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Progress in Protecting Our Common Home?

I’ve written often in these blogs about the need to care for the environment, not as part of any political position but because I believe caring for our common home is a required commitment of people searching for God.

But readership for blogs about the environment is always low, according to the data my blog program tracks. For one thing, people take the environment for granted. It’s just there. Why should I have to do anything to protect it? Secondly, people feel powerless. What can I do to make any real difference? Third, people – especially young people – are pessimistic about humanity’s efforts to make environmental progress. Overcoming the obstacles seems unreachable.

A recent news report may help free people from the last objection.

“News reports about environmental degradation are plentiful,” writes German Lopez in a recent New York Times Morning Report, “but there may be reason to be optimistic.”

Environmental Scientists
As part of his reporting, he spoke with several environment scientists.

“The world, they argued, has made real progress on climate change and still has time to act,” Lopez writes. “They said that any declaration of inevitable doom would be a barrier to action, alongside the denialism” that some have used to stall climate legislation.

“In much of the world, solar and wind power are now cheaper than coal and gas. The cost of batteries has plummeted over the past few decades, making electric vehicles much more accessible. Governments and businesses are pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into clean energy.

“Before 2015,” Lopez writes, “the world was expected to warm by about four degrees Celsius by 2100. Today, the world is on track for three degrees Celsius. And if the world’s leaders meet their current commitments, the planet would warm by around two degrees Celsius.”

Ok, so what does this all have to do with the search for God?

Just this. How can we claim an interest in a loving Creator and show disinterest in or disrespect for creation? How can we search for God and be ungrateful for God’s gifts?

That’s the perspective of Pope Francis, who has been reviled for speaking out about the environment and the economy. For Francis, and anyone who genuinely searches for God, these issues are inseparable from faith.

Besides the lack of gratitude and resulting rejection of the obligation to preserve the earth and its resources, Pope Frances has identified another truth that many people would like to ignore: the deteriorating environment’s disproportionate effect on the poor. If we strive to be God-like, we must have a special place in our hearts for the poor.

“We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity,” he wrote in Laudato Si, his encyclical on the environment and global warming. “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.”

Match Concern with Actions

So, how can we match our concern for our common home with our actions?
First, by becoming aware of the problem and helping others to become aware. Then, by following Pope Francis’ warnings about participating in the “throwaway culture,” trying to limit waste as much as possible and encouraging others to do the same. We can support politicians, organizations and others who want to protect the environment and support efforts to find and use more efficient forms of energy.

In Laudato Si, the pope refers to his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who called the earth “our sister.”

“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,” the Pope writes. “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” 

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