Individuals in households, businesses and public venues in cities all over the world voluntarily spent sixty minutes in darkness on March 27, 2010 in observation of “Earth Hour.”
Billed by organizers as a way for people “to make a bold statement about their concern about climate change,” the annual event — that began in Sydney, Australia just three years ago — has since become a worldwide phenomenon.
I personally know a number of individuals who embraced the Earth Hour concept with great vigor; dutifully carrying out the plan orchestrated by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) while trying to foster a similar enthusiasm in their children by turning the event into a family bonding moment.
While those who powered down for sixty minutes intended to make “a bold statement about climate change,” it seems to me that if Earth Hour made any bold statements at all it is one that should strike a chord consonant with our Catholic sensibilities.
Human beings carry a void that demands to be filled by something bigger than ourselves, and all of us — every one — are naturally compelled to seek it. Once discovered, it can shape and lend meaning to our lives; it has the power to influence our behavior and it moves us to action. A purpose such as this is so profound that it is only fully expressed when it is lived out in union with other human beings; both in the local family of persons and in the global family of man. At its core — the very locus of this communion — is common sacrifice shared.
Ironically, the very people who enthusiastically carried out the worldwide directives dispatched from WWF headquarters are largely also those who routinely rail against the evils of “organized,” much more “hierarchically structured,” religion.
They are frequently the very same folks who snicker at Christians who exercise “blind faith without proof” one day, yet they are somehow strangely unfazed by the near daily emergence of scientific data that undermines their cause the very next.
If only these hungry souls — for whom the crisis of global cooling gave way to the crisis of global warming which ultimately gave way to the all-encompassing crisis of climate change — could more plainly see that the animating Cause of their deepest desire is also the only Source of its satisfaction.
Thinking of those poor restless souls the world over trying to convince themselves that they are somehow making a difference by huddling in the folly of a self-imposed blackout, I couldn’t help but recall the words of the prophet Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined (Isa 9:2).
Oh, that those who so diligently observed Earth Hour might one day be similarly impassioned to make a Holy Hour! Then would the words of St. Augustine make sense; “O Lord, you have made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
With prophetic precision, the Council Fathers identified the shallowness that permeates much of present day environmentalism, as well as the solution, even without naming it.
Thinking they have found serenity in an interpretation of reality everywhere proposed these days, many look forward to a genuine and total emancipation of humanity wrought solely by human effort; they are convinced that the future rule of man over the earth will satisfy every desire of his heart (GS 10).
For man, created to God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness; a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to Him Who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all (GS 34).
I am sure that there are Catholics of goodwill who for whatever reason have fallen for the climate change hype and perhaps even jumped into Earth Hour with both feet, and it is to them in particular that I offer the following:
Next year, if you really want to make a bold statement for the good of the planet and every living thing that moves about it, invite your family, friends and fellow environmentalists to step out of the darkness of Earth Hour to contemplate the Light of the world by making a Holy Hour. Then you will truly be making a difference.