Introducing Laudato Si – On Care for our Common Home by Pope Francis
Jan 31 Luke 4:21-30 A prophet is not recognized in his own town – people marveled, and threw him out. Iherne h: Pope Francis addresses each of us, challenging us to assume personal responsibility for saving our world from its dangerous, even fatal tailspin – replace our throwaway culture, and adopt a new lifestyle.
18 20 21 Pollution affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, industrial and mining residue, dangerous waste, much of it non- biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes, businesses, clinical, electronic and industrial sources, construction and demolition sites. Often no measures are taken until people’s health is irreversibly affected. Technology, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way to solve these problems, but in fact proves incapable of seeing the relations between things, and so solves one problem only to create others.
22 These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture, which quickly reduces things to rubbish. We have not managed to adopt a circular model of production, preserving resources, while limiting the use of non- renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling.
27 30 Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance. We all know that it is not possible to sustain the present level of consumption. Underground water sources are threatened by pollution by mining, farming and industrial activities. Detergents and chemical products continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas. There is a growing tendency to privatize water, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, consistent with people’s inalienable dignity.
50 51 52 53 55 We need the conviction that we are one single human family; but we lack the culture to confront this crisis. Some people have an ecological sensitivity but it does not change their harmful habits of consumption which appear to be growing al/ the more, such as the increasing use of air-conditioning.
122 123 Misguided anthropocentrism (self-centeredness) leads to a misguided lifestyle. In Joy of the Gospel, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is “even more dangerous than doctrinal relatlvism.”1 When human beings place themselves at the center, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Such attitudes feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay. A “use and throwaway” logic supports the disordered desire to consume more than what is necessary.
161 162 163 The need for a change of direction is evident. We post-moderns run the risk of rampant individualism, leading to a culture of instant gratification. Our contemporary lifestyle is unsustainable; the pace of consumption, environmental change and waste has stretched the planet’s capacity. It can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now are occurring in different areas of the world. The present imbalance can only be rectified by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability.
193 Development involves new forms of growth, but we need to contain growth by setting reasonable limits before it is too late. Pope Benedict XVI said: “technically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency.”2
194 We need to change our “models of development.”3 It is not enough to try to balance protection of nature with irresponsible progress. Halfway measures delay inevitable disaster. Technical and economic development which does not leave a better world and a higher quality of life is not progress. Often, people’s quality of life actually diminishes in the midst of economic growth, trying to absorb ecology into finance and technocracy.
202 203 204 Many things need to change course, we human beings above all, to new convictions, attitudes and lifestyle. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us; it will demand that we set out on along path of renewal. When we become self-centered and self-enclosed, our greed increases. The emptier our heart is, the more we need things to buy, own and consume, unable to accept the limits of reality. As these attitudes become more widespread, a genuine sense of the common good disappears.
205 Yet all is not lost. We can rise above themselves. We can take an honest look at ourselves and embark on new paths to authentic freedom – our God-given ability to respond to his grace at work deep in our hearts.
206 A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure on those who wield political, economic and social power. Consumers have social responsibility: “Purchasing is a moral act.”4 When social pressure by consumer boycotting affects their earnings, businesses find ways to produce differently, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint. “Environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.”5
207 The Earth Charter asked us to leave self-destruction behind and make a new start, but we have not yet developed universal awareness to achieve “the struggle for justice and peace, the joyful celebration of life.”6
208 Concern for others, rejecting every form of self-centeredness, attunes us to the moral imperative to
assess the impact of our every actions and personal decisions on the world around us.
209 Young people have an ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some are making admirable efforts to protect the environment. At the same time, they have grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits. We are faced with an educational challenge.
210 We seek ecological harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and with God – that Transcendent which gives ecological ethics its meaning, helping us grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.
211 212 Education must instill good habits in little daily actions: use less heating and wear warmer clothes, avoid the use of plastic and paper, reduce water consumption, separate refuse, reuse something instead of discarding it, cook only what you can consume, use public transport or car-pooling, plant trees, turn off unnecessary lights. All of these habits reflect a generous creativity which brings out the best in human beings, restores our sense of self-esteem, enables us to live more fully, and ultimately to change the world.
213 215 Good education, especially in families, plants seeds when we are young, which bear fruit throughout life. We first learn how to show love and respect for life; the proper use of things, respect for all creatures, growing harmoniously in personal maturity. By learning to appreciate beauty, we learn to look outward. If I cannot stop and admire something beautiful, it will be no surprise if I use (or abuse) every thing as an object.
216 Christian spirituality makes a precious contribution to humanity’s renewal. The teachings of the Gospel are more than mere concepts. Our spirituality motivates us to passionate concern for our world – an “interior impulse which encourages, motivates, nourishes and gives meaning to our individual and communal activity.”7
217 218 “The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts have become so vast.”8 The ecological crisis is a summons to profound interior conversion. Francis of Assisi helps us realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion. The Australian bishops: “To achieve reconciliation, we must acknowledge the ways in which we have harmed God’s creation through actions and failure to act. We need to experience conversion, a change of heart.”9
219 220 Self-improvement by individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation faCing our world. “This work calls for a union of skills and a unity of achievement that can only grow from quite a different attitude .”10 Social problems must be addressed by community networks, a community conversion. We do not understand our superiority as a reason for irresponsible dominion, but rather as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith.
221 The convictions of our faith that I set forth at the beginning of this Encyclical help us enrich the meaning of this conversion. Christ has taken unto himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with his affection and penetrating it with his light. I ask all Christians to recognize and to live fully this dimension of their conversion. May the power and light of the grace we have received be evident in our relationship to other creatures and to the world around us. In this way, we will help nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which Saint Francis of Assisi so radiantly embodied.
1 No. 80: AAS 105 (2013). 1053.
2 Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace. 9: AAS 102 (2010), 46.
4 BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate (29 VI 2009), 66: AAS 101, 699.
5 BENEDICT XVI, 2010 World Day of Peace, 11: AAS 102, 48.
6 Earth Charter, The Hague (29 June 2000).
7 Joy of the Gospel (24 Nov 2013), 261: AAS 105 (2013), 1124.
8 BENEDICT XVI, Homily for the Solemn Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry (24 April 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 710.
9 AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE, A New Earth – The Environmental Challenge (2002).
10 ROMANO GUARDINI, (The End of the Modern World, 65-66).