Friday, December 29, 2006

Greening the New Year

If we were to give a colour to 2006, what will it be? With the deaths from the natural disasters and calamities, the political killings and the unabated harassment, murder and disappearance of journalists and activists, I am tempted to colour it black as black as the sleet that spilled out of a tanker off the coast of Guimaras Island. Add the quality and nature of Philippine politics, it even gets blacker. Beyond our shores it is not less ominous with the recent siege of Southern Lebanon and the profound and extensive deterioration of Iraq brought on by a war fomented by the delusions of empire.

With Christmas just a few days behind us, it can’t be that black. There must be some light and life-giving colour left from a feast so stubbornly sanguine and infectiously loving. Imagine the art of it. Imagine the kaleidoscope of colour from the brown and white of cows’ and sheep’s’ fur, rainbow coloured tattered shepherds’ cloaks, and the humble but dignified colours of a young couple’s cloaks shielding their newborn infant wrapped in cheap swaddling clothes. Together, the colours vibrate and shimmer with life. And so do mangers in churches continue to invite contemplation on the colour of life and hope notwithstanding the nagging threat of deathly black.

If we were then to give a colour to the New Year, let it then be green, the colour of life…of hope. If we were to choose how best to show our gratitude to this life-sustaining world and its creator, let it then be a life greener and less black. Let wars whether fought with guns and bombs, economic sanctions or propaganda end. Let the burning stop and let the air be what it is meant to be…life-giving spirit. Let the wastage and the dumping stop and allow the few remaining unclogged pores of the earth breathe. Let the cutting of trees, the quarrying of mountains, the moving of land, the reclaiming of seas be replaced by planting, renewing and protecting the earth instead. Let obscene industrial and domestic vomit’s slow but sure desecration and murder of cleansing, cooling and life sustaining waters end. Let animals be more and more allowed to freely roam and graze the mountains, forests, plains, oceans, seas, rivers and skies. Let women and men cease to be mere consumers and become more and more preservers and revellers in a primordial friendship and communion among all beings created by a deeply compassionate and caring God. Let all bow down and touch the earth once more and behold the life that comes forth and grows from this earth on which we daily trod and shamefully ignore. Let us all learn once more to be humble, to kiss humus, to kiss earth as farmers for eons have done with glee and sacred delight.

A fatal forgetfulness and arrogance has befallen most of us. We have entered the cave of our own recklessness and chose to walk further into the darkness of our greed only to wallow deeper in black denial.

The ozone layer is badly depleted and damaged, world temperatures are growing warmer, the ice caps are rapidly melting, water levels are rising, global climate is changing…global warming is reaching critical levels, approaching the point of irreversible cataclysm. These are the broad outlines of a bleak future that faces the earth and its inhabitants which will be the content of a telephone book size report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC to be released sometime early 2007.

On December 26, 2004, just a day after Christmas, giant waves called tsunamis hit parts of Asia taking lives, destroying crops, livestock and property. Hardest hit was Thailand’s tourist beach resort. Today, while survivors get together and remember, business has returned to the tragedy stricken areas. Life seems to go on as usual. Human ways of living and doing have returned to their robotic routine.

At the same time two years later, an earthquake hits Taiwan, destroying properties and taking several lives. This time however, a natural disaster produces a more globally felt impact by breaking submarine fibre optic cables which carried the weight of electronic communication worldwide. On December 27, 2006, millions by force of habit wake up, turn on their computers, access the internet and are exasperated by a curious message on their computer screen: “this page cannot be displayed…”

With the recent Taiwan earthquake-triggered interruption of internet services anger, furore, even rage descend on the internet-dependent millions, myself included. Many must have seen black that day. People were angry at a technological inconvenience which really had a natural cause. Here we can clearly see the connection between black and green. The black plagues of disease, poverty, death, wars, etc. all ooze out of the Pandora’s box of environmental neglect, outright abuse and destruction combined with nature’s unexpected and unpredictable outbursts. There was nothing people can do but wait for the repair work to finish. Newspapers initially announced three weeks of repairs. It went down to ten, then one week. In any case, there was nothing more that can be done but wait. And what do we do while waiting?
I suggest we start seeing green instead of black. I suggest we start talking green more and more and discover how and why greening the New Year is sensible and most of all, vital for the happiness and survival of all.

Although we just concluded Advent and celebrated Christmas, it is clear how
the world is going through a longer advent which more than anything requires a more pro-active waiting. Unless we take real concrete steps to green this New Year, we can do no more than dread a blacker, bleaker New Year. Why not a greener New Year then, anyway green is so much better oh so much better than black!!!

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
December 29, 2006


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