I have have had an intimate relationship with my environment from day dot and have studied the natural world from my childhood right through my adult life. During my time, as a scientist and researcher I have become extremely aware aware of today’s environmental trends and their implications. The dramatic decline  in the numbers and diversity of life at local and global levels we are now witnessing and the depletion, pollution and abuse of our most vital natural resources like food, air and water can be really depressing. It’s even sadder that we could be doing something to reverse these trends but in so many situations we are only exasperating the problem. For a long time we have been seemingly isolated from many of the impacts and the problem that seem too big to solve but we can ignore these issues no longer. The condition of our natural world is changing for the worse and its time to do something about it.

To believe we can make a difference requires a large degree of faith. That’s why I loved reading Pope Francis’s recent Encyclical. It was a plea for action appealing to everyone regardless of their religion. It, for the most part, married science and religion perfectly and its call for action was both immediate and clear. The pope wants us to unify and act now and his encyclical sends a clear message. That we can create healthy environments which support a bright future for all if we regain our love and respect for our natural world.

Here’s few dot points of what stood out to me as I (mostly) read through it all:

  • We are carers of our common home and we have a responsibility which we have abused and neglected to the detriment of the air, water, soil and life that we depend upon.
  • Environmental care is core to the Church’s social doctrine.
  • Our intervention, often in the form of business interests and consumerism is making the world less rich and beautiful, and evermore limited and grey. We think we can build something more intriguing and sustaining but we are failing miserably.
  • Biblical texts tell us that it is our responsibility to “till and keep” the garden of the world, meaning we have to cultivate and work to care, oversee, protect and preserve and foster a relationship of mutual responsibility between us and nature, for we are one.
  • A reductionist view held by people has resulted in a focus on technology and science and development that serve limited purposes and ignore the reality that these views and actions have far reaching and often negative impacts on every aspect of human and social life. These measures are often dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups.
  • We urgently need an integrated view of the world whereby we acknowledge the interconnection of everything. We need an absolute acknowledgement of the multiple aspects of the global crisis, a unified vision for our future and collaboration between all fields of knowledge including economics to avert crisis and create an abundant future. There is no competition, if one of us fail we all fail.

There’s no doubting it’s pretty strong stuff and a direct challenge to those who would deny anything is amiss and that we can continue on the same path we have been on for the past centrury.

There were a number of quotes and a few Tweets that are important which I pasted here below.

“A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.”

Education in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices. All of these reflect a generous and worthy creativity which brings out the best in human beings. Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity. (#211)

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth” (#21). #LaudatoSi

“The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume” (#204). #LaudatoSi

“Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.”

This guy is not a part of the solution…

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. 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.”

“An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive.”

“Viable future scenarios will have to be generated between these extremes, since there is no one path to a solution. This makes a variety of proposals possible, all capable of entering into dialogue with a view to developing comprehensive solutions.”

“On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. But we need only take a frank look at the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. Still, we can see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point, due to the rapid pace of change and degradation; these are evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises, for the world’s problems cannot be analysed or explained in isolation. There are regions now at high risk and, aside from all doomsday predictions, the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity.”

“If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations.”

So there you have it, the Encyclical in a nutshell. No messing around from Pope Francis, he’s telling it like it is! Healthy environments = healthy people and healthy societies. No more denial, let’s roll up our sleeves and get busy.