Yesterday Anna discovered fresh leaves and bright green grass. As she crawled around Central Park, Anna’s eyes lit up and her smile beamed as she dug her hands into the dirt. In that moment, Anna was transported from the urban concrete jungle to a place of natural wonder. It had us thinking, as parents how can we ensure that Anna will always has this sense of amazement and wonder of the planet we call home?
On this Earth Day, we thought about three lessons that we have learned and want to share with Anna as she begins her journey:
1. In the Earth we see God in all things. As Catholics, we have a long tradition of seeing God in the Earth. Teihard de Chardin once wrote, “The most telling and profound way of describing the evolution of the universe would undoubtedly be to trace the evolution of love.” For us that evolution of love is deeply rooted in God. His predecessor, St. Ignatius called on us to “see God in All things,” while years before St. Francis of Assisi led by example with love and care for all of God’s creation. Over the years, we have witnessed God’s beauty in the magnificence of a sunrise over the Grand Canyon to something as simple as a bubbling brook in the Catskills. Whatever the moments may be for Anna, we hope to instill in her a heart for experiencing God’s love and grace in all things on the Earth.
2. Respect for the Earth is hard work. Seeing God’s grace in the Earth’s beauty may be easy. But taking action to respect the Earth can be quite hard, especially when we live in a fast-pace consumer society. When Anna was born we tried to use cloth diapers to cut down on the waste. It worked well, until her daycare told us they wouldn’t do cloth diapers. We had to give up cloth diapers for disposables – a choice we did not make lightly. Now, we try buy the most eco-conscious diapers that we can find, but sometimes we also need to buy the ones that can fit in our budget. It is a challenge sometimes do what is best for the planet versus what we can afford. It takes time and effort. And while we don’t always succeed, we know it is worth the effort to try. As Anna grows older, we hope that she learns how to value the time and effort to support eco-friendly practices, even when she faces challenges in doing so.
3. Respect for the Earth means respect for people too. We know Anna will grow up in a place of privilege free from excess toxins or hazards, free to explore the joys of nature. Sadly, too many kids that are Anna’s age suffer from the mistreatment of the Earth, breathing dirty air or drinking polluted water. And all too often, they are children living in poverty and children of color. Whether it is growing up near coal burning power plants or near companies releasing toxic chemicals millions of families in the US and Global South suffer from multi-national corporations poor environmental practices. By failing to respect the Earth and polluting the air and water, these companies are also failing to respect the communities of people who have been living there, often for generations. We hope Anna learns that she can act as a consumer and an advocate for change. As a consumer, we can try to teach Anna the importance of reusing items to cut down our consumption or to try and buy items from companies that support sustainable practices and treat their workers fairly. As an advocate, we can learn with Anna about the type of policies that are needed to better protect the planet from pollution and carbon emissions, while also providing opportunity and voice to those who bear the burden of environmental degradation.
We are blessed with a beautiful planet. It is not only home, but its a place of miracle and wonder. Watching Anna play in the grass reminded us of that fact. But as climate change threatens the Earth’s stability and technology replaces the Earth as the ultimate playground, we also know that Anna will quickly grow up in a new and different world. We hope that as she does, she never loses sight of the joy and wonder we can share in the Earth. Because when we do, it is like sharing in the joy and love of God.
Kate and Anthony Giancatarino are ’04 graduates of the University of Scranton. Kate received her dual MSW/MA in pastoral ministry from Boston College and currently is a campus minister for Vincentian Service at St. John’s University. Anthony received his MPA at NYU and currently manages the food equity and energy democracy programs at the Center for Social Inclusion. Kate and Anthony currently live in Brooklyn NY with their daughter Anna Day.