Sep 3, 2019

How Green is your Backyard or Mine?   from FAMILY MATTERS issue 3 2016

An article about a green backyard was first written in 2002 after the World Summit of Sustainable Development and RIO +10. The whole issue of environmental awareness has only become more urgent over these years. Some things have been done but much more remains for all of us to do, beginning in our own homes so that THE WORLD OUR COMMON HOME can survive. .
Health and Wellness matters are a growing industry, but more for those who can afford a lifestyle that includes regular visits to a gym and any of a number of diets that promote healthier eating e.g. Banting. Growing vegetables and the use of herbs has also become popular, maybe even ignoring the traditional “Food from the Veldt” possibilities used by earlier generations.

Pope Francis, in 2015 presented his encyclical LAUDATO SI with the broad theme, THE WORLD OUR COMMON HOME. In it he discusses a range of issues, environmental and social : pollution and climate change, water, loss of biodiversity, global inequality and a decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society. The stress on human roots of the ecological crisis is important. Already in 1992 the Earth Summit in Rio proclaimed that “human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.”
An integral ecology is needed, a holistic view of the World as our Common Home. There is masses of technical information available but what is important for families too is how to adapt our attitudes to see what we can do to sustain a world that is habitable for future generations.
Life has speeded up a hundredfold for many of us but the suggestions given here for greening our backyard are still almost a verbatim repeat of the 2002 recommendations. How sad is that?

SHARE AND CARE. Families could make a chart and include their own eco-tips. Ask ourselves, discuss issues and choose what tips will apply.

***· Who doesn’t leave lights burning unnecessarily or leave TV, computers and other electronic devices on when not being used? There are special days like Earth Day and Earth Hour when the whole world should check on their electricity consumption but we can do this all the time. Earth Day is t, celebrated on April 22 when events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Hour is about switching off lights for an hour right across the world. The next Earth Hour 2020 on 25 March 8:30.
***· Why do we drink bottled water when in most cases our drinking water is perfectly safe? The ecological cost of recycling the thousands of plastic bottles is huge. Water is one of the most essential needs to sustain life and is water consciousness promoted in our families?
***· Do we understand and debate the merits of genetically modified food, positive in some cases but not so in other circumstances?
***· Do we still consider a Basic Income Grant worthwhile so that poor people in SA would have their R100 per person per month to feed into the economic system?
*** Can we as families get involved in the debate about production and consumption? Consumerism as a good is a fallacy promoted only too widely by the media and business. Is it even possible to challenge ourselves and our children that they don’t “need” the latest fashion wear, cellphones or other technological devices?
***· Are we interested or willing to use renewable energy like solar or wind energy more widely? It is only being widely rolled out in poorer communities as a form of cheap energy.
***· Do we parents as primary educators inform ourselves and discuss social and environmental responsibility with our children? Are we concerned about loss of biodiversity as animals and plants become extinct? It is not only rhinos who are at risk.
***· Are we aware of the extent of poverty in our country and our world and what forms it takes? It varies in degree and experience. The poor are not only those living on the streets or informal settlements but even unemployed middle class people or those whose jobs are at risk know a form of poverty.
***· Are we condoning corruption? Why are governments corrupt if people are not? Why is big business so totally profit-orientated that they will trample on the rights of anyone in their path, if people are different? Do we wear different hats or masks in different situations? It is not only about STATE CAPTURE. If we are fair and honest, eco-friendly and aware of human rights and responsibilities as individuals and families surely so will government and business be.
***· Are we open to greater equality between male and female in all aspect of life and particularly within families? We each have different attitudes towards the environment and to spending, saving etc.
***· Do we realise the impact of HIV/AIDS on personal and social life and what we as families should do to combat the situation at its source?
***· How can we build communication and strengthen our family relationships?What programmes can be put in place at diocesan, parish, group and family level?. Like the parable of those who built their houses on sand and on rocks, we can build our marriages and families to begin to renew our common home.
A family motto could be developed that could move us towards this vision: .

Pope Francis is a great fan of St Francis, probably the most famous environmental activist, known for his love of all of God’s creation. In Laudato Si the pope writes: “St Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and is also much loved by non-Christians. He loved and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving and his openheartedness. He lived in simplicity and wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.” Al10. His feastday is on October 4th.
At the 3RD JOINT THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE on FAITH AND SOUTH AFRICAN REALITIES held in Pretoria a closing address by Professor Klaus Nurnberger, theologian and sociologist painted a dismal picture of the future if the motivation to change of all South Africans in the face of ecological and economic disasters does not change. His hope echoes Pope Francis:.
205. “Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning. We are able to take an honest look at ourselves, to acknowledge our deep dissatisfaction, and to embark on new paths to authentic freedom. No system can completely suppress our openness to what is good, true and beautiful, or our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts. I appeal to everyone throughout the world not to forget this dignity which is ours. No one has the right to take it from us.” LS 205

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