Our relationship with nature, with others and with God has been interrupted, and we must turn back to our task in using the earth’s resources wisely and respect all living and non-living things created by God. Laudato Si, formally On Care for Our Common Home, is Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter that allows the Pope to discuss with everyone about our planet which he terms our common home. The encyclical is a worldwide warning for us to understand how we are shaping our environment and how we are causing destruction to our fellow men.
Laudato Si is addressed not only to Catholics but also to everyone of all ages and religions. It summarizes the major environmental challenges defined by science and explores their deeper causes in a materialistic society of self-desires bent on profit without regard for the needs of the poor or the environment. The issues discussed include pollution and climate change, access of water which is a basic human right, loss of biodiversity, decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society, global inequality, weak responses, and the variety of opinions (Dahl).
The encyclical is broad as it discusses not only about our effect on the environment, but also the many philosophical, theological, and cultural causes that threaten our relationships towards nature and fellow men in various circumstances (Cotter). The letter analyzes the causes of today’s ecological challenges associated with the rapid degradation of the environment. The Pope’s vision is that the ecological crisis is ultimately linked to a crisis of values, a spiritual void that permeates today’s technocratic society.
In Tilche and Nociti’s analysis, the Pope’s appeal to action makes this document particularly innovative, that acknowledging the urgency and the immensity of the challenge we face becomes a unique occasion for us to show that we are capable of taking responsibility. This positive narrative has the potential to cause people and governments move towards a joint action that however cannot be limited to technological fixes, but should be broadened to consider new development models capable of addressing the deep roots of this crisis.
Our modern world has developed at a faster pace than we could have ever known. The world’s leaders lack the courage and vision to address the world’s environmental crisis. We all have to consume resources to survive, but we do not need to desire things that are not necessary for us at all. Consumption is a similar kind of addiction wherein a constant desire for more things and more possessions becomes an obsession. Our increasing use of polluting fossil fuels contributes to climate change, which is one of the worldwide challenges we face today, especially for the poorest communities.
Also, our technological world distracts us from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply, and to love generously. True intimate relationships are replaced with virtual friendships giving rise to a new sense of isolation. Technology and the financial markets can be wonderful instruments, as long as they are serving human beings, enhancing human dignity, as opposed to making relatively few very rich and a lot of people slaves. We should make choices that more deeply honor the interrelated reality of the world.
We need to open up the facts to see that our common home is falling into serious decay. Living things are becoming extinct at an alarming rate. We can see harm inflicted on our planet in most urban regions where most of us consume more from most of the poor communities on this planet as well as from the future generations to come. There seems to be no deceleration in the lifestyles of the modern communities. The large gap continues to widen between the poor who are trapped with few resources and the rich who keep on consuming and wasting at a cyclical nature. Our earth is beginning to look like a pile of disgusting dirt. We have stripped most of the earth’s natural forests and contaminated its waters. This lead to one serious problem which is the quality of water available for the poor.
A more solemn lifestyle invites us to see what each one can learn to live without that includes taking time to reflect on our lifestyle and our ideals. We can listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor by undergoing an ecological conversion which allows us to consume things seriously such as minimizing the use of plastic and paper, conserving water and segregating trash, but most importantly, we need to slow down on how much we consume and throw away.
Yet, despite this environmental crisis we are facing today, all is not lost. Our youth wants a better future and they demand serious change for this crisis and the sufferings of the poor. Our response to the Pope’s urgent appeal for a new worldwide harmony with others is very important because all of us are affected by the environmental challenges we face in our common home. Everyone needs to work as one so that we may create beauty in our nature, not destruction. We need to stop consuming the earth’s resources with no consideration on how our actions might affect the environment, the poor or future generations. We should get rid of the distractions that dull our awareness of the environment, listen to the cry of the earth and the poor, and start to formulate solutions to this crisis. We can find better happiness and freedom in living a simple life rather than being always on the search for what we do not have. Let us put our love for the world into actions by living together in union, listening to one another, caring for the environment and getting involved in societal issues. All of us are capable of these changes and of making a new start so let us start today.