While highly distracted with love and hope (I fell for someone – on my face!), I managed to read three good but very different books…
My shortened version of Pope Francis’ 2015 papal letter on the environment and the poor.
ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME
This is my (BBC’s) paraphrased (shortened) version of
Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical Letter.
This summary is in preparation for my impending sermon
“An Atheist Embalmer Prays for the Pope.”
My paraphrase of Francis’ letter are written in blue, while the copy/paste sentences are all black.
When Pope Francis quotes another, I try to keep the quote marks apparent.
My rare comments will be in bold.
- “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us 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. “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”.
- 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.
- I wish to address every person living on this planet. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.
- Pope John IV about “tragic consequences”
- Pope John Paul II calls for change from “consumption” to “conversion.”
- Pope Benedict XVI urged us to realize that creation is harmed “where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone
- Catholic church is listening to scientists, philosophers, civic groups, and other religions
- Patriarch Bartholomew: For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”
- He calls for . . . It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion”. As Christians, we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale.
- Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. . . He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.
- Saint Francis wanted us to add affection to our scientific understanding of nature. Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.
- Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. (Deist? BBC)
- Pope Francis’ appeal is to bring the urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. . . Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest.
- I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone . . . to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.
- It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching, can help us to acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face. He will provide Judeo-Christian rationale.
- He points out the relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet. . . and call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress
What is Happening to our Common Home?
- reflections on the situation of humanity and the world can sound tiresome and abstract, unless they are grounded in a fresh analysis . . . [as to] what is happening to our common home.
- He is concerned for the intensified pace of life and work which might be called “rapidification.”
- Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into . . . what each of us can do about it.
(One) Pollution and Climate Change:
Pollution, Waste, and the Throwaway Culture
- Besides air and other noticeable pollutants, There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general.
- Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.
- Nature recycles, but . . . We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.
Climate as a Common Good
- The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. . . The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes.
- The warming is exacerbated by feedback cycles. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.
- This affects the poor and the climate refugees as well as plants and animals.
- Technological innovations, such as clean, renewable energy sources, are helping, but much needs to be done.
- II. The Issue of Water
- What is sustainable? developed countries and wealthier sectors of society, where the habit of wasting and discarding has reached unprecedented levels.
- Water is indispensable for human life, yet it is not assuredly distributed fairly.
- Especially for the poor . . . Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera . . . are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls . . . Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
- access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights . . . the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue.
- Scarcity of water will increase the cost of food and . . . the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.
III Loss of Biodiversity
- The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. For instance, eliminating potential sources for new medicines.
- It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves . . . thousands of species will no longer . . . convey their message to us. We have no such right.
- It is not just large animals familiar to us, but small ones that matter. . . human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly.
- Biodiversity is impacted by projects and roads. Species are exploited without being understood.
- Quick and easy profits blind us to the ongoing costs paid by others.
- Some sanctuaries help protect biodiversity.
- In the guise of protecting them, some crucial areas, such as in the Congo, Amazon and in glaciers, are being ruled by international or local economic interests.
- Forests, wetlands, and mangroves can succumb to monocropping and other short-sighted interests.
- Oceans, from plankton to large fish, are being injured by overfishing, pollution, and improper fishing.
- Coral reefs are in decline. “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?”
- The oceans have not been studied enough to learn of their long-term and intrinsic value.
- Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society
- Humans also deserve protection from environmental destruction and the throwaway culture.
- … disproportionate and unhealthy growth of cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise. . . We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.
- Green islands exist in cities, but not for the poor, mostly.
- the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life. . . are also symptomatic of real social decline, the silent rupture of the bonds of integration and social cohesion.
- Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.
- Global Inequality
- “Both everyday 34 experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”
- The poor are forgotten as tangential or collateral to larger interests. A lack of physical contact numbs our conscience. 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.
- Critiquing population growth without admitting lifestyles that promote waste is a way of refusing to face the issues. Yet we must examine imbalances in population density along with other issues.
- Global inequalities, especially the north’s extraction of the south’s resources while also inflicting their waste must be addressed.
- The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. . . The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse. . . We must continue to be aware that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities. . . There are no frontiers or barriers . . . behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference.
- Weak Responses
- God’s plan for peace, beauty, and fullness is thwarted, because we lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations.
