MUMBAI, India — Lent is once more upon us, and the hierarchy is getting ever more creative in using this time to advocate for parishioners to be better people and better citizens. Many Americans take the opportunity to combine religious observance with the attempt to give up unhealthy vices such as smoking, alcohol or sugar.

The Archdiocese of  Mumbai [formerly known as Bombay] is taking it several steps further, in an attempt to make people think not only of their own future health but that of the planet too. With this in mind, they issued and invitation to Carbon Fast 2017 during Lent.

The archdiocesan website states: “A carbon fast challenges people to examine their daily actions and reflect on how they have an impact on the environment.”

The carbon fast campaigns, they continue, “are designed so that, during Lent, people can take small steps to reduce carbon dioxide output with the hope of helping the environment and bringing the world one step closer to a sustainable existence. The steps that we practice during Lent are meant to be continued so as to make the change lasting.”

Long considered one of the world’s most polluted megacities, a recent study at Bombay’s Indian Institute of Technology showed that in 2015 air pollution contributed to 80,665 premature deaths of adults aged 30 and above in Mumbai and Delhi.

The statement from the Mumbai archdiocese also points out that while many people choose to abstain from something as small as chocolate, “this year our challenge is deeper, to take a carbon fast – to reduce the actions which damage God’s Creation; to reduce our use of petrol, electricity, plastic, paper, water and toxins.”

Mumbai’s auxiliary bishop Allwyn D’Silva explained that during “the last 2 years the Archdiocese of Bombay has adopted Carbon Fasting during Lent, and this year too we plan to continue with the initiative which people have started to continue even after the season of Lent.”

The aim of moving people to think beyond the season of Lent and make permanent changes in their behavior is difficult, but D’Silva and many others see it as necessary.

Over the past two decades, D’Silva has been trying to reduce the impact of global warming through several awareness initiatives, environmental education at schools and publishing academic papers to make parishes eco-friendly.

D’Silva became involved in environmental issues during a time when the awareness of the general public was minimal. He got actively involved in issues pertaining to ecological damage – attending workshops, conducting seminars, and undertaking relief activities for the marginalized communities being affected by climate change.

D’Silva’s episcopal motto is ‘Care for Creation,’ and at present serves as the Secretary of the Climate Change Desk at the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). He is a big supporter of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’.

“In the Book of creation, we read that God has created beautiful World and He saw that the world was good and, that the world was good but unfortunately we have destroyed the world by our actions,” D’Silva told Crux.

“[The fight against] climate change is rooted in faith, because to care for creation is to manifest one’s love for the Creator. The more we care for creation, the more spiritual we become,” he said. “Uncertainty looms over weather, floods and rising temperatures and that has already caused a lot of damage. So many steps need to be taken to do something about it not only in India but globally.”

Each Parish of the Archdiocese will plan a Carbon Fast on the day allotted to them. The archdiocesan’ Carbon Fast will run from Ash Wednesday 1 March to Saturday 8 April 2017.