Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem
Climate change has been on the front burner for a long time. Year after year the extremes in weather patterns have people saying, “See! There is climate change.” The deniers keep up their drum beat. Congress does nothing. Massive hurricanes tear up our seacoasts. Typhoons devastate Taiwan and the coast of China. Wildfires each year are more terrible than the last, and burn up the West. A plant springs a leak of toxic chemicals, and rivers for miles are polluted, wreaking havoc all over. Mississippi is having the worst heat wave in history. Much hullabaloo. But the deniers soothe people and its back to the usual.
Then there is the recycle movement. Reduce landfills. Push for biodegradable materials. Do we really want people five hundred years from now doing dissertations on our plastic bottles in landfills?
Some of this may sound silly. People make jokes, but it is all very serious. The scientific consensus is in. We are putting the future of our planet at serious risk.
Pope Francis takes this very seriously. In fact he has made this a centerpiece of his papacy.
Bernie Sanders writes: “Climate change is an unprecedented planetary emergency. If we don’t act aggressively now to combat it, there will be major and painful consequences in store later: rising oceans that inundate coastal areas, bigger super storms like Hurricane Sandy, worsening droughts, out-of-control wildfires, historic floods that come year after year, rising food prices, and millions of people displaced by climate disasters.”
Pope Francis, and this encyclical are making a powerful progressive impact across the world. The Atlantic Magazine reported:
In his Encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis rattles off fact after fact about the pitiful state of the earth: Pesticides have contaminated farmers soil. Air pollution has poisoned cities. Man-made waste checkers landscapes. There is not enough clean water for people to drink or tropical forests to regulate carbon in the atmosphere. Whole species of animals are dying out. In one place he says we are turning the planet into a filthy dump, but this planet is our home, all we got.
It is the poorest nations in the developing world that face the brunt of these conditions.
This encyclical is addressed to everyone on our planet, to remind us that there is such a thing as the common good, that all share and have a right to. Ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion.” He says “politics and technology have failed to save the earth.” Pope Francis criticizes “greed capitalism,” profit at all cost.
I want to focus on the interior conversion part, the spirituality part. To really change the situation involves an interior change. A spiritual renewal has to be built on the interdependence we have on the world and all nature. We are custodians, not dominating rulers.
A Catholic source reports:
The Encyclical Laudato si’ (Praised Be You) is developed around the concept of integral ecology, as a paradigm able to articulate the fundamental relationships of the person: with God, with one’s self, with other human beings, with creation. As the Pope himself explains in n. 15, this movement starts (ch. I) by listening spiritually to the results of the best scientific research on environmental matters available today, “letting them touch us deeply and provide a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows.” Science is the best tool by which we can listen to the cry of the earth.
Pope Francis, true to his patron, says again and again that we have a relationship with the earth, all its creatures. We are called to protect this patrimony and hand it on to future generations. We are not to exploit it. He analyses Genesis correctly by saying we are not to dominate but to nurture and care for it.
Again and again he blasts those who would simply strip the earth of resources for profit only. Unbridled capitalism is a sin, and he is clear on that.
So the attitude must be one of reverence for God’s handiwork. Like St. Francis we must see the creative power of God at work and assist it by preserving its resources.
(Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, lives at the Priory of St. Moses the Black, Jackson.)