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Healing the Environment
An Exhortation For A New World Order

Fr. John Felix Raj. S.J.

History is moving fast and we are in the eve of the third millennium. Modern man wants to change the past and to become master of the future. The technological revolution has un- leashed waves of change. While, on the one hand this new context opens up immense new opportunities, it also poses serious new threats to human life, freedom and security.

Deepening poverty and marginalization wound our rich civilizations. Many feel ostracized from the world community because they are denied the right to participate in the decision making process. Global inequalities in income have increased alarmingly in the last hundred years. Statistics speak a sad story all by themselves. The gap between the incomes of the richest countries and the poorest countries was about 3 to 1 in 1820, 35 to 1 in 1950, 45 to 1 in 1973, 72 to 1 in 1992 and it must be 80 to 1 now. Though three-quarters of the world live under a democratic set-up, more than 30,000 children die everyday from mainly preventable diseases. Some 90 million children are excluded from primary school; about 790 m people are hungry and about 1.2 billion live on less than one dollar a day (UNDP Human Development Report 2000).

The universe waits with eager expectation to be freed from the shackles of mortality and to enter upon the liberty and integrity of its children. Human greed is overturning the cosmic order. Using the almost unlimited power he has, man is recklessly destroying the universe. The air we breathe is deeply polluted, the water we drink is contaminated; the food we consume is adulterated, the life-saving drugs we purchase are often past their expiry date. The cycle of death thus unleashed must be reversed, and all of us must be active agents of this urgently needed change.

The ecological crisis is not mainly a technical, but a moral problem; its cause. is over-consumption. If the process continues, our beautiful earth will be reduced to a garbage can flying through space. To reverse the cycle, we must change our habits. We must change our ideals, we must change our life-style; we must change our concept of development; turn the consumer culture topsy-turvy. Profit making cannot continue to be the only motivation in business and industry. However, who but God can so change the human heart?

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God". Poverty is no longer an ideal fit for monks only, but for all humankind. When three out of five persons in our global village live in dire poverty, it is sinful for those two persons to live extravagantly. Simplicity, moderation and discipline must become a part of everyone's life. A global change in attitude is necessary, moving to a positive approach of supporting human rights and development. There is an urgent need for change of heart.

The poor and the indigenous are those who suffer most from the destruction of the environment, both in developing countries like India and developed countries like the USA. Uprooted from their habitat they are deprived of their livelihood, forced to migrate to jungles much worse and more cruel than the natural jungle in which they have been living for centuries. Their cry can be heard as it rises to heaven.

The poorer countries are also the losers in this battle for survival. The leading industrial countries, the very ones that have wantonly plundered the resources of the earth, set new international standards that the others cannot afford. With the foreign debt and the iron rules of the world market against them, the noose round their neck is threatening to strangle these countries. They too cry to heaven.

When the universe was created - the heavens, the sea, the earth, and all they contain - and as it evolved, it was found to be good for human life. It is man's sin that has destroyed this goodness. We want the harmony and beauty of the earth to be restored We want to live without fear of anyone and anything and without violence. We stand in need of healing so that we may heal the environment. We look forward to a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells and all experience joy. "Into the heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake".




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