As I write this, we’re 18 days away from COP26. Having just come to the end of the Season of Creation, we’ve had time to reflect on how we care for creation and our hopes for the planet. We’re now looking ahead to this important moment for the climate, and trying to put our learning into action.
Creation is a gift. Its abundance, beauty and richness is undeniable, especially when we consider we’re still discovering new species and uses for natural materials. To destroy this is violence against creation. Extractivism and misuse of resources is violence against the earth. Destruction of habitats and biodiversity is violence against all living things. Damaging the environment is violence against our brothers and sisters at risk from the effects of climate change, particularly those living in precarious situations who are least able to deal with the effects, whilst also contributing the least to its causes.
This year, the Catholic Days of Nonviolence focused on living nonviolently in the web of creation. The idea that we are all part of this ‘web’, inextricably linked, connected to one another and the world, means that if we are called to live peacefully and nonviolently with each other, so too are we called to live nonviolently with the Earth.
If we see nonviolence as a way of life, that means we make choices and act in a way that respects others, challenges injustice, and offers alternatives to violence and war, we can also apply this to the environment. Living nonviolently is a way of life that respects the Earth, works to nurture it and to live peacefully with creation.
When we think of our daily lives, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to visualise how our actions affect the Earth and how we can adequately do something in response to the huge challenges we are facing. How can we begin to live nonviolently in a world that seems so violent? We all have a part to play, no matter whether big or small. Those switching to environmentally friendly alternatives for energy, reducing plastic waste, planting wildflowers, campaigning for divestment and changing policy are all working in different ways for the same cause. In Pax Christi, our work for peace challenges conflict and military emissions that cause damage to the environment, which in turn contributes to conflict. All our work for justice and peace is looking towards a world where we live nonviolently, with each other and with creation.
As we hope for a world in which climate justice is a reality, it also means we’re going to have to learn and practise those skills needed to live and work nonviolently. It’s going to be a time when we’ll have to process a grief for the loss of biodiversity and the way we live now, a time of development and a time of change. We’ll need to learn how to support one another. We will need conflict resolution and mediation skills, learning to compromise and to listen to each other and to the cry of the Earth. Developing these skills won’t always be easy. We need to bring the work of education for sustainability and peace into homes, schools, parishes and communities.
Fortunately, many organisations both inside and outside of the Church are already doing this. However, the challenge is to bring this lesson of listening to the Earth and reimagining our relationship with the world around us to communities outside of our usual circles.
No matter the outcome of COP26, let us look forward together in hope, supporting each other in our work and reaffirming our efforts to strive to live nonviolently in the web of creation.
Pax Christi UK – https://paxchristi.org.uk/
Aisling Griffin is Pax Christi’s Schools and Youth Education Officer
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