- There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected. . . The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests. Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.
- Even when people care, their habits worsen. For instance, in the growth of air conditioning. The markets, which immediately benefit from sales, stimulate ever greater demand.
- Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is. [Meanwhile] the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule”.
- Chemical, biological, and nuclear wars would devastate, but research continues and . . . political planning tends to lack breadth of vision.
- Beautiful places have been built, as well as innovative technologies. These achievements do not solve global problems, but they do show that men and women are still capable of intervening positively. For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.
- [A] superficial ecology bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. . . This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.
VII. A Variety of Opinions
- Neither a blind faith in the market and our technologies automatically fixing things, nor should humans be barred from trying. Dialog is needed among many options.
- The church does not decree solutions, but advises we creatively and inclusively seek them.
The Gospel of Creation
- Why should readers of this believe believers? . . . there are those who firmly reject the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, and consequently dismiss as irrational the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity. Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Even so, science and religion can enter into fruitful dialog fruitful to both.
I. The Light offered by Faith
- If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out. . . the church is open to dialog and is enriched by it.
- Faith convictions help orient. It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions.
- The Wisdom of the Biblical Accounts
- After the creation of man and woman, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good” (Gen 1:31). (This is the scriptural backup for the core of my belief. I would add all six stages of natural creation are also called “good” by Elohim God. BBC) This shows us the immense dignity of each person, “who is not just something, but someone…”
- The biblical tri-part relations of God, Humans, and Nature are ruptured unto sin. Saints Francis and Bonaventure saw the initial innocence and purity, but… This is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.
- We don’t have “dominion” like a cruel king profiting from exploiting the lands and people. We are not God. The earth was here before us… (I agree with Pope Francis here; in my terms, “dominion” might better be thought of as the “sovereignty” of capable, caring stewards. BBC)
- This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world. . . Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.
- Other living beings have their own inherent value. In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish.
- The stories of Cain and Able and of Noah both teach we should not rend asunder our relations. [They] bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected…
- Noah shows that one good man can repair relations with the divine. The 7th day of rest and the periodic elimination of debts shows all deserve a break and a share.
- The Psalms teach us to live with the God who created all.
- The Prophets teach that though we grow weary, God doesn’t. Furthermore, “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless”
- Similarly, the Babylonian captivity shows us Injustice is not invincible.
- We are created by God [the Laws] and are not the sole owner or wielder of them.
III. The Mystery of the Universe
- Creation is broader than Nature, the former being a gift of God calling us to communion.
- Creation isn’t by chaos or chance; it is an act of love by God.
- A de-mythologized Nature calls even more on the ability of humans.
- Humans can enter all relationships in Nature, mindful it can be for good or ill.
- Even complex or inscrutable problems are ways to call forth our divinely-built goodness.
- Human abilities transcend our physics and biology, drawing out the Thou in the thous we meet.
- Humans should not be seen and used as objects useful to other’s power and economy. We should serve each other, not exploit each other.
- Nor should we dominate other creatures; rather, bring them along to a Christ-like fullness of intelligence and love.
- The Message of Each Creature in the Harmony of Creation
- No creature is superfluous; each and all are manifestations of God.
- God’s “precious book” contains all creatures; deciphering God in all explores our own self.
- Creatures are interrelated; none are independent.
- In manifest Creation and all its creatures and aspects we learn of God.
- The life in all leads us to cultivate our ecological virtues. Knowing that no creature lives up to its inherent God-created nature, we don’t demand God of them, but serve It in them.
- Universal Communion
- The unseen bonds of all created things form a universal family, a sublime communion. “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of a species as a painful disfigurement”
- Nature is not so divine in such a way as we never seek to alter it. Nor should caring for Nature replace our tending to human inequalities, as if some people are worthier than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet.
- It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted.
- Our sense of fraternity with people and creatures excludes nothing and no one. We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity”.
- The Common Destination of Goods
- Private property comes with a social mortgage. We inherit goods intended for all, not a few. The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order”
- “Every campesino has a natural right to possess a reasonable allotment of land where he can establish his home, work for subsistence of his family and a secure life. . . That means that apart from the ownership of property, rural people must have access to means of technical education, credit, insurance, and markets”
- The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all.
