Our Creator has made a magnificent, complex, world, and it is affected by what we humans do to it. Our use of a vast majority of its resources not only harms us but deprives people in other countries of the food, health care and education they need as ecosystems are failing.
When something old falls apart, change happens. In the spiritual life, the pain of something old falling apart invites us to listen at a deeper level, which can force us to go to a place we usually would not go. The mystics tell us that this place does not feel good because as Jesus said: “It is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt 7:14). He says this after saying that we must “treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Matt 7:12), knowing how difficult it is to change our reference point from ourselves as the center of the universe.
While our consumer society usually considers more as better, Meister Eckhart said, “The spiritual life is more about subtraction than it is addition.” When we let go of wanting more, we become free for what is real, true and what works, now and in the long run. Our freedom lies in realizing that everything is a gift from God and must be returned to God. “The land must not be permanently sold because the land is mine. You are just immigrants and foreign guests of mine” (Leviticus 25:23). We accomplish this by giving to others what rightly belongs to them, as well as to us.
Because of the destruction of natural ecosystems by overgrazing, deforestation, unsustainable agricultural land conversion and dependency on fossil fuels, the water cycle of the earth is changing, causing droughts, melting glaciers, rising sea-levels and ocean acidification. We are simply demanding more than the earth can provide. Reducing our personal and collective carbon footprint is the most essential step we can take so all can live within the means of our planet. International environment agreements have prompted others to begin working towards this goal.
Denmark has been replacing its coal energy with wind and biofuels since the 1970s. In 2014, their carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 6.7 metric tons. In 2019, a new climate law was passed to reduce the country’s 1990 carbon emissions level to 70% by 2030. A combination of wind, sun, water, biomass and geothermal heat will be used for carbon neutrality by 2050. Every five years, new emission targets will be set, holding the Minister for Climate and Energy accountable.
Iceland, under the Kyoto Protocol, provided almost all heating and electricity by renewable hydro and geothermal energy. Under the Paris Agreement, Iceland aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by utilizing biofuel, hydrogen, methane, electric power and other means to decrease their dependence on fossil-fuel-run planes, ships and cars. A radical method called “Carb Fix” captured and sequestered 90% of 2018 CO2 emissions, causing a one-third reduction of them. This action aims to make Iceland carbon neutral before 2040. All companies plan to work as a cooperative of diverse industries committed to become carbon neutral.
In 2003, San Francisco set a goal of Zero Waste by 2020. In 2009, the city implemented a residential and commercial curbside program, collecting recyclables, compostable materials of food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard trimmings, and any remaining trash with no landfill or incineration technology. More than 2 million tons of food scraps, yard trimmings, and other compostable materials were collected for compost and used by local farmers and wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. There was nearly an 80% diversion by 2012.
In No. 161 of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis says: “The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.”