In a message honoring the Day for Creation, Sept. 1, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I expressed his hope that the financial and economic crisis experienced by many societies would bring about "a powerful change in direction, to a path of viable and sustainable environmental development."
"Today, in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis, humanity is facing many and diverse trials. But this trial is related not only to our individual hardships; this trial affects every aspect of human society, especially our behavior and perception of the surrounding world and the way we rank our values and priorities," wrote Bartholomew, the leader of the 300-million-member global Orthodox Church.
"It is important to note that the current grievous financial crisis may spark the much-reported and absolutely essential shift to environmentally viable development; i.e., to a standard of economic and social policy whose priority will be the environment, and not unbridled financial gain," he added.
Bartholomew's message comes at the beginning of a traditional 40 day observance called the Time for Creation, during which Christians from many faith traditions will pray for the health of the earth and practice good stewardship.
The tradition was started in 1989 by the late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I when he proclaimed the first day of prayer for the environment on Sept. 1, the first day of the Orthodox church year.
"For our Orthodox Church, the protection of the environment, as a divine and very good creation, embodies a great responsibility for every human person, regardless of material or financial benefits," Bartholomew said. "The direct correlation of the God-given duty and mandate, to work and preserve, with every aspect of contemporary life constitutes the only way to a harmonious co-existence with each and every element of creation, and the entirety of the natural world in general."
The Time for Creation normally ends on October 4, which marks the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi in the Catholic tradition, but this year the WCC is proposing to extend the observance until October 10, so that participants can join a global civil society movement celebrating climate solutions around the world.
October 10, 2010 will mark a day of action for combating climate change called the 10/10 Global Work Party.
Organized by 350.org, the day will see communities around the world working together to go green by setting up solar panels, insulating homes, building windmills, planting trees, etc.
Organizers hope the actions will send a message to political leaders to "get to work" on securing a comprehensive deal on climate change, the next opportunity for which takes place in Cancún, Mexico in December.
"If we can cover the roof of the school with solar panels, surely you can pass the legislation or sign the treaty that will spread our work everywhere, and confront the climate crisis in time," the 350.org group says.
This year's Time for Creation also coincides with the United Nations' International Year of Biodiversity, in which the global body reports that an eight year target to protect the earth's biodiversity has been missed.
The U.N. is now urging a "new vision and new efforts" to safeguard the variety of life on earth and to protect its ecosystems.
"Our lives depend on biological diversity. Species and ecosystems are disappearing at an unsustainable. rate. We humans are the cause," said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a video message.
"For this international year of biodiversity, I call on every country and each citizen of our planet to join together in a global alliance to protect life on earth," Ban said. "Biodiversity is life, biodiversity is our life."
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