“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt6:26). Birds may seem insignificant to us yet “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Lk12:6). They remind us of God’s providence. In recent years, reports on mass Bird deaths in North America, dubbed as “the aflockalypse” by some commentators, capture the headlines. Other bird and fish mass deaths were also reported in Japan, Thailand, Brazil and the Philippines. Experts insist that the phenomenon is not that unusual and that the incidents are unconnected. These cases tend to invite speculative theories, but regardless of the cause of death, these can be regarded as “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life” (LS, 2). These are clear signs that something is wrong. The encyclicalLaudato Si’underscores the role of humanity in the deterioration of our natural environment (cf.LS, 23).
We believe that “everything is interconnected…” (LS, 70), yet, exotic and native birds are continuously smuggled and sold for personal interest. The white cockatoos of Indonesia are smuggled to other parts of Asia. The Philippine Hawk Eagles, which are supposed to be protected under the law, are sold illegally. “A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our Earth less rich and beautiful” (LS, 34). How then can we possibly mistreat our avian co-inhabitants of the earth? Maltreating the birds of the earth, or at least remaining indifferent, is tantamount to maltreating all of creation because all are interrelated (cf.LS, 137). Furthermore, “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God” (cf. Chryssavgis,John, On Earth as in Heaven: Ecological Vision and Initiatives of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Bronx, New York, 2012).
The encyclical points out humanity’s fault yet Pope Francis never gives up on humanity’s capability to love. Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD relates that the Koreans have a beautiful custom of not harvesting all the fruits of a tree in autumn so that the birds will have something to eat in the forthcoming cold winter. This surely is an example worth emulating. They consider the needs of the helpless and the little ones. How much more should we, so-called Christians! We must be considerate, thoughtful, sensitive to the needs of our “common home” (LS, 1), and respond generously. If the simple fact of being human moves people to care for the environment of which they are a part, Christians in their turn “realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith” (St. John Paul II,Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace, 15). Amidst the environmental deterioration, there is hope for the birds of the air and all other creatures to continuously praise the Lord.