THE CATHOLIC HERALD welcomes the setting up of a Bishops' Conference (for England and Wales) committee on the environment, as reported a few weeks ago. No one can accuse the bishops of being hasty in jumping on the environmental bandwagon, but it is better late than too late!
As bandwagons go, too, it is one weighted more with rhetoric and doom-mongering than with measurable activity. As Dr Echlin writes in his letter on this page, it is hoped that this committee is to be no substitute for action.
Internationally and ecumenically, justice and peace issues have been linked inextricably with that curioussounding slogan "integrity of creation" theme for years while, for some reason, justice and peace groups in Britain have been reluctant to take on the environmental aspect to their work. There are choices which will have to be made once the new committee has been established, particularly in the area of achieving the balance expressed in the slogan "think globally, act locally". A concentration of attention to the international or even national scale, of deforestation, pollution, unsustainable use of resources, and so on, although important, can be a refuge from taking painful local and personal decisions which bear on lifestyle and comfort. By performing frequent, small, "environmentally-friendly" acts, one can lose sight of the point and purpose without the
The Minister for Women, Joan Ruddock, this week has told government policymakers to assess the impact specifically on women of all proposed legislation. This approach could be usefully applied to all church decisions at parish level and above, not only for women and for families, but also for the environment. What would the impact be on the environment, for example, of a parish event which brings people to the parish centre in many individual cars, when a car-sharing scheme could minimise the damage? Or, how can heating the church be linked with solar power and heat-saving measures to avoid excessive use of non-replaceable energy, not to mention long-term costs?
Some environmentalists are calling the movement towards sustainability "the dawn of a new industrialisation". They find positive support in the words of Pope John Paul II, that "for the Christian there is a moral commitment to care for the earth". Between the papacy and the many lay people already committed to reversing the disastrous effects of the first industrial revolution, there has been a noticeable lack of involvement up to now by the servants of the Church, clergy and bishops. Perhaps that is set to change; maybe the new committee will facilitate that change. If so, it will be welcomed by generations yet unborn. For it is their world, God's gift to them, which we are destroying.