In my discussion about faith and the environment, the third of my four points deals with the poor. (ie Question: “Why should I take care of the environment?”, Answer: “4 the poor!”)
At first glance, the connection between the poor and the environment may not jump out at you. But, as you reflect upon it I hope that you begin to see the connection. Just in case you need a little help, here I am.
I don’t proclaim to be an expert on the environment or on social justice but I do feel very passionate about helping people make the connection between their faith and their treatment of the environment. Sometimes the connections are obvious and other times. . . not so much.
The poor are deeply connected to the environment. In fact, they are especially vulnerable to environmental changes. Climate change can cause natural disasters such as flooding which wreak havoc on all who are in their path. The poor, however, don’t have the means to recover from that kind of devastation. They often don’t have the resources to escape or change their circumstances. The poor are also the ones who are most affected by industrial waste which damages the air they breathe and the water they drink. You don’t see waste being dumped in Beverly Hills, do you? Why? Because 1) the real estate in the “Hills” is so high that it prevents that type of use and 2) those who live there would not stand for it and they have the resources (both capital and human) to keep it from happening.
However, the low rent districts of our cities and towns don’t have those types of protection. As a result, the people who live there don’t have protections either. The low property values of less than desirable “forgotten” industrial areas make them vulnerable to abuse.
Illegal dumping of electronic waste in third world countries is another way that the poor are placed in jeopardy. When companies dump old computers, printers or other electronic devices, heavy metals and chemicals leach out into soil and water putting the people of those nations at risk for numerous health issues and affecting their ability to grow and harvest food.
Unfortunately, money is power and those without money have very little power in this world. Christ taught His disciples that the value of a person has nothing to do with monetary wealth. He taught that all of us have value because we are children of God. The disciples understood this. They knew the importance of caring for the poor. We, as Christians, are called to protect the most vulnerable in our midst. Taking care of the environment is one way to do that.
Next week: What does the Church say about the poor?