Five years have passed since Pope Francis issued his now famous Encyclical Letter 'Laudato Si' on care for our common home. It would be great to celebrate some progress in those five years but sadly the damage to our planet is ongoing and unrelenting despite the prophetic dire warnings of Francis, and indeed many major commentators. So five years on we should perhaps pause for thought and reflection.
Pope Francis meets Greta
All those who read the document, and there were many millions of copies disseminated - were touched by its breath of vision, its profound hopefulness and its proclamation of life and beauty.
'Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.' (12)
But Laudato Si also makes for difficult reading. Pope Francis is uncompromising in his view of what human selfishness and irresponsibility are doing to our shared home and how it could be leading ultimately to ruin. The document invites us to look the issues squarely in the eye and appraise what our actions have wrought to date, only such a head-on approach will lead us to find meaningful answers and to forge a way forward.
'Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain . . . . the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.' (LS 161)
The difficulty with such a global issue is that the very scale of the problem makes it seem insurmountable. We can easily rationalise that Ireland is such a tiny Island in a vast world that nothing we do can make a difference in the grand scheme of things, and while this has a certain truth to it, it does not absolve us of our responsibility to become part of the solution, however small a part, rather than an ongoing part of the problem. Though a small nation we can lead the way, we can adopt changes to our industrial practices and make lifestyle choices that proclaim our willingness to be part of significant change. Every individual contribution of positive change takes us another small step towards a solution however insignificant that small step might seem.
People of other faiths have taken up the challenge also and the website https://livingthechange.net/commitment-tool is a fine example of interfaith co-operation on the issue, it offer simple and practical steps that each one of us can take towards the sustainability of our common home.
At present fires rage throughout Australia and experts estimate that over a billion animals have died. Changing weather patterns will continue to wreak havoc and experts warn of impending chaotic conditions in places like the Phillipines, drought in sub-Saharan Africa and the spread or tropical diseases to places they were unknown heretofore, doing nothing is not an option. Change begins with me!
'Truly, much can be done!' (LS 180)
Philip Curran, St. Mary's Lucan