CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

Print Version    Email to Friend
God’s creation

Pope Francis has given many homilies since he was elected on March 13 and has mentioned creation on numerous occasions.

At his installation Mass, the pope said, “We must protect all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St. Francis showed us means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.” 

We can search the scriptures to better understand the heart of God in relation to his creation. The bible says that he expects, even demands, us to be stewards of his creation. 

God created the different species of plants and animals, blessed them, protected them and made a covenant with them.

Every time we, as humans, drive a species to extinction, we are stating that what God created, we can destroy. If a species becomes extinct, we are defaulting on the account that God has called us to manage. We are at the crossroads, able to choose to save or to destroy. 

The bible is clear that creation expresses God’s wisdom and power. As Christians, we are called to be stewards, to nurture, to protect, to preserve his creation.

Unfortunately, we read startling headlines in our daily newspapers, such as police arresting 11 people over poaching, Cries of Mother Earth; Nation tackles rhino horn trafficking; Poaching: A bloody trade that’s too close to home; A family of elephants all slaughtered; and others.

Progress is being made in the fight against wildlife crime, but we cannot rely on any single country. It needs strong international cooperation. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna And Flora (CITES), was established in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and to prevent international trade from threatening species. China is a member of this convention. 

The secretary general of CITES, John Scanlon, recently said that China has been serious about strengthening its regulation and law enforcement against the illegal wildlife products trade.

He also said that among the 177 partner countries of the organisation, China is one of the most actively engaged. It is not the Chinese government that is involved in the illicit trade, but some individuals are acting illegally. We have to draw a distinction clearly (China Daily, March 6).

China has often been accused of killing certain animals for medicine, jewellery and decorations, or special food. To name a few items: elephant tusks (ivory), rhinoceros horns, bears’ gall bladders, shark fins, tiger skins and bones.

In 1993, the Chinese government banned the use of rhino horn as a medicine and, in fact, it put a ban on poaching animals, but the black market trade is still skirting the bans.

The new wealth in China worries animal protection groups. There is more disposable income in the country today than at any time in history.

Ivory has the cachet of being a luxury status commodity and more people than ever are able to own a piece now. The soaring price of ivory is the biggest driver of the continued rise in elephant poaching. The eradication of poaching in Africa depends on rooting out the market for the products which, in this case, is mainly in Asia, because the high demand is still the key driver. 

Yao Ming, the famous basketball player, said after visiting Africa, “We must increase our awareness regarding the current situation and cut the market demand for elephant tusks and rhino horns, which means we must prevent anyone around us buying these products and explain how the environment and survival of these animals in being endangered. I believe that once Chinese consumers learn of the serious consequences of buying these products, they will change their minds” (China Daily, 22 October 2012).

We all are called to be stewards of Mother Earth and here are some people or groups making headlines and getting recognition for their concern for the environment:

With a host of educational institutions, Xianlin Science City in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, is a true centre for learning. It can also teach a few lessons in environmental rejuvenation. 

Mines have damaged nearly four million hectares of land, left more than 4,500 areas threatened by land subsidence and caused direct economic losses of about 34 billion yuan ($42.8 billion), according to the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Authorities in Jiangsu have spent 140 million yuan ($175 billion) in a decade converting former mines into green space and have seen a boom in development. 

“Planting trees at these sites has turned deserted areas into beautiful scenery,” Mr. Liu, geological environment director for the Jiangsu Land and Resources Department, said.

He added that it has also brought potential economic benefits, as more than 60 hectares of land has been reclaimed, worth an estimated two billion yuan ($2.6 billion). Officials are now aiming to repeat the success nationwide. 

The target is to reforest the majority of mines near key ecologically fragile and residential areas by 2015. The authorities are recording all former mines that need to be planted with trees, drawing up an environmental recovery plan and reporting to the ministry (China Daily, 17 August 2012).

Hainan’s Yinggeling Natural Reserve is benefiting from a scientific research and a management base built in the biologically diverse tropical forest. There have been 28 graduates working in this reserve for the past five years. 

The reserve, located in central Hainan’s mountainous region, covers an area of 500 square kilometres. It is regarded as the lungs of the island, whose two largest rivers originate there. Its biologically diverse tropical forest is the largest of its kind in China. 

The Hainan Bureau of Forestry decided to establish a workstation in the reserve and started to recruit graduates from universities around the country in 2007. 

The station has established seven departments, four branch stations and three forest ranging points, as well as a research monitoring station. After five years of effort, the station has finished an important biology archive project, with a number of rare and protected animals and plants recorded. 

Personal achievements are notable too. Having scaled all peaks in the reserve, Wang, one of the students, sorted out a series of new insect genuses and published his thesis in one of the nation’s A-list scientific journals.

Nearby residents used to depend heavily on natural resources, a big threat for the tropical forest in Yinggeling. Now, station members are working hard to change the situation. 

To make friends with locals, mostly from the Li ethnic group, the students frequently visit the villages. Because of media coverage, these young college students have inspired other graduates to share the same dream, that is, to be proud of doing something for environmental protection  (China Daily, 30 August 2012).

A camera operator, named Li, from the Changsha Evening News, was recently called, “The nation’s consciousness on bird protection,” after he filmed a 12-minute documentary, which he posted on a Chinese video website. 

The documentary titled, Massacre on the Thousand-year Bird Passage, received almost 300,000 page views and many comments like shock, outrage and ignorance.

The footage revealed the scandal of illegal fowling and black market trading in migratory birds. 

Li said there are three kinds of hunters. Local villagers kill birds for food; professional fowlers catch birds for sale; while the last group shoot the birds for fun. 

Li said that he has received death threats on the Weibo microblog. Some people have vowed to find him, because he disrupted their (the poachers) money-making venture, but he will continue his investigation.

The Guidong county government responded quickly by conducting a special field campaign to rectify the illegal fowling and took over equipment, shutting down restaurants which serve the birds and banned the trade.

A professor at Hunan Normal University envisions an international bird watching area for enthusiasts, which could boost the local economy through tourism and, when that happens, the local villagers will not kill birds  (China Daily, 1 November 2012).

These examples show us that there are many people in China and Hong Kong who are concerned about nature and are doing things to save animals, birds, rivers, wetlands and all of creation. 

In the Book of Job 12:7-10, the Lord tells Job, “Ask the beasts to teach you, the birds of the air to tell you; Or speak to the earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this? In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mortal flesh.”

St. Francis of Assisi (1182 to 1226) was known for communicating with birds and animals.

In at his installation Mass, Pope Francis said, “Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be protectors of creation... Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be protectors, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! 

“Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions, intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

“The Lord reigns, Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy, they will sing before the Lord for He comes, He comes to judge the earth” (Psalm 96:10-13). MC