- The Gaze of Jesus
- Jesus saw God as Father of all, including simple creatures.
- The Lord was able to invite others to be attentive to the beauty that there is in the world because he himself was in constant touch with nature, lending it an attention full of fondness and wonder.
- Jesus was dedicated in even simple tasks, as should we be. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard. His appearance was not that of an ascetic set apart from the world, nor of an enemy to the pleasant things of life. . . He was far removed from philosophies which despised the body, matter and the things of the world.
- The destiny of the world is bound up in the mystery of the Christ. The mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy.
- The New Testament reveals Christ as risen and glorious throughout creation. Thus, the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end.
The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
- I propose that we focus on the dominant technocratic paradigm and the place of human beings and of human action in the world.
(One) Technology and Power
- There have been vast advances in the last two centuries, from steam engines to nanotechnology. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonder- ful products of a God-given human creativity”.
- Technoscience has brought us many advances in comfort and art, resulting in a quantum leap, a fulfillment uniquely human.
- Yet, from nuclear power to our own DNA, we are in danger. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used. . . In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it.
- We tend to think of it as progress. But is it? Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us. . . Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics…
II. The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm
- Viewing, investigating, and using Nature as an object severs the relationship, leading to a false assumption of unlimited growth, of supplies that can be squeezed dry beyond its limits.
- Such reductionism affects our human situation, but is often dictated by special interests and power groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.
- Though the counterculture tries to live free of technological domination, it is difficult to do so. In trying to have a lordship over all, we diminish our own decision-making and alternative creativity.
- Crashes in our economy and environment aren’t address in mere profit-making. At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation.
- Specialization leads to fragmentation. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence.
- Ecological culture should not be reduced to urgent and partial responses. Technical remedies to interconnected problems masks the deeper problems of a global system.
- How can the authentic rise up against stubborn resistance? An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.
- People have lost faith in a happy, abundant future. …humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life… Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything.
- We need a bold cultural revolution, not going back to scarcity and strife, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made [and] the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.
III. The Crisis and Effects of Modern Anthropocentrism
- Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically prized technology over reality. The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised.
- Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.
- We tend to disregard the worth of Nature itself, from creatures to marginalized people. “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature”.
- There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology… Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.
- Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God.
- Regarding abortion: If rejection of new life is lost, other forms of what is acceptable also wither. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?
- Christianity continues to draw on its inheritance and engages in dialog, thus remaining new.
- By placing man at the center, he takes on a moral relativism that evaluates all by himself.
- If relativism leads to exploitation as a market mechanism, how can we devise laws people will follow?
The Need to Protect Employment
- We need to value the labor that brings fruits forth from a good world. In such work, we become the instruments of God.
- Underlying every form of work is a concept of the relationship which we can and must have with what is other than ourselves.
- Like monks, Personal growth and sanctification came to be sought in the interplay of recollection and work.
- If our capacity for reverence is impaired, work becomes meaningless. Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.
- Turning work over to robots would weaken the overall economy and humanity.
- Praising economic freedom while reducing the number who can enjoy it is doublespeak.
New Biological Technologies
- Frivolously causing animals to suffer while experimenting on human advances is contrary to human dignity.
- While artists and scientists will innovate, we should be cautious of genetic manipulation.
- Biotechnology should adhere to the structure “intended by God.”
- Genetic modifications should consider such changes were slow.
- Changes to seeds can affect the rest of the crops, throw workers out of work. The larger context and implications should be considered.
- When skimpy information about these products prevails, the land and society suffer.
- Just so, as with embryos, the larger ethical issues should be addressed. a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.
- All is interrelated. We need an integral ecology.
I. Environmental, Economic and Social Ecology
- A good part of our genetic code is shared by many living beings. It follows that the fragmentation of knowledge and the isolation of bits of information can actually become a form of ignorance, unless they are integrated into a broader vision of reality.
- Given the scale of change, it is no longer possible to find a specific, discrete answer for each part of the problem. It is essential to seek comprehensive solutions which consider the interactions within natural systems themselves and with social systems.
- Researchers need academic freedom while tending to the larger contexts.
- We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision.
