Columban Podcast 8 – Our Sacred Community: Biodiversity loss and indigenous peoples

Episode 8 of Jubilee for the Earth: Biodiversity and Our Sacred Story is available now to watch.

Our Sacred Community: Biodiversity Loss + Indigenous Peoples | Jubilee for the Earth Series Two

Podcast number 8 in the ‘Jubilee for the Earth’ series is now available. Podcasts 7-12 of Series 2 are being released by the Columbans throughout the Season of Creation 2022.  The first podcast, number 7, looked at ‘Biodiversity Loss and Spirituality,’ interviewing Fr. Liam O’Callaghan who is on mission in Pakistan. This podcast 8 focuses on ‘Our Sacred Community: Biodiversity Loss and Indigenous Peoples’.

In his encyclical letter on the environment, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis wrote: “nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image, and given dominion over the Earth, justifies absolute domination over other creatures”. Instead, Pope Francis urges us to build a “relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature” (LS #67).

Wesley Cocozello of the Columban Justice, Peace and Ecology team in Washington introduces Podcast 8 by suggesting that we must ask ourselves some fundamental questions: Does nature have intrinsic value? Does God love plants, animals, and ecosystems as much as God loves humans? Does the promise of new life extend to all God’s creatures?

Our age of ecological crisis is challenging us to act differently: to live more sustainably and to build social systems that prioritise the common good. Ethical behaviour must apply to the natural world as well. Engaging with indigenous peoples is vital because, in many parts of the world, they are the key guardians of biodiversity.

This podcast focuses on the Subanen people of the southern Philippines and their care for the Earth. Columban sister Sr. Ashwena Apao works with the Subanen and she interviews four leaders from the Midsalip Subanen Ministry in Mindanao about their love of the natural world and their fears about, “development aggression” and the loss of their lands and culture. They feel they lack capacity and confidence “to defend our land against big companies”. Destructive mining has destroyed and poisoned huge areas of their lands and Columbans have long supported their resistance to powerful extractive industries.

The Subanen suggest that modern humans have forgotten what it means to have a relationship with the land. They warn about the loss of biodiversity and the impact on food and health. Their medicinal plants come from the forest. They value soil and water as gifts of the Creator.  Manuela Patino says, “we have great respect for the sacredness of nature.”

Sr. Ashwena suggests that if the global community wants to better care for creation, we must listen to the wisdom of Indigenous traditions, and consider their experience and expertise in the conversation about solutions to environmental problems.