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Background

Catholic Social Teaching involves seven themes, including the foundational principle of the dignity of human life. Stewardship of creation of course involves the inherent beauty and dignity bestowed upon creation by the Creator himself, but we also note alarming trends: 1 in 10 deaths each year stem from extreme hot or cold (1), and an overall increase in cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders, and female infertility have been tied to air pollution.(2) In our own geographical area, we have experienced the 9th driest February on record in 2024, and 3.4 million Missouri residents are in areas of drought.(3)

In the Christian tradition, the biblically-based concept of stewardship describes what people’s relationship should be with the land and with each other. The Catholic Church brings a distinct perspective to the discussion of environmental questions, by lifting up the moral dimensions of these issues and the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

Lack of concern around our climate, our water resources, sustainable farming, and use of fossil fuels all tie in to a larger “throwaway culture” in which neither the inherent dignity of the person nor the dignity bestowed upon all of creation is regarded. We have the opportunity to redeem this nature, broken by our original sin; by participation in the Sacraments and strengthened by grace, our actions which can help heal our planet and environment. We encourage individuals and families to act and make necessary changes in their own households, and, perhaps even more importantly, to advocate for systemic changes in governmental and corporate regulatory practices.

Facts & Figures

·        The environment and climate naturally changes over time; the earth has been through many warming and cooling patterns before, some of these eras were less hospitable to life than others. The concern with current climate change is that the change has been accelerated in a warming pattern from unnatural processes, which may speed the time when the climate is, again, unfit for human life.

o   Past climate data is learned through geologic surveys, such as layers of ice, fossils, and sediment.(4)

o   The highest indicators of this rapid change include: rise in global temperatures, warming and rising of the ocean, and shrinking ice sheets, glaciers, and snow cover.(5)

·        Stewardship calls us to tend and care for creation. Individuals must participate in stewardship, as well as larger corporations.

o   “The average family can waste 180 gallons per week, or 9,400 gallons of water annually, from household leads. That’s equivalent to the amount of water needed to wash more than 300 loads of laundry.”(6)

o   One hundred energy companies are responsible for 71% of all industrial emissions since human-driven climate change was first recognized. The top 15 US food and beverage companies generate more greenhouse gasses than the continent of Australia.(7)

·        As we recognize where we have fallen short in sinful “throwaway culture,” disregarding our neighbor and the creation we were given to tend by our Lord, we can make improvements that may even reverse some troubling trends.

o   Farmers often employ practices which improve profitability, quality of life, and stewardship. Some of these practices include promotion of biodiversity, improving soil health, conserving water, and ecological pest management.(8)

o   After protocols were put in place in the 1980s and 1990s to address the hole in the ozone layer, the hole has been slowly improving and may be back to 1980 levels by 2040-2060.(9)

1https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-07-07/climate-change-linked-to-5-million-deaths-a-year-new-study-shows

2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6311303/

3https://www.drought.gov/states/missouri

4https://www.climate.gov/maps-data/climate-data-primer/past-climate

5https://science.nasa.gov/climate-change/evidence/

6https://www.epa.gov/watersense/statistics-and-facts

7https://www.nrdc.org/bio/josh-axelrod/corporate-honesty-and-climate-change-time-own-and-act

8https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iloAQmroRK0

9https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/ozone-layer-recovery-track-helping-avoid-global-warming-05degc

Church Documents

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