Earth Day 2020


Earth Day is a day to think about our planet and what we can do to keep it healthy. I am writing this just a few days into the global lockdown and it is difficult to predict what life will be like as you read this today. If we have the ability to self-isolate and keep our distance, can we also find the ability to have a conversion about our care for the planet?

COVID-19 may not be directly related to our relationship with the earth, but it serves as a reminder of our human fragility and our constant need to depend upon one another and the beauty of the earth. Our care for the planet is directly connected to our care for one another and those coming after us.

The Christian world is still digesting Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. It was five years ago that the document was released. The document’s challenges are not confined to the Christian churches, but are directed at all women and men on the planet.

I cannot speak for nations, cities, religious communities or other individuals. I can only speak of my own experience when it comes to the kind of conversion needed before we can live with integrity in a way that promotes the health of the planet.

I would be a hypocrite to criticize our culture and our lifestyle. I am addicted to my lifestyle, a lifestyle that is detrimental to the health of the planet. I know about the elements in my iPhone and how it is produced. That knowledge does not force me to get rid of my devices.

I know all about the benefits of eating locally-sourced foods. I still like my fresh pineapple and raspberries in January. I know that a lot of my clothing is produced in unjust situations. I know all about those lacking clean water, and yet I take a shower each day, two if I’ve exercised. I can at least pride myself on my commitment to recycling and to public transport.

I dare say that many others share the addiction I have. A few years ago, I spent a lot of my time around Bay and Bloor in Toronto. When the Pope’s document was making news, especially in the Catholic world, I would daydream about surveying pedestrians or the people in my local Starbucks and asking, What do you think about the revolution Pope Francis is calling for in Laudato Si?

They’d laugh or look confused. If I, a committed Christian, can’t have a conversion, how do I expect others to? I’ve spent years praying to be open to God’s call to me. I’ve spent years instructing others on discerning God’s will for their lives. And I can’t change my ways. How do I expect others will?

I have plenty of head knowledge about what I am or am not doing. That knowledge is far from being converted into action. I can have a deep desire to give up a habit, but my desire and motivation has to be helped by grace.

The only way I can foresee being freed of my smart phone is by having it forced from my hand or because there has been a major disaster and the phone is useless. I admit that I like my comforts, and with the same breath, can desire what the saints describe as the agere contra, acting against oneself and one’s earthly desires.

It is Earth Day. Can I do even one thing today that will contribute to the well-being of the planet?

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Esther Gilbert
    Posted at 07:07h, 22 April Reply


  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 08:18h, 22 April Reply

    Your honesty and fear of being a hypocrite resonates with many of us Phil…”.All that is required for evil to succeed is for good men to do NOTHING.”

  • Norbert Piche
    Posted at 10:54h, 22 April Reply

    Maybe we can start with one thing, do that well, and then move on to the next. Something like eating less meat; doing less traveling by plane or car; using a rain barrel; planting local vegetation, etc.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 12:17h, 22 April Reply

    Thank you so much Philip!

  • Mike Hyland
    Posted at 13:59h, 22 April Reply

    Thanks Philip. Your message is heard. I too need to find ways to change.

  • Bernard Carroll, SJ
    Posted at 21:31h, 22 April Reply

    How true your comments are Philip! I too talk the talk but how often do I walk the talk?1? But I will only walk the talk if I take a first step and then another. Would that all of us would take at least one step forward in changing our earth/environment-harming behavior.

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