Viewing the election through ecological eyes

  • September 12, 2008

Jesuit Father Jim Profit is hopeful that political debate in Canada has begun to take notice of the state of the ecology. "Ultimately if the Earth doesn't survive the rest of us won't survive either. It's a key issue," said the director of the Jesuit Collaborative for Ecology, Forestry and Agriculture in Guelph.

It's a key issue, and it's a Catholic issue, said Profit.

"It needs to be a Catholic issue, every bit as important as any of the other moral issues," he said.

Director of the Elliott Allen Institute for Ecology and Theology Dennis Patrick O'Hara was struck by David Suzuki's comment that he looked forward to the day when there is no Green Party — when the environment will simply be a normal part of all politics.

"Perhaps her (May's) presence in the debates will demonstrate that environmental questions can be as topical and central as economic, defence and justice issues," O'Hara wrote in an e-mail to The Catholic Register.

Profit was "shocked" sitting through the entire televised leaders debate during the 2006 election and not hearing a single question dealing with the environment. Getting Green Party leader Elizabeth May in there to mix it up with the established parties and having the Green Shift proposal central to the Liberal platform has changed the channel on the political class. Now they have to deal with it, said Profit.

In Profit's eyes, the ecology has arrived on the political agenda because ordinary people now see it as a political issue.

O'Hara chimes in that the problem has always been the response of political parties, not the convictions of ordinary Canadians.

"Canadians have repeatedly expressed in polls taken during the past 30 years that the environment is one of their key concerns, even if the political parties have generally been rather tepid with their responses," he said.

"In a couple of years since the last election there's a great awareness of ecology as an issue," said Profit. "That's encouraging — to see that all of the parties are giving at least lip service."

Catholic parishes are not immune to this greater awareness, and Canada's bishops have issued a couple of strong statements on the environment as a moral issue.

Given how the end times, or eschatology, has always been central to Catholic theology, the politics of the environment now has a very direct link to a long tradition of Christian thinking.

"St. Irenaeus describes the Logos and Spirit as the right and left hands of God, bringing order out of chaos at the beginning of time and always nurturing creation toward its fulfilment," writes O'Hara, who teaches theology at the University of St. Michael's College. "Through the teachings of Christ and the assistance of the Spirit, we are called to order our lives in ways that support decisions and governments that work for, rather than against, the health and fulfilment of the planet and its inhabitants."

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.