- A society’s institutions can help, but… Laws may be well framed yet remain a dead letter. Can we hope, then, that in such cases, legislation and regulations dealing with the environment will really prove effective? We know, for example, that countries which have clear legislation about the protection of forests continue to keep silent as they watch laws repeatedly being broken.
- Cultural Ecology
- Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense.
- As life and the world are dynamic realities, so our care for the world must also be flexible and dynamic. Merely technical solutions run the risk of addressing symptoms and not the more serious underlying problems… for quality of life must be understood within the world of symbols and customs proper to each human group.
- The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. The imposition of a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production can be just as harmful as the altering of ecosystems.
- Agriculture and mining especially degrade the lands of indigenous peoples. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed…
III. The Ecology of Everyday Life
- Our rooms, homes, workplaces, and neighborhoods influence how we live life. but when it is disorderly, chaotic or saturated with noise and ugliness, such overstimulation makes it difficult to find ourselves integrated and happy.
- Though shabby and disorderly, our buildings don’t prevent our living well. A wholesome social life can light up a seemingly undesirable environment. . . In this way, any place can turn from being a hell on earth into the setting for a dignified life.
- Extreme crowding, poverty, and gangs can impede living well. They … create a sense of uprootedness which spawns antisocial behaviour and violence. Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful.
- City planners can study and create more humane spaces.
- Common areas and landmarks can serve our sense of belonging. in both urban and rural settings, it is helpful to set aside some places which can be preserved and protected from constant changes brought by human intervention.
- Homelessness and shanty towns can be razed for the better or built to be better. How attractive are those cities which, even in their architectural design, are full of spaces which connect, relate and favour the recognition of others!”
- Too many cars make for too many roads. Public transport can help, if designed well.
- Beyond cities, essential services and dignified settings should serve rural areas too.
- We should celebrate our sexual differences and not shy from them or cancel them for not knowing how to accommodate differences. The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.
- The Principle of the Common Good
- Integral ecology incorporates the common good, where individuals and groups access they own fulfillment.
- Underlying the common good is the family as a basic cell of society. It needs peace, stability, and security, lest it succumb to violence.
- Solidarity with the poorest among us is an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good.
Justice Between the Generations
- Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.
- How can we know our dignity if we despoil the world for future generations? When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.
- Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. . . The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.
- Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting.
Lines of Approach and Action
- Considering these challenges, what actions might we pursue?
I. Dialogue on the Environment in the International Community
- Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan. . . 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.
- 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 replaced without delay.
- Many organizations of our civil society are trying to help. thanks to their efforts, environmental questions have increasingly found a place on public agendas and encouraged more far-sighted approaches.
- The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero started, but, Although the summit was a real step forward, and prophetic for its time, its accords have been poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance.
- The Basel Convention on hazardous wastes and the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer, implemented via the Montrael Protocol are examples of successful global cooperation.
- However, progress in biodiversity and deforestation has lagged. Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most. . . International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. . . We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.
- As the bishops of Bolivia have stated, “the countries which have benefited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused”.
- Buying and selling of carbon credits appears to be an ineffective ploy. (There are also successes here. BBC)
- Taking advantage of abundant solar energy will require the establishment of mechanisms and subsidies which allow developing countries access to technology transfer, technical assistance and financial resources, but in a way which respects their concrete situations. . . The costs of this would be low, compared to the risks of climate change.
- Global regulatory norms are needed to impose obligations and prevent unacceptable actions, for example, when powerful companies or countries dump contaminated waste or offshore polluting industries in other countries.
- Let us also mention the system of governance of the oceans. International and regional conventions do exist, but fragmentation and the lack of strict mechanisms of regulation, control and penalization end up undermining these efforts. . . What is needed, in effect, is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called “global commons”.
- The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty. . . Diplomacy also takes on new importance in the work of developing international strategies which can anticipate serious problems affecting us all.
- Dialog for New National and Local Policies
- There are not just winners and losers among countries, but within poorer countries themselves.
- Planning within borders is also needed. political and institutional frameworks do not exist simply to avoid bad practice, but also to promote best practice, to stimulate creativity in seeking new solutions and to encourage individual or group initiatives.
- Leaders hesitate to make changes, but we are always more effective when we generate processes rather than holding on to positions of power. True statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good.
- Cooperatives are helping, but Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment. Local legislation can be more effective, too, if agreements exist between neighbouring communities to support the same environmental policies.
