Admit it: how much of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter on climate change, Laudato Si’, have you read? I admit I have read some parts of it and have certainly read about it, but here’s a thought: let’s read it together…
It is 184 beautifully written and compelling pages. As I read it I’ll highlight some passages and post them here over the course of—well, however long it takes.
The pope gets right into on page 3:
“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.
“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. 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. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).”
Some perspective, “Nothing in this world is indifferent to us” starts on page 4.
But note, rather than cite specific pages after this, I’ll use paragraph numbers and delete the footnote cites.
3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.
4. In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as “a tragic consequence” of unchecked human activity: “Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation”…
5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem “to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption”. Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion. At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to “safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology”.6 The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in “lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies”. Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and “take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system”. Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God’s original gift of all that is.
Pope Francis notes that his predecessor, Benedict XVI, also proposed “eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment”. He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since “the book of nature is one and indivisible”, and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that “the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence”.
“Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage.” Both are ultimately “due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless.”
This is valuable background, I think, because it shows that Pope Francis is not alone in his thinking on climate change and society – the popes are “united by the same concern.” And the statements of the popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church’s thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing.” (Paragraph 7) He cites the compelling statements of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in the ways we have harmed the planet: “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. (Paragraph 8).
Riveting stuff whether you believe in God or not, but especially if you believe in God.
This where we’ll stop for now.
Image: Laudato Si’ (cover) by Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr CC
President Obama is traveling to Arctic Alaska this week to call for urgent action on climate change, but—and there’s always a but these days—his journey also comes in the context of his recent decision permitting offshore oil and gas drilling by Shell Oil in the same region.
As Julie Hirschfield Davis wrote in yesterday’s New York Times, “While the Arctic is a fitting backdrop for the president’s call to action, it is also a place where the conflicting threads of his environmental policy collide, and where the bracing public debate over how to address the warming of the planet is particularly animated.” Read the rest of this entry »
Word that ExxonMobil is still funding climate science deniers comes as no surprise but does reveal much about how feckless and arrogant the company is. Basically, the oil major is playing with us while thinking we won’t notice.
A long piece this month in the Huffington Post by Elliott Negin, a senior writer at the Union of Concerned Scientists, outlined ExxonMobil’s current approach on climate change. It also noted this carefully parsed statement from spokesman Richard Kiel: “We do not fund or support those who deny the reality of climate change.” Read the rest of this entry »
When the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell chats up the importance of renewable energy as part of the globe’s future energy mix, one might well be a tad suspicious—after all this is an oil major speaking, right?
Could it be that Ben van Beurden has seen the light, powered by things other than fossil fuels? Is it possible he is thinking about the future in a way that’s perhaps more enlightened than simply rhetorical?
Speaking recently at OPEC‘s 167th meeting in Vienna, van Beurden said traditional energy sources should integrate and work together with clean technologies to provide sustainable and economically-sensible power for the future. Read the rest of this entry »
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to issue a scientific finding that greenhouse gases from aircraft pose a risk to human health, paving the way for regulating emissions from the U.S. aviation industry.
Touching off what is likely to be a long and contentious regulatory process, the EPA on Wednesday said it is “proposing to find under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from commercial aircraft contribute to the pollution that causes climate change endangering the health and welfare of Americans.”
At the same time, the agency released information about the international process underway by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) for developing carbon dioxide (CO2) standards for aircraft and EPA’s participation in that process. EPA is seeking public input to inform future steps by the agency. Read the rest of this entry »
Leave it to the French to make something as mundane as a wind turbine into a work of art by installing two of them on the Eiffel Tower.
Yes, that Eiffel Tower, which itself is a monument to both creativity and sustainability: when it was built in 1889 it was only intended to last for 20 years. In the ensuing 126 years the tower has gone through many renovations, but the latest sends a decidedly green message whirling into the future.
Earlier this year, the renewable energy firm Urban Green Energy installed two wind turbines inside the metal scaffolding of the tower. The turbines will produce 10,000 kilowatt hours, enough to power the tower’s first floor commercial establishments, which include restaurants, a souvenir shop, and exhibits about the history of the tower.
The turbines are part of a plan to reduce the environmental impact of the tower. Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), the organization that runs the tower, is also installing rainwater collection systems, LED lights, and solar panels on it. Read the rest of this entry »
Celebrity activist and spoken word artist Prince Ea launched his newest online video, “Dear Future Generations: Sorry” to motivate individuals to take immediate action to stop climate change by Standing for Trees.
Prince Ea was inspired to produce the video by the Stand for Trees campaign, an innovative way for individuals to take action to protect threatened forests and help mitigate global climate change, all with the press of a button on their smart phones.