The 7-year Action plan is a journey towards total sustainability in the spirit of Laudato Si giving attention to the 7-LSGs. The 4thinvites to the Adoption of Simple Life Styles on which we have already made a first reflection. See (1) The Cry of the Earth, (2) The Cry of the Poor, (3) Ecological Economy, and Adoption of Simple Lifestyles. 4thGoal of Laudato Si, 1st Part.
The adoption of simple lifestyles is a search for sobriety in the use of resources and energy, it is avoiding single-use plastic and adopting a more vegetable-based diet, it is a greater use of public transport avoiding polluting means of transport, and adopting other similar behaviors.
This 4thobjective is at the center of the 7 objectives and more than the others it calls on the 7 social realities mentioned by the encyclical: Families; the Dioceses and Parishes; Schools, Universities and Colleges; Hospitals and Health Centers; Farms and similar; Religious Orders. Each of these groups of institutions is called upon to respond to the “urgent challenge to protect our common home" if we want things to change (LS, 13).
We have seen that the financial power must adopt good practices, as its own 'simple lifestyles', because it is primarily responsible for the use of resources and energy. Pope Francis brought this commitment to the attention of the financial world with a message to the Participants in the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund.
However, if one becomes aware of the evils existing in the world, can he remain indifferent? No, he cannot. It is not just the job of politicians at the national or international level to work for change. Laudato Si reminds us, “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (LS, 14), and, everyone can adopt a simple lifestyles or rather one simpler lifestyle. What can we do then to make this change happen?
First, we need to approach nature and the environment "with openness to awe and wonder", speaking "the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world". Then, our attitude will no longer be that "of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters", unable to set any limit. If "we feel intimately united to all that exists, sobriety and care will well up spontaneously". The poverty and austerity of St. Francis were not asceticism, "but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled" (LS, 11).
We have to become aware that nature is "like a sister, with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us" (LS, 1). Today, however, "this sister 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" and asks us to stop acting as owners and rulers, who feel authorized to plunder her.
The earth manifests symptoms of disease "in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life” and she “groans in travail”. We have forgotten that "our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters”. We are earth and we inhale what the tree exhales, as the tree inhales what we exhale.
Each must therefore analyze and repent if he finds that his way of living mistreats the planet. “Inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation” (Patriarch Bartholomew). “For human beings, to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God” (LS 8).
What to do, therefore, so that on a personal, family, small community or group and parish level, our contribution, small or large, does not work to the disfigurement and destruction, but to respect and integral restoration of creation?
The first step should be the decision to abandon a lifestyle imposed by the market that "tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products”, and ends catching us up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending." Romano Guardini said: “The gadgets and technology forced upon [the human being] by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater or lesser degree mass man is convinced that his conformity is both reasonable and just”. We think we are free because we have the possibility to consume. "But those really free are the minority who wield economic and financial power" (LS, 203).
The second step is to educate ourselves to an alliance between humanity and nature and become aware of the ecological crisis in order to assume new habits. "Amassing of things and pleasures are not enough to give meaning and joy to the human heart, yet [too many] feel unable to give up what the market sets before them." Young people have an ecological sensitivity and "make admirable efforts to protect the environment. At the same time, they have grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits." This is the great educational challenge (LS, 209).
For this reason, the third step, family, parish, youth groups should, be a place for experiences and gestures that educate people to adopt lifestyles respecting nature and environment, that is, a space for ecological conversion. “The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast” and the “ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion” (LS 217). A conversion that cannot be limited to prayer or interior and personal spirituality, but must be translated into concrete and effective gestures, even if limited.
This implies to develop new beliefs, new attitudes and habits in daily life. Such as avoiding the use of plastic or paper material, reducing water consumption, sorting waste, cooking only what can be eaten, treating all living beings with care, using public transport or sharing the same vehicle among several people, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, and so on. That is what everyone can do.
Limited gestures on a personal level, which should lead to rethink our development and to change our lifestyle into a simpler and sober one. This is an act of love for the planet and the brothers, while focusing on the common good principle, on the dignity of each person, on personal responsibility at all levels, from international to national and local field.
The possible in everyday life is the source from which change arises, and the key to making every dream possible. It is in everyday life that we build the connection between theory and practice, where a silent revolution takes place starting from the bottom and enhancing all the good present in creation as a strength to spread love.
Happy sobriety, lived with freedom and awareness, is not a low-intensity life. Sobriety is not depriving oneself of the goods of life, but liberating oneself from what is useless and superfluous. Happiness asks to limit the needs that only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer (LS, 223). A happy sobriety is peace with oneself, produces a balanced lifestyle, and allows one to grasp the words of love that nature is full of (LS, 225). A happy sobriety helps to rediscover the essentiality of life; it allows distinguishing what is fundamental and necessary from what is superfluous and generated by induced needs. It is the sculptor's art that takes away to give shape and leads to the perception that the essential of life is relationships.
Everything is related and connected: “relationship with God, with one's neighbor and with the earth” (LS, 66). “Genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others." (LS, 70). The relationship category is the founding paradigm for the care and custody of creation, because the relationship is a constitutive part of cosmic life and therefore of every living being. We are made for relations; we tend towards others and towards the Creator. A true care and custody relationship expresses the primacy of love. This is why new lifestyles generate new relationships with things, with people, with nature, with the world. It turns out that, at the heart of the change, there is also a new relationship with God the Father - who, full of love, in his creatures manifests his embrace and caress.