- There are many opportunities. Truly, much can be done!
- Results take time and demand immediate outlays which may not produce tangible effects within any one government’s term. That is why, in the absence of pressure from the public and from civic institutions, political authorities will always be reluctant to intervene, all the more when urgent needs must be met. To take up these responsibilities and the costs they entail, politicians will inevitably clash with the mindset of short-term gain and results which dominates present-day economics and politics. But if they are courageous, they will attest to their God-given dignity and leave behind a testimony of selfless responsibility.
III. Dialog and Transparency in Decision-making
- Corruption can hide or misdirect efforts or create specious agreements that fail to inform and include all.
- Environmental impact statements should be drawn up before a project begins. Ideally, an inclusive process will be owned by all and followed-up on.
- A comparison of risks and benefits of various possible alternatives should be clear and fair, and not succumb to privatized interests.
- Such consideration as water need ample exploration in integral development.
- A precautionary principle should be followed. If objective information suggests that serious and irreversible damage may result, a project should be halted or modified, even in the absence of indisputable proof.
- Profit cannot be the sole criteria in making decisions. The outcome may be a decision not to proceed with a given project, to modify it or to consider alternative proposals.
- Honest and open debate should prevent private interests from harming the common good.
- Politics and Economy in Dialogue for Human Fulfilment
- Politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy. . . it is the real economy which makes diversification and improvement in production possible, helps companies to function well, and enables small and medium businesses to develop and create employment.
- Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?
- Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term [and] can prove very profitable.
- Productive diversification offers the fullest possibilities to human ingenuity to create and innovate, while at the same time protecting the environment and creating more sources of employment.
- In any event, if in some cases sustainable development were to involve new forms of growth, in other cases, given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late.
- Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.
- Only when the costs of exhausting and harming shared environmental resources are borne by those who incur them, not the people of future generations, can it be consider just or ethical.
- Sustainability must be honored, especially when international corporations can wield more power than many states. The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society.
- What is needed is … a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis. Often, politics itself is responsible for the disrepute in which it is held… If politics shows itself incapable of breaking such a perverse logic [of states incapable of impeding economic interests in the guise of benefactors, allowing environmental and social harm to continue], and remains caught up in inconsequential discussions, we will continue to avoid facing the major problems of humanity. A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety…
- Politics and the economy tend to blame each other [instead of being] directed to the common good. While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements… Here too, we see how true it is that “unity is greater than conflict”.
- Religions in Dialog with Science
- Is it reasonable and enlightened to dismiss certain writings simply because they arose in the context of religious belief? . . . The ethical principles capable of being apprehended by reason can always reappear in different guise and find expression in a variety of languages, including religious language.
- Any technical solution which science claims to offer will be powerless to solve the serious problems of our world if humanity loses its compass, if we lose sight of the great motivations which make it possible for us to live in harmony, to make sacrifices and to treat others well. Believers themselves must constantly feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith and not to contradict it by their actions. (I would add “Ditto for religions.” Science is not the only agency to violate the holiness of life; religions have done this in their own form, and atheistic scientists often care for the life beyond their measurements better than some religious types. The pope falls into a false dichotomy, favoring only one side, missing the good science and scientists have to offer. BBC)
- The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity. Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed. . .
ECOLOGICAL EDUCATION AND SPIRITUALITY
- Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone.
One: Towards a New Lifestyle
- Consumerism makes us feel free . . . But those really free are the minority who wield economic and financial power.
- Instability and uncertainty becomes a seedbed of selfishness, where private greed ignores the public good. As these attitudes become more widespread, social norms are respected only to the extent that they do not clash with personal needs.
- All is not lost. We have the dignity to choose the common good and embark on new paths to authentic freedom.
- We can influence production and consumption, as via boycotts. “Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act”.
- “As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning… of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life”.
- If we can overcome individualism, we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society.
II. Educating for the covenant between humanity and the environment
- Growing up in a milieu of extreme consumerism makes it difficult to change. In those countries which should be making the greatest changes in consumer habits, young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment.
- The modern myth of progress and happiness is supplying neither. A new story is needed. It needs educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology, and helping people, through effective pedagogy, to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.
