Aotearoa, along with Australia and the Pacific island nations, is located in a part of the world called Oceania. Throughout the world Oceania is known for its great national beauty and for its unspoiled environment. In a letter to the Church in Oceania (22 November 2001), Pope John Paul II reminds the people in the region that they are responsible for caring for the beautiful environment that surrounds them:
Because creation was entrusted to human stewardship, the natural world is not just a resource to be exploited but also a realisty to be respected and even reverenced as a gift and trust from God. It is the task of human beings to care for, preserve and cultivate the treasures of creation.
On behalf of people everywhere, the Pope asks the governments and peoples of Oceania to be special stewards of the Pacific Ocean – which contains over one half of the earth’s total supply of water. He asks the Pacific peoples to protect this precious environment for present and future generations:
The continued health of this and other oceans is crucial for the welfare of peoples not only in Oceania but in every part of the world.
The natural resources of Oceania need to be protected against the harmful policies of some industrialised nations and increasingly powerful transnational corporations which can lead to deforestation, despoliation of the land, pollution of rivers by mining, over-fishing of profitable species, or fouling the fishing-grounds with industrial and nuclear waste. The dumping of nuclear waste in the area constitutes and added danger to the health of the indigenous population. Yet it is also important to recognize that industry can bring great benefits when undertaken with due respect for the rights and the culture of the local population and for the integrity of the environment.
- God invites humankind to be God’s Co-Creators.
- Stewardship involves working on God’s behalf to care for the rest of creation and to use it wisely.
- In our own time, as in the past, there are many individuals and groups who are examples of good stewardship.
Sources from the Catholic Church that help us make moral decisions:
- Scripture: Words from the Bible.
- Tradition: Teachings from people within the Church ie the Pope, Bishop, Clergy
Scripture References that will help you:
Genesis 1:26 – “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and all the wild beasts and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth“
Genesis 2:15 – “to cultivate and take care of [the Garden of Eden]”
A Teaching from tradition that will help you:
Letter from Pope John Paul ll addressed to the whole Catholic Church:
“We even have to respect the natural world around us. We cannot use the different kinds of beings – animals, plants minerals – simply as we wish. We have to take their nature into account. We should realize that our natural resources are limited. We should be aware of the consequences of the use of those resources, the pollution of our world, with its serous consequences for our health“
- All living things and the earth itself are signs of God’s presence. – TRUE
- Humans have the right to use the earth’s resources however they want. – FALSE
- Only those responsible for damaging the earth need to work to improve the earth’s environment. – FALSE
- All creatures and the earth itself are gifts from God. – TRUE
- Respect for human life and respect for the rest of creation go hand in hand. – TRUE
- The poor have the same right to the earth’s resources as the rich. – TRUE
- Respect for nature is different from respecting other people. – FALSE
- What happens to one small part of creation affects the whole of creation. – TRUE
- Caring for the earth requires co-operation with others. – TRUE
- People who work hard deserve to have more of the earth’s resources than those who don’t. – FALSE
- People are always happier if they have more of the earth’s resources. – FALSE
- The resources of the earth are to be shared for the good of the entire human family. – TRUE
- Rich people have the right to more of the earth’s resources than the poor. – FALSE
- Caring for the earth is only an individual responsibility. – FALSE
- Human happiness does not depend on gathering more and more material things. – TRUE
Why should I, as a Catholic, look after God’s creations?
Catholic Ethical Principle
Reverence for creation
“Ethical Principles” – Good moral teachings. i.e. what we should do.
How should we treat the environment?
We fulfil God’s commission with regard to creation when we care for the earth, with its biological laws, its variety of species, its natural beauty, and its dwindling resources, as a living space and preserve it, so that future generations also can live well on earth. 
In the book of GENESIS, God says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen 1:28). Having “dominion over the earth” does not mean having an absolute right to dispose arbitrarily of animate and inanimate nature, animals and plants. Because man is created in God’s image, he should care for God’s creation as a shepherd and steward. For the first book of the Bible also says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15).
The video we watched telling us that de-creation is a serious problem for humankind.
How Humans are destroying our planet:
- The worlds largest rainforest, the Amazon, has been reduced by 20%.
- 95% of the soy beans grown where the Amazon used to be is being fed to livestock and poultry – forests are being turned into meat.
