Friday, January 12, 2018

Is it a sin to cut down a tree?

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

In a conference-workshop a participant asked me, being the resource speaker on ecology. “Is it a sin to cut down a tree?”

The question is not to be taken literally, or jokingly either. It permeates into something bioethical. It is not the cutting of the tree per se – or similarly, the spewing of CFC in the air, or throwing mercurial waste into the river, that the issue should be examined. It is the destruction of the ecosystem, the disruption of the functioning of natural laws and processes, and therefore the integrity of whole system is the one that is at stake.

The unabated logging of the watershed of the once beautiful city by the sea – Ormoc City in Southern Leyte – resulted into an unprecedented massive mudflow that swept the central part of the community killing thousands of residents, and causing untold sufferings.

There followed after five years another massive landslide that claimed hundreds of lives near Maasin, Southern Leyte, burying a whole school with pupils and teachers conducting their classes at the time of the tragedy.

In Real, Quezon, scores perished in a similar incident, also attributed to the cutting down of trees on the watershed - or logging of the forest itself. These are becoming rampant cases not only in the Philippines but all over the world.

Yet the ethics and morality of these acts of destruction, particularly on the part of the loggers and their accomplices, were never given importance as much as that of the criminal offense committed. I would like to view these tragedies in the realm of theology, that of a paradigm of salvation.

According of Fr. Percy Bacani, it is a sin to harm the environment, because it causes people to suffer. How could it be that the culprits of these tragedies find salvation in the mere act of contrition - even without plowing back their ill-gotten wealth to rebuild the community and help nature regain its former state and stability? This is other than the compensation deserved by the victims.

This paradigm touches deep into the roots of moral philosophy itself and the foundation of ethical principles. It is embodied in the proclamation of the Vatican that destroying the environment constitutes a cardinal sin, one of the seven cardinal sins the church has lately affirmed.

Yes, it is a sin to cut down a tree.

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