Xploring Environmental History – an Intergenerational Adventure.

On July 11, Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave the keynote address at a side event, ‘Youth Aspirations and Climate Urgency,’  organized by the Don Bosco Green Alliance and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Samoa.

While addressing mainly the aspect of youth and the environment what caught my eye in the Zenit report of the event was the heading “Archbishop Auza: Intergenerational Solidarity needed to care for our Common Home.”  He commented jokingly how in attending a number of relevant conferences he had noted the presence of young people representing civil society or NGOs while old people were doing the negotiations.  However he added that youth and the older generation are also present at all levels dealing with issues of climate change.

Pope Francis himself, in his encyclical Laudato Si’ and many other discourses, frequently emphasizes that everyone’s talents and involvements are needed.  It is true that intergenerational solidarity and collaboration are key aspects to be adopted for ensuring a secure future.  Think in terms of “the enthusiasm and energy of youth and the wisdom of age.”

Environmental awareness is not necessarily a new thing in the current generation.  To my own knowledge the present grandparent generation, already, were engaged in scientific research of different forms of energy generation and the combating of pollution, dust suppression, gas cooling, water desalination and much more.  It is clear that not enough was done, the awareness was not strong enough, the size of the problem was not recognised and the appetite was not always there at the time to invest in such matters.  Observing climate change and the devastating effects it has had in very recent times has brought the issues to the fore and so they have become a matter of urgency.

The young, in any age, do help us all grasp “that the seeds we plant today we reap tomorrow.” Today the question is, “What have we done to Our Common Home and where to from here?”   The issue is however not only about scientific solutions and climate change in particular but as Pope Francis writes, about an ‘integral ecology.’

“Pope Francis says, that, on the one hand, we must be concerned with injuries to our planet and the irresponsible treatment of other living beings; on the other, however, we must resist the trends and ideologies that focus almost exclusively on protecting the planet or other species while allowing offenses against human dignity. He prophetically gives several examples of [this] ecologically-garbed individualism: when we combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining indifferent to human trafficking (LS 91); when we fight against genetically modified organisms but allow experimentation on the human genome and human embryos (LS 136); when we worry about cruelty to animals while justifying the ghastly practice of abortion of our younger, more vulnerable brothers and sisters (LS 117, 120); when we seek to keep the natural environment intact as a gift, and care for the male and female members of endangered species, but then think we have absolute power over our created bodies, trying to cancel out human sexual difference through gender ideology (LS 155).” Zenit 15 July 2019

When we ask those important questions about the purpose and meaning of life, a consultation across the generations is helpful too.  “Grandad how was it when you played around with solar heating in your day?” “Granny why did you always have a variety of traditional natural medicines in your store cupboard?”

Taking up a study of environmental history could be a great hobby for some intergenerational solidarity building that could lead to developing great new budding scientists, if the young could find the time, that some of their elders have a surfeit of!  Maybe a project too for the Bosco Green Alliance!     P.S.  I do believe that grandfather Madiba would approve!    TR      FAMILY WEEKLY   17 July 2019

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