Eleven days to save the world?

Next week will be an important one for the future of the planet. In a city marked by much bloodshed in recent months, Paris has the opportunity to become a place where the nations of the world stand together for the future of humanity.

World leaders will be gathering for the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) to try to agree a legally binding and universal agreement to tackle global warming.

The climate conference will bring together the United Nations for eleven days in the French capital and will, for the first time in over twenty years of negotiations, attempt to keep global warming below 2°C.

Since the industrial revolution, human activity has undoubtedly caused changes to the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists predict that an increase of the global temperature by just 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels could be catastrophic for the planet.

One has only to look at melting ice-caps, rising sea levels, droughts and extreme weather events to know we must change course before it’s too late.

According to the UK Met Office, the global temperature has already increased by 1°C since the industrial revolution. There isn’t a moment to lose.

For the Christian, caring for the planet is an important part of the faith. Because we see the earth as God’s creation, we understand it as a gift and a place of encounter with Him.

Through the eyes of faith we see the world as a precious book which God has written to us and we are reminded in the Book of Genesis that God entrusted the world to us to ‘till and keep it’ (Gn 2:15). Thus we take on the task of caring for His handiwork.

This is not a new initiative because the Church since its earliest days has cared for creation. By looking at the history of monastic communities we know that monks organised their time around the seasons in order to care for the land and give glory to God. ‘To work and pray’ was their motto.

In recent decades the social activity of the Church has been directed towards alleviating social ills and tacking issues such as unemployment, health inequalities and conflict. This has often come at the expense of environmental issues.

Thankfully Pope Francis has brought the Church into the question of climate change and has tackled it head-on with the publication of his recent encyclical, Laudato Si’.

As the climate talks in Paris begin, this is an important opportunity for Christians to pray, reflect and act for the planet. May we give it our support and do our part to look after our mother, the Earth.

As Pope Francis says, “Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

Br Tom Robinson, OFM, is a Franciscan novice in Ireland. He is originally from St. Francis and St. Clare’s parish in Middlesbrough and now lives in County Clare. This article was first published by The Clare Champion on 26th November 2015.