Sunday, April 3, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #33... Digging ourselves out

I'm digging, I'm digging...
Yippee, we've finally reached Chapter Five of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home! The reason this makes me happy is that Pope Francis and his encyclical writing team spent the last 4 chapters "pointing to the cracks in the planet that we inhabit as well as to the profoundly human causes of environmental degradation"... but they've finally had enough of that... "now we shall try to outline the major paths of dialogue which can help us escape the spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us" (paragraph 163).

Of course, it's going to take more than discussion to sort out the ecological and social messes we find ourselves in, but before I get ahead of myself and the Pope, we're looking at paragraphs 163-167 this week. You can read them for yourself if you click here and scroll down.

I like the first line of paragraph 164 -- "Beginning in the middle of the last century and overcoming many difficulties, there has been a growing conviction that our planet is a homeland and that humanity is one people living in a common home." Basically, this underlines the idea that we are interdependent -- "one world with a common plan." Unfortunately, we've been sold a bill of goods by consumer culture that insists we must all exist independently, apart from our neighbours, with our own homes, possessions and live-it-up-lifestyles that take us far from the idea of the common good. Similarly, our countries too often act independently of each other when what we really need is to pull together:
A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water (paragraph 164).
Imagine what that would look like! Canada growing grains for drought-ravaged Sudan, Sudan developing solar farms that can give energy to Europe, Europe and the Pacific Rim countries working together for better ocean management programs (Canada being one of that group) and everyone everywhere working together to protect our most precious resource, water, and ensure that all species on earth have enough of what we need to live.

Utopia? No, reality -- if we can set aside our differences, listen to our scientists, and follow through on some good management by working together.

Perhaps our biggest challenge is found in the first lines of paragraph 165: "We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels -- especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas -- needs to be progressively replaced without delay." Climate change is a reality. But "Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world. Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities."

Paragraphs 166 and 167 mention how "Worldwide, the ecological movement has made significant advances," (paragraph 166) and that World Summits have tried to be responsible for getting us on the right path to saving our planet, though in many cases, the lack of political will to implement the Summits' recommendations has caused too much delay. Pope Francis and friends note that that 1992 Earth Summit in Rio was "a real step forward, and prophetic for its time," but that "its accords have been poorly implemented, due to lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance" (paragraph 167).

The Earth Summit (ECO92) came up with 27 principles (that you can read by clicking here) that I had never read until this week. Some of Laudato Si 's ideas sound like they could come directly out of them. For example, here's principle 6:
The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.
I can't help but wonder where we would be as a planetary people if we had inscribed these principles on our hearts and begun to live by them almost 25 years ago... but I think my church was too busy preventing one of its liberation theologians, Leonardo Boff, from speaking at the Earth Summit to really pay attention to what the Earth Summit was all about. I appreciate that Pope Francis is revisiting that territory now, but in the meantime, we've lost valuable time to dig ourselves out of all this trouble we're in.

The northern hemisphere is moving into spring, the south into fall. The edge season we are in is a wonderful time to consider our earth as it begins to awaken or settle into its dormant season. But no matter where we live, we are all called to wake up to the actions we can take to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel energy, to cut our emissions of CO2 as much as possible. Our family is taking a big step this week, installing solar panels to provide most of our electricity. It's required a fair bit of effort on our parts (that hand-dug trench is 3 feet deep and 29 feet long!) but it's worth it.

Here is an excellent list from Ontario of ten ways for anyone to reduce greenhouse gases:

Ten Ways to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

How many do you follow? And how many more can you try to implement? What can you start with this week?

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.


(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Next reflection: Shouldering our greater responsibility

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