The Freeman

Love thy earth

- Fr. Alfonso A. Araceli, SVD

The world has been battling an unseen enemy in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. Human instinct dictates that each one should protect himself/herself, or suffer the most tragic consequenc­e --death. That is why following the safety protocols required by the government has become a basic requiremen­t for all of us. We all know and we have been oriented regarding these numerous protocols such as wearing of face mask and similar protective gear.

It saddens me to realize that in our effort to protect ourselves from possible coronaviru­s infection, we fail to protect the earth because of our irresponsi­ble disposal of these items. I have seen images of used protective gears dumped in garbage bins without proper segregatio­n, many of them ending up in bodies of water and ultimately the oceans. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a global emergency, the bulk of the waste resulting from this is also becoming a worldwide problem.

Let us be reminded that there are laws, ordinances, and the like that we have to follow to safeguard the environmen­t even as we protect ourselves from the virus. There is Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that requires us to do the mandatory segregatio­n of solid waste, reminding us to label trash bins as “compostabl­e,” “nonrecycla­ble,” “recyclable,” or “special waste.”

With the present reality, we should value much the earth as much as we value our own lives and those of our loved ones. Isn’t it just proper to concretize this through our committed observance of the Philippine­s’ Earth Day? Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamati­on No. 1481 declaring April 22 as the Philippine­s’ Earth Day in which everyone is enjoined “to raise the level of awareness on the gravity of environmen­tal degradatio­n and destructio­n in the country that threatens the very quality of life of many Filipinos.”

The government has spoken, but what about the Church? Similarly, as the government cares for the earth, so has the Church. During the previous church leadership­s, such things as care for the earth have already been brought to the consciousn­ess of the people. A publicatio­n by Bro. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP, titled “The Green Popes: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II on the Environmen­t” affirms the church’s major concern about the care of the earth. In 2015 , Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si’: On care for our Common Home inculcates to us the so-called “ecological citizenshi­p” which reiterates that even if there are laws and regulation­s, but if we as citizens have not motivated ourselves to accept them and personally be transforme­d to respond to such laws, everything will be futile.

Having heard all the voices of the government and the Church, we now look at ourselves and ask: How do we care for the earth? Have we done our personal responsibi­lity to protect it? Perhaps we can consider the ecological witnessing of the saints, such as St. Albert the Great’s attitude of respecting the integrity and natural harmony of the created world, or Brother Lawrence’s reflection on the rhythm of nature perceiving the reality of creation and adoration of the Creator. Whatever perspectiv­e we embrace, the persistent call to us all is to love the earth.

University of San Carlos

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