Creation Justice: How could our connection with creation save the planet?
Environmental justice is certainly a phrase that cannot go unnoticed. Two simple words should flash any person a multitude of thoughts that interconnect a personal experience with a global motive. However, as there has been an exponential rise in growing concerns for the environment, have these words been overused and overlooked? In reality, maybe environmental justice does not fully express the plight of the marginalized. By contrast, the phrase “creation justice” is certainly one that sounds unique and quite foreign at first glance. For most, it invokes a sense of religious nature, potentially steering people away from this concept. However, after diving deeper into this very new phrase, there is potential for it to transcend simply religious nature and redefine true ministry for the earth. The debate amongst environmentalists when properly using their language is one that has been perpetuated through the years. Difficulty arises when attempting to make a distinction between the natural environment and cultural environment. However, isn’t this variation a crucial note when learning about an individual’s personal experience with environmental justice? This distinction holds incredible weight especially when dealing with the different lived experiences of people of color and those who are impoverished. Dorceta Taylor, an environmental professor from the University of Michigan, makes an important statement on this, “It's not necessarily that there is a 'black ecology' and 'white ecology.’ It's just that our lived experiences with the environment are different. White people bring their experience to the discussion — that's why they focus on the birds, trees, plants, and animals, because they don't have the experience of being barred from parks and beaches.” This reality is one that should never be discounted or overlooked. As evidenced by the disparity in access to the environment, you would think that the social implications of environmental justice would be recognized, but the debate is a difficult one for environmentalists.
In Laudato Si, an encyclical written in 2015 by Pope Francis, this debate is addressed with a connection to “creation justice.” Francis recognizes the plight of the marginalized and criticizes those who continue to use humans and the environment as a mean to an end. The encyclical is a historic address, recognizing a need to intertwine faith relations to come to a conclusion about environmental justice. Thus enters “creation justice,” a chance for a break in these artificial divides between human and nature. In and of itself, creation is implying a beauty in a commonality we all share: life itself. Creation is no coincidence, and rather than actively choosing to be created, we have been given the world itself free of charge. In Genesis 1:26, it is stated, “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” By simply being alive, we as humans are given the responsibility to be stewards of what has been given. Beyond simply the bond “creation justice” forms between mankind, it more importantly pushes for the dignity of all people. As creation references a relationship with God, it is then implied that there should be movement toward forming correct relationships among all of God’s creation. “Creation justice” is a holistic ecology, encouraging an understanding of the world through culture, environment, and humanity
By utilizing the term “creation,” a humble self awareness should be applied to all people. In being placed on this earth, it is a necessity to understand our existence and act in redeeming nature. “Creation justice” is not a phrase simply meant to address a dispute of words, it is one meant to alter society’s state of mind. Looking to the future, this form of justice is meant to protect the beauty of the planet we have been given and ensure the safety of God’s people, providing motivation to work collectively as a human race to remedy the damage we have done.
Written by Brady O'Gara
Mission and Ministry Liaison