Promoter of Eco-justice and Eco-spirituality, Br Moy Hitchen of Edmund Rice International (ERI), partner of Franciscans International, answers some questions on the importance of Earth Day and explains the importance of re-establishing a solid relationship with Mother Earth.

Q: Climate change is a fact. We are dealing with extreme weather changes and we look to the future with more apprehension. Do you think people are more aware today than in the past that something needs to be done?

A: Yes, the public is far more aware than in the past that what we do as human beings affects the soils, air and water, other animals and plants. But it is a huge shock to discover that we can even change the weather. Some tend to blame every unusual weather pattern on ‘global warming’. Climate change is much slower and more far-reaching than we can yet imagine. It is hard for the public to respond to something that is largely invisible to them. But, world-wide, everyone is increasingly aware that we have damaged the earth and that we are paying the price for it, in terms of poverty, human suffering and natural disasters.

Earth Day is just a day but in our daily lives how can we re-establish a long-term relationship with Mother Earth?

To regard Earth as a companion, a partner, in the great mystery we call Life would be a good place to start. As a partner of Earth, we need to acknowledge all that Earth contributes, every day, to our lives. We need to make some commitment to honour our own role in this relationship, and to celebrate it. I think the most effective way to build such a close relationship is to spend quality time with nature, learning to appreciate its beauty, its mystery, its purposeful working. Like all close relationships, it depends on getting to know the other, listening and sharing, commitment and responsbility, doing things together. The best place to start is with your local ecosystem – the landscape, some local trees or plants, soil or rocks, local birds, your local river, creek or coastline. You are a supporter of what its called Eco-Spirituality.

Why is linking spirituality to nature so important? What do you think nature can teach us in terms of our spiritual growth?

The human spirit evolved with the human race, deepening its hunger for meaning and its thirst for God. Nature is the privileged context in which we evolved, and in which God’s spirit shaped our souls. If our spirituality is not linked to nature, we can develop a self-centred stance that has us ‘fighting against’ nature and ‘conquering’ nature. This has disastrous consequences for our own survival. We are fighting against our own flesh and blood! Spiritual growth, in Christian terms, means moving closer to God. Nature is where we find God creating. Nature is where we find our need to be healed of human evil. Nature is where we experience God’s life-giving Spirit. Without nature, we cannot experience the full wonder of God working in all these ways.

Could you give examples of what measures you take in your daily life?

What I eat, drink, wear and use for transport and energy affects the earth. I try to eat less processed foods, less meat, less food carried from far away. I save water in washing, cleaning and laundry (with buckets), recycle some waste water, and collect rainwater for use in the garden. I recycle the glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminium I use, and compost food scraps. I wear clothes to suit the climate, and try not to rely on air-conditioning. I use public transport instead of driving – and I love walking. Because I walk, I stay in touch with my local ecosystem – I feel the seasons, I hear the birds, I see the flowers and berries.

Changes are made by visionary dreamers. If you could dream a perfect world how would see it?

In a perfect world, people would wake to their local trees, birds and animals around them. They would work for their local ecosystem, only trading for essentials they could not produce themselves, and always balancing the energy and resources they use in a sustainable way. Their spiritual lives would be nourished by daily contact with their local natural world, and their personal relationships would honour the Love at work in the universe.