- Ecological citizenship will need widespread acceptance of the ethic in addition to any laws we might devise. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity.
- Not only do such ecological ethics restore our own dignity, it has a collective influence, even if we individually don’t see it.
- Besides in schools and in our media, it is in the family that such values are taught and practiced. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings.
- It is especially in Christian communities that such values and change should be taught. It is my hope that our seminaries and houses of formation will provide an education in responsible simplicity of life, in grateful contemplation of God’s world, and in concern for the needs of the poor and the protection of the environment.
- By learning to see and appreciate beauty, we learn to reject self-interested pragmatism.
III. Ecological conversion
- Doctrine alone won’t sway us. We need to revive the Christian ethic that inspires an interior impulse. Admittedly, Christians have not always appropriated and developed the spiritual treasures bestowed by God upon the Church, where the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us. (Italics and bold added for emphasis.)
- “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast”. For this reason, the ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion . . . 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.
- Like Saint Francis, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change.
- Beyond our individualized efforts, communal change is needed.
- Conversion… also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.
- All creatures have a worthiness, therefore… there is the recognition that God created the world, writing into it an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore.
- Joy and peace
- A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment … Christian spirituality proposes … deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson … “less is more”.
- Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating. It is not a lesser life or one lived with less intensity… Even living on little, they can live a lot.
- We need sobriety and humility, not alienated individualism.
- To have these, we need inner peace. Nature is filled with words of love, but how can we listen to them amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances? … the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us … “must not be contrived but found, uncovered”.
- We need a new attitude of heart which… approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full… [Jesus] was completely present to everyone and to everything, and in this way he showed us the way to overcome that unhealthy anxiety which makes us superficial, aggressive and compulsive consumers.
- Saying grace before and after meals helps create such a new attitude.
- Civic and political love
- As we accept the sun, wind, and clouds, even though we can’t control them. So should we learn to live together communally… In this sense, we can speak of a “universal fraternity”.
- We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.
- Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures…
- . Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world… That is why the Church set before the world the ideal of a “civilization of love”.
- Society is also enriched by a countless array of organizations which work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban… These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual experiences.
VI. Sacramental signs and the celebration of rest
- God is found even in little things.
- Awe at mountains is also an experience of God.
- Sacraments use items of nature to mediate the supernatural life… “Christianity does not reject matter. Rather, bodiliness is considered in all its value in the liturgical act…
- … in the bread of the Eucharist, “creation is projected towards divinization…
- Sunday sabbath rejuvenation and festivity sheds light on our work week’s relation with the poor and nature.
VII. The Trinity and the relationship between creatures
- The universe is embedded with the Trinity.
- Bonaventure sees… each creature bears in itself a specifically Trinitarian structure…
- Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.
VIII. Queen of all creation
- Mother Mary cares for all the crucified of the world, people and nature, like she grieved Jesus.
- Joseph, who showed tenderness and care, shows us a different kind of strength.
- Beyond the sun
- Even now we are journeying towards the sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards our common home in heaven. Jesus says: “I make all things new”
- In the meantime… in union with all creatures… Let us sing as we go.
- In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present.
- At the conclusion of this lengthy reflection which has been both joyful and troubling, I propose that we offer two prayers (the first to the God of all creation, the second as from a Christian perspective.)
A prayer for our earth All-powerful God,
you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes. Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation Father,
we praise you with all your creatures. They came forth from your all-powerful hand; they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love. Praise be to you! Son of God, Jesus, through you all things were made. You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother, you became part of this earth, and you gazed upon this world with human eyes. Today you are alive in every creature in your risen glory. Praise be to you! Holy Spirit, by your light you guide this world towards the Father’s love and accompany creation as it groans in travail. You also dwell in our hearts and you inspire us to do what is good. Praise be to you! Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you. Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you have made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is. God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live. The poor and the earth are crying out. O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life, to prepare for a better future, for the coming of your Kingdom of justice, peace, love and beauty. Praise be to you! Amen.
Given in Rome at Saint Peter’s on 24 May,
the Solemnity of Pentecost,
in the year 2015, the third of my Pontificate
Paragraph numbers adhere to the original.
To see the original text refer to:
Offered in a faithful attempt to represent Pope Francis’ words,
Byron Bradley Carrier
May 11th, 2019
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