- Oil palms are taking over the bio diverse environment in Borneo.
- Paper demand has been used to create a forest of eucalyptus, but no plants grow underneath because Eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to most plants.
- Over 2 billion people depend on charcoal for life, meaning they have to burn trees to live.
- Haiti can no longer feed it’s population without foreign aid. Only 2% of it’s forests are left as they are all used to create charcoal.
- Soil that takes thousands of years to form is being washed away because there are no trees to hold the soil together.
- The Rapa Nui on Easter Island exploited their resources until there was nothing left. The highest palm trees in the world were destroyed by the Rapa Nui to make Lumber – so they faced widespread soil erosion. Because they exploited their resources so quickly most of them died out.
- Nigeria is the biggest oil exporter in Africa but 70% of the population lives under the poverty line. The resource it there but no one has access to it. In fact half of the world’s poor lives in resource rich countries.
- In 50 years the rich and poor has grown wider than ever.
- Half of the world’s wealth is in the richest 2% of the population.
- The city of legos has a population of 700,000. That will rise to 16,000,000 by 2050. It is one of the largest megalopolis’ in the world. Most new immigrants are people who have been forced off their land.
- One human being in 6 lives in a dangerous environment without access to water, electricity or sanitation.
- Hunger affects nearly 1 billion people.
- All over the planet the poor scrabble to survive on scraps while we turn to regions that are increasingly difficult to exploit ti get the resources we cannot live without.
- Oil might run out, but we can still extract it from the tar pits in Canada.
- Our oil tankers are getting bigger and bigger, our energy requirements are getting bigger and bigger.
- In a few decades the carbon that made our atmosphere a furnace and that finally created life will all be back in the atmosphere, making the planet heat up.
- Molecule by molecule we have upset the earth’s climactic balance.
- The North West passage that connects America, Europe and Asia is opening up – the northern ice cap is melting. It has lost 40% of it’s thickness in 40 years. it could disappear by 2030, or even 2015.
- The sunbeams that the ice previously reflected are heating up the oceans, changing the habitat for marine life.
- The condensation of Carbon Dioxide is the highest in several thousand years. Humanity has never lived in an environment like this.
- Greenland is becoming warmer, making the fresh water of the continent flow into the salt water of the oceans.
- Greenland’s ice contains 20% of the fresh water of the whole planet. If it melts sea levels will rise by nearly 7 meters.
- Greenland’s ice sheet suffer from greenhouse gasses emitted from somewhere else on earth. Wherever we are our actions have repercussions on the whole earth. On Greenland’s surface lakes are appearing on the surface. It is melting faster than anyone has predicted.
- More and more of glacier filled rivers are merging together and burrowing through the surface.
- Water is flowing under the ice, carrying the ice sheet into the sea where it breaks into icebergs, instead of refreezing like we thought it would.
- Lowlying lands around the globe are threatened. Se levels are rising, water expanding as it gets warmer, caused, in the 20th century alone, a rise of 20 cm. Everything is unstable.
- Coral reefs are very sensitive to temperature. 20% have disappeared.
- The major wind streams are changing direction, rain clouds are changing course, low lying islands are threatened.
- 20% of the worlds population are by the coast or by a water source.
- 80% of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers have disappeared.
- Half the farmland in Australia is affected by droughts.
- We are in the process of compromising the climactic balance that has allowed us to develop over 12,000 years.
- The elements on which our environment relies have been disrupted.
- If the methane under the permafrost layer is released the greenhouse effect would go out of control. No one can predict what would happen.
- Humanity has no more than 10 years to avoid the end of our world as we know it.
- We have created phenomenon we cannot control.
- We have very little time to change the fate of our planet.
- “We have shaped the earth in our own image” – As Catholics we should shape the Earth in God’s image.
- 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of its resources.
- The world spends 12 times more on military expenditures than on aid to developing countries.
- 5,000 people a day die because of dirty drinking water.
- 1 billion people have no access to safe drinking water.
- Nearly 1 billion people are going hungry.
- Over 50% of grain traded around the world is used for animal feed or biofuels.
- 40% of arable land has suffered long-term damage.
- Every year, 13 million hectares of forest disappear.
- One mammal in 4, one bird in 8, one amphibian in 3 are threatened with extinction.
- Species are dying out at a rhythm 1,000 times faster than the natural rate.