Encyclical is prophetic, challenging, wonderful Print
Making a Difference
Thursday, Jul. 16, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

It’s courageous, it’s prophetic, it’s challenging, it’' holistic, it’s wonderful: That's what I think of Pope Francis' environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.

Quoting his patron saint, Francis of Assisi -- who is also the patron saint of ecology -- Pope Francis begins his papal letter with a beautiful verse from the saint's Canticle of the Creatures: "'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.'"

Our common home

"St. Francis of Assisi reminds us," writes the pope, "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."

Pope Francis explains, "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."

Climate change

The Holy Father then weighs in on climate change. Ignoring the weak scientific claims of those who deny the climate is changing and that the earth is warming -- due principally to human pollution -- he writes, "A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system."

Indeed, the scientific consensus is very solid. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), "97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities."

Pope Francis continues, "In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events. . . . Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production, and consumption, in order to combat this warming."

Conversion from fossil fuels

The pope says that "the problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels" -- that is coal, oil, and gas. He calls for global conversion from the use of fossil fuels to “clean renewable energy" -- wind, solar, and geothermal.

"Climate change . . . represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades." For example, "There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. . . .

"The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming."

Pope Francis says in addition to highlighting the duty of each person to care for nature, the Church "must above all protect mankind from self-destruction."

For anyone interested in being a part of the solution, Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home is a must read!

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.