September 2023: Editorial

The Tracks We Leave     

It was the author of ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ Mark Twain who once remarked; ‘I don’t think much of a man’s religion if his dog and cat aren’t the better of it.’ It was an insightful comment during the 19th century when the industrial age was in its heyday and nature’s bounty was being plundered relentlessly while all creatures great and small were mostly regarded as fair game for hunting or experimentation and otherwise insignificant to human progress.

The World Day of Prayer for Creation on 1 September and the season of creation which follows instituted by Pope Francis and concluding on the feast day of St Francis of Assisi on 4 October, allows us opportunity to renew our commitment to cherish and conserve the natural world and its creatures. A world we have so taken for granted and which is now clearly reaching the limits of its capacity for exploitation and neglect. Young people and many young at heart people of all religious traditions and none have almost uniquely found common ground on this issue, one which Pope Francis identified so early in his papacy. Whether we see a divine hand at work in the wonders that surround us in earth, sky and seas, as the Scriptures reveal and Aquinas sought to demonstrate or whether we believe creation to have evolved in a series of random events, unfolding in a coincidently beautiful and harmonious way, most of us now realise the precarious point we have reached as nature’s harmony is disrupted and large sections of the natural world and its creatures disappear like the legendary unicorn in the face of human indifference or greed. The burning of ancient forests and assaults on Indigenous peoples, the suffering of poorer nations most vulnerable to climate change, the reckless wars and policies pushing nature’s boundaries to breaking point. All of these challenges to our humanity and faith are worthy of prayer during these weeks and beyond. Among Indigenous peoples, the Dakota tribe of North America had a saying; ‘We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.’ That is true, assuming of course that future generations will survive long enough to reflect upon our present follies.