Watching in horror as Killarney National Park burned

Watching in horror as Killarney National Park burned
Living Laudato Si’
Jane Mellett

Many of us watched the news in horror in recent weeks as we saw Killarney National Park on fire. Similar fires also burned in the Mourne Mountains and many other areas across the country. These fires are started deliberately, run out of control very quickly, and do untold damage to wildlife and ecosystems. Reports say it is feared that half of Killarney National Park’s habitat has been lost, an area which contains some of our country’s last remaining oak forests. The loss of habitats for nesting birds, deer and countless other species is truly heart-breaking. According to Birdwatch Ireland two-thirds of bird species in Ireland are being driven to extinction as there is virtually no habitat left for them breed in peace.

In a recent scientific report, Living Planet, scientists stated that 68% of wildlife has been lost since 1970 due to human activity. This is a shocking statistic and reiterates the fact that we are living during an age of mass extinction. Dr Jane Goodall, conservationist, and scientist, recently participated in a Vatican webinar which focused on the biodiversity crisis.  She said: “We’ve got this one, beautiful, green and blue planet created by God. How is it possible that the most intellectual creature to ever walk on this planet is destroying its only home?” Dr Goodall also noted that, “Every time a species become extinct it is like a tear in the tapestry of life.”

Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical on ‘Care for Our Common Home’, reminds us of the interconnectedness of all things and just how dependent we are on the vast ecosystems of our planet. We are part of nature and called to protect it. From May 17-24 this year, Catholics all over the world will mark Laudato Si’ Week which celebrates the 6th anniversary of the publication of Laudato Si’. This is a key moment for each of us to reflect on what kind of world we are leaving to generations who come after us. It is an opportunity to pledge once again to live out the first commandment we were given in the scriptures, to be guardians of this world, not destroyers. We can start with our families, local parishes and it can be as simple as sowing wildflowers together in the garden or taking a walk in a local park and noticing what is around you, birds, soil, wind, flowers, planting trees, seeing how you can help support local wildlife, “all is a caress of God”. You can look at which has a special message from Pope Francis as well as prayer resources, and ideas for families and communities. Let us use this opportunity of Laudato Si’ Week 2021 to move forward together and walk more gently on this earth. “For we know that things can change” (LS, 13).

Jane Mellett is the Laudato Si’ Officer with Trócaire