“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”
–Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
“Laudato Si” (Praised Be)
As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si, we re-post this piece that originally appeared in 2015 for your reflection. May we recommit ourselves to caring for the gift of our earth. For the full text of the encyclical, click here.
The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC., and published on June 18, 2015.
This sister [our common home] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.
The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.
The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.
Policy and Political Leadership
There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.
The establishment of a legal framework, which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems, has become indispensable, before the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm overwhelm not only our politics but freedom and justice as well.
A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.
International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.
Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention.
True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.)
What is needed is a politics which is farsighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.
Reality of the Problem and Necessity to Act
Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.
Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.
It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent.
Calls to Action
Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.
Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.
Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.
Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it.
Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.
We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively and replaced without delay.
Truly, much can be done!
Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change.
A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.