Friday, July 31, 2015

          “Care for Our Common Home”

Standing on the steps of the Trenton State House, surrounded by people waving posters, I had just
finished speaking at a press conference announcing the formation of a new coalition, The NJ Clean Energy Coalition. I had been asked to speak about the connection between this event and Pope Francis’
encyclical, “Laudato Si – Care for Our Common Home”. Standing there, I saw this excited young woman coming toward me. “Look, look,” she said with enthusiasm and a great smile, “I have a Pope poster!” She showed me her homemade poster which read, “Listen to the Pope. Stop fossil fuels.” Scanning the crowd, I noticed a sprinkling of other “Pope posters.”

The NJ Clean Energy Coalition, composed of a growing group of thirty-six environmental, labor,
religious, community and citizen groups, is advocating for a movement toward clean, safe energy.

The Coalition is calling for a 30% increase in energy efficiency and 100% carbon free electricity production by 2030. The Coalition is also committed to stopping the various oil and gas projects threatening New Jersey—projects such as the proliferation of pipelines, oil trains and proposals for fracking waste storage, and a natural gas facility off the NJ coast. These projects threaten drinking water, open space, the ocean, communities and neighborhoods.

This new coalition is the type of action stressed in “Laudato Si.” The encyclical talks about the
importance of local efforts and the coming together of people and groups who may have disagreements on some issues, but who recognize the urgency of addressing climate change and the need to work
together on this common threat.

It is in that spirit that the encyclical is addressed not only to Catholics, but to “the whole human family.” “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.”

In an address at the UN, Cardinal Peter Turkson, who has been a key consultant and author in producing the encyclical, listed some of the main points that are emphasized in “Laudato Si”:

  • Humanity is not separate from the environment in which we live; rather humanity and the natural environment are one. Everything is connected. Everything is interrelated. We are one and humans have a moral obligation to care for this community of oneness. Pope Francis says, “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.” Pope Francis calls us to hear “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”
  • The grave errors that increase our disastrous indifference to the environment include a throwaway-culture of consumerism, and a naive confidence that technological advances and undirected commercial markets will inevitably solve our environmental problems.
  • The accelerating change in climate is undeniable, catastrophic and worsened by human activities, but also amenable to human intervention.
  • We must address the ethical nature of our crisis, both through dialogue, and by recovering our fundamental spiritual dimension.
We are part of a universe in which all of creation – water, soil, mountains, ocean – everything that is speaks of God's love. Our role is not one of mastery over creation, but rather protection of creation. The meaning of “Laudato Si” is “Praise be to You, O Lord,” the beginning of the prayer of St. Francis, which acknowledges the sacredness of all creation.

In the encyclical, Pope Francis speaks to groups like that which gathered on the Trenton State House steps, perhaps especially to those young people proudly waving their “Pope Posters.” He says, “I want to recognize, encourage and thank all those striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share.”

WATERSPIRIT is energized and thrilled with the emergence of “Laudato Si” as a growing global catalyst and voice for the global shift in consciousness for the care of creation and climate change action!

- Suzanne Golas, csjp