As Harvey’s fury fades and tears are shed for victims whose numbers are growing by the hour, the devastation left behind by the hurricane and the growing concern over contaminated water, especially in Houston, is becoming clearer and clearer within the city which is home to hundreds of large and important chemical and oil plants There is already a mixture of pesticides, waste and solvents that can do further damage to humans and the environment even after Harvey. Last September 1st there was a choral outcry for more attention and care for Creation just as Texas was emerging from the receding flood waters. It is not only the uncontrollable forces of nature that give us pause, but also our responsibility in using the goods of the earth. With regard to the risk of contamination: it has been estimated that the millions of people from Texas’s 38 counties that have been affected by Hurricane Harvey use private water sources that are not subjected to the same controls as public water systems and are at risk of contamination.
“It is time to think about the tremendous power of nature and of human responsibility to be good and wise administrators of the environment,” writes Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, known for his involvement in promoting care for the environment. “We are all called to to take part in the redemption and care of our world, working to stem the destructive force of such hurricanes through better environmental planning, or by being more seriously involved in combatting the serious problem of climate change and the way in which it interferes with our planet; or even to beomc personally involved on the field, with charitable projects that can help and support those whose lives are so drastically changed in the bat of an eye because of changes in the climate. In their joint statement on the Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew stated: We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation. We are convinced that there can be no sincere and enduring resolution to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.
Meanwhile, news has arrived from the Focolare community in Houston. Joelma, Carmina and Chiara and Kate write: “Thanks for your prayers, your closeness and your many meassages that have been arriving. Everyone in our community is safe. Some had to evacuate their homes, and others had their homes flooded, but weren’t forced to leave them. The neighbourhood where the focolare house is located was on high enough land to stay dry, but it’s like an island because all the land around it is flooded. It was hard to watch all the flooding from a house that was dry and secure, knowing that the lives of many of the people around us were in danger. Unfortunately, we just learned that the parents of several people from our community in Corpus Christi, the first Texan city to be hit by the hurricane’s fury, were killed as the six of them tried to escape the flood waters. We’re trying to understand the best way to help right now, also because it’s still very dangerous to be out driving. Two nurses from the local community, Marga and Augie, are working around the clock at their hospital due to the shortage of staff. One young person was able to travel around and reach other volunteers, and a couple with a canoe was able to give a hand rowing through neighbourhoods.