Making a Difference
By Tony Magliano
It’s courageous, it’s prophetic, it’s challenging, it’s holistic, it’s wonderful: That’s what I think of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical “Laudato Si,’ on Care for Our Common Home.”
Quoting his patron saint, Francis of Assisi – who is also the patron saint of ecology – Pope Francis begins his papal letter with a beautiful verse from the saint’s Canticle of the Creatures: “‘Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.’”
“St. Francis of Assisi reminds us,” writes the pope, “that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. …
“This sister 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.”
Pope Francis explains, “Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated. … The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
Siding with 97 percent of climate scientists he says, “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system” (visit http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/).
The pope urgently calls for worldwide conversion from the use of global warming fossil fuels – oil, coal, gas – to “clean renewable energy” found in wind, solar and geothermal. (visit Earth Policy Institute http://bit.ly/1JaEb9B).
“Climate change … represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
The Holy Father writes, “The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming. …
“Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.”
Francis writes that in political and economic discussions the poor seem to be brought up as an afterthought. “Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. …
“Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
The Church “must above all protect mankind from self-destruction.”
The Holy Father sees the environmental problem as part of a much larger, more serious problem: Our failure to consistently recognize the truth that everyone and everything is interconnected.
He explains, “When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.”
However, because we continue to ignore the vital necessity of nurturing this interconnectedness, the ecological, social and spiritual web is tearing.
But if we care at all, we still have a little time to mend the tears.
For anyone interested in being a part of the solution, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” is a must read!
–Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.