creative ways to celebrate Christmas.
 
Does this take a great amount of work? Well, yes, but more than work, it takes consciousness about the rights and needs of the entire web of life. We must heed our chapter call “to live in right relationship with Earth.” Communion with creation says that we must “acknowledge our own complicity and call ourselves to radical choices in order to be just with not abusive of Earth's resources.” This is sustainability, but I venture to add that we must not abuse Earth by thinking about her as a storehouse of resources which might imply that creation is just a commodity for the human. We must see Earth and her creatures as kin.

Principle Eight calls on us “to recognize and preserve the traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cultures that contribute to environmental protection and human well-being.” Our Native American peoples have been trying to share their ways of sustainability with our culture for centuries. Daniel R. Webster, a lecturer, professor and member of the Muskogee Nation says: “Right now the planet requires that humankind listen to what indigenous people are saying. Indigenous people, those who take their instructions for living from the sacred powers of this creation, the environment, ecosystems and climates, possess useful knowledge that is much needed today. Mother Earth has issued a red alert, and indigenous peoples have been echoing this alert a very long time. Tribal elders possess world views and life ways, closely tied to the unique environments where they have lived. Their main message is that nature and culture cannot be divorced. If we see the natural world as full of relatives, not as resources, good things will happen.” (Mother Earth Has Issued a Red Alert, Indian Country Today, 1 August 2007: A2).

Let's act sustainably and make good things happen for Earth and for ourselves!