Published September 29, 2005
My office received the notice that Gov. Perdue was asking that all Georgia schools stay closed on Monday and Tuesday of this week. He also asked if employers would consider shortening the workweek by a day to conserve energy during this extraordinary hurricane season that has already wreaked such devastation on the lives of so many—and threatens even more. I, of course, immediately agreed to follow other public institutions in his request and more importantly as a gesture of solidarity and concern for our dwindling natural sources of energy. Besides, in truth, I did not want to have to face the untold number of Catholic school students who would be lamenting that they were forced to attend school while their counterparts in public and other private schools were given two free days!
The governor’s intentions brought joy to the hearts of countless thousands of Georgia students who received an unexpected four-day break—including many of those in our Catholic schools. It was less enthusiastically received by parents and many other folks for whom it brought a special and sudden new concern. Nevertheless, whether this action was justified or not, it also should have raised the issue of conservation in the hearts and minds of all of us. Whether this particular decision will accomplish all that it was intended to achieve or not, it does drive home the real fact that we in the United States of America consume an extraordinary amount of the world’s resources. The simple act of closing schools for a couple of days and allowing workers to refrain from traveling to work on one day saves a lot of energy-producing resources. It should remind us all that we have been blessed with so many advantages and natural assets and that we all should use them more frugally—because they are not limitless.
You and I both use gallons of water in our daily rituals of personal grooming. We all leave lights burning and cars idling with little or no real purpose. We waste far more than we should in almost every category of human consumption. When disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita occur and threaten our usual comfortable lifestyles, we probably all should start thinking about being more parsimonious with the goods of the earth.
“The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church” will soon be available as a publication through the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. This document outlines the whole range of social teachings of the Catholic Church, from unions to justice concerns to ecology, and will be another resource of the teachings of the Catholic Church with which we all should be more familiar. We have been entrusted with the Creation that God once proclaimed very good. It is also very limited. We should all pause, especially at moments like we have seen during the past month, to consider how we can be and should be better stewards of God’s Creation.
Now you might be thinking—has the new Archbishop become “a tree-hugging environmentalist”?? Not really, but I am one who believes that we must all be more careful with the resources that we use all too often with little reflection on their scarcity.