If you only have a few minutes, I implore you to read the Pope’s Encyclical Letter – full text found here – instead of reading my blog. Really, he pretty much covers everything this blog has ever aimed to cover – in one letter; since he is the Pope, I will try not to feel inadequate about this.
But, if you feel like reading my humble post on it, please carry on.
I have decided to simply compile a few things here for you, rather than muse much upon them.
I hoped that commentary of this magnitude delivered from the worldwide leader of the Catholic Church might break down some of the barriers that have blocked meaningful political gains, even meaningful dialogue, when it comes to “environmentalism.” Based on the news coverage and responses from some of our politicians – it seems that even Pope Francis may be out-pontificated by some of our lobbyists.
Yet, I am eternally (eternally, yes, because all language gets wafty when speaking about the Pope) grateful for Pope Francis. Every environmentalist — eco-group, blogger, marketer, PR girl, canvasser, kid in Thailand trying to convince his mom to recycle – has been trying for years to alter the “environmentalist” brand to remove the stigma associated with the term: ie, tree-hugging hippies that want to destroy the economy. As I said in my first post, this is a human issue, it should not be a political argument, but lobbyists and special interests and our media and our political structures around the world have held fast to the argument – sadly, to simply win elections, make more money and other fripperies that deny the cosmic insignificance of these gains. The Encyclical Letter takes the first steps – and on a global scale – required to change that image and move us from a point of contention to a point of action.
Here are some snippets from some of our presidential candidates: names have been removed to emphasize that this is an apolitical issue (and an apolitical blog):
“…there are more pressing problems on Earth [than global climate change] and the Pope should …leave science to the scientists” [Aside: since the Pope has a chemistry degree, I guess he’s adhering to this request!]
“.. I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or from my pope…”
Indirect quote: It is more appropriate for politicians and other lawmakers than the pontiff to weigh in on the issue because they make public policy decisions affecting American workers.
And the coal industry sent a hefty email blast – blasting the Pope for failing to promote fossil fuels as a solution to global poverty.
But, behold, the U.S. faith group reaction was a saving grace. Here are a few examples:
Joseph Kurtz, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Louisville “It is our marching orders for advocacy…It really brings about a new urgency for us.”
Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton:“This document written for all people of good will challenges institutions and individuals to preserve and respect creation as a gift from God to be used for the benefit of all.”
Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco: “I’m inspired and grateful for the Pope’s high profile leadership and commitment to environmental justice.”
Imam Taha Hassane, Islamic Center of San Diego:”Local and National Muslim Leadership support policies that both halt environmental degradation and repair that which has already occurred. We stand with any leader, secular or spiritual, who is willing to speak out against this issue.”
I will not attempt to summarize the Pope’s appeal – as further impetus for you to read the full text, but here are a few choice words – directly quoted – which should inspire:
“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.”
“It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been…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.”
“Here we see how environmental deterioration and human and ethical degradation are closely linked. Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is.”
“Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach…”
“True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. 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 …”
“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.”
“Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. Here I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share.”
“Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”
“Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest.”
“Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. As the bishops of Southern Africa have stated: “Everyone’s talents and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation”.  All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents.”
In closing I’d like to share two more quotes.
The first is from a presidential candidate who said he thinks:
“…religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”
I’d like to inquire with this gentleman about why he thinks that confronting and addressing the urgent needs of our shared and only home, the earth — and the dangers we face, including the economic, social, and physical inequities caused by our mismanagement of it – is not about making us better as people.
But I think Pope Francis says it better:
“I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor…
“We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.
“For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.”
Full text of the Encyclical Letter: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html