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Posted February 19, 2013

Caring for the World's Ecology

Eugene Hemrick

In the near future, the only place we may be able to see a rhinoceros is stuffed in a museum because hunters are killing the animals illegally faster than they are reproducing.

In that same future, many beaches may be closed indefinitely because they are polluted.

Those two dire predictions reaffirm that human beings have the power to destroy -- whether it is a species or an ocean. Other concerns are the possible demise of the rain forests and the threat posed by acid rain and thinning ozone layers.

Soon we won't have to worry about a nuclear war destroying the earth. There won't be any earth to destroy.

Catholic moral teaching is clear about our responsibility toward the world and its resources. We are expected to respect God's creation and also to try and persuade others to do the same.

This is more difficult than it sounds. It means we need to develop a deep consciousness of the problem which probably won't happen without education and an enormous amount of organization. It also means resetting priorities.

At times, our efforts to raise people's consciousness will be met with opposition. And then there is the question of time. Many people prefer to expend time on those things which will bring us immediate results.

Lobbying against acid rain and the destruction of rain forests and to protect rhinoceros don't promise to bring any immediate results.

Perhaps a fanciful story is in order here that suggests a strategy we might employ to turn the situation around.

A little bird was lying on its back in the middle of the road with its feet up in the air. A fox came along and asked, "Why are you lying there in the middle of the road?"

"I have heard a very reliable prediction," answered the bird, "that the sky is going to fall today. So I am going to hold it up with my feet."

"Oh, you are, are you?" laughed the fox. "Do you really think a little bird like you with those tiny legs can hold up the whole sky?"

"One does what one can do," responded the bird. "One does what one can."

If we adopted the bird's philosophy, even though the odds seem to be overwhelmingly against us, we would help to make this world better ecologically. This is the philosophy of author E.F. Schumacher who wrote the book, "Small is Beautiful."

We may not be able to organize large conservation programs all by ourselves. But we can make a difference in our homes. We can teach children to protect the earth's resources because it is God's way, not just the whim of nagging parents.

As adults, we might need to take an inventory of needs in order to learn what we really need versus what we can live without.

If we use our imagination and show some initiative, there are hundreds of little choices we can make which will conserve the resources of the earth.

Then, like that bird we can say, "One does what one can.."