I find it very hard to keep up with politics and to know what to believe in these days of fast and instant media. To help me refocus and get a clear view of what's going on in the world I have been reading Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall. He shows how geographical features such as mountains, rivers, coastlines, deserts and forests often define the political situation in a particular area or continent. Of course, these natural features predate the present occupants of the territories considered, and will be there long after population changes have taken place, but they often dictate the present situation. It is a fascinating study and probably not the sort of book that would normally be recommended for Lent.
However, it has made me think more deeply about Pope Francis's encyclical letter Laudato Si' (On Care for our Common Home) and how we all individually and collectively impact on the environment. Tim Marshall shows how particular environments affect our security and relationships with our neighbours. Only if we understand the root causes of these conflicts, such as access to water, will peaceful solutions be found. From a Christian point of view, it is our responsibility to care for our planet and its resources so that all may peacefully enjoy the riches of creation. At times that may seem impossible, but Lent is a good time to think about the earth and what we can do to make it a better place for all peoples to live and flourish.