The encyclical Laudato Si', written in May 2015, is the main contribution that Pope Francis gives to the international community about the problem of sustainable development and the care of Creation. It is inside a wide doctrinal line, which began with Pope Paul VI who in 1967 wrote the encyclical Populorum Progressio, where he talked about 'integral development'.
Pope Francis revisiting the concept proposes an 'integral ecology', which means, environmental, economic, social, cultural and daily life ecology, making it a human ecology (LS 138-155). Its encyclical is the first pontifical document that explicitly addresses the environmental issue as a moral question. A question that tries to find its answer precisely on the proposal of the 'integral ecology' (LS 137-162). The Laudato Si’ seven Goals challenge our way of living the integral ecology according to the spirit of the encyclical and impel us to reflect on how we act in response to the cry of the Earth guided by our Christian spirituality.
Most Christians are willing to make the minimal efforts to care for the earth, even at this critical juncture. The pandemic has shown our willingness to make sacrifices - at least to some degree - to protect our fellow humans, but we have not shown that same willingness to make changes to protect or heal the earth, while healing the earth is one way to protect the health of humankind.
Our common planetary home is falling into ruin. The sustainability of our common home is on the brink of an unprecedented challenge. A question mark casts a shadow on our future.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 2, we find two words we could, and probably we should, understand as referred to our common planetary home. Jesus pronounced them while driving out moneylenders and sellers of sheep and cattle from the temple of Jerusalem: Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!, and Zeal for your house will consume me.
Our common home is also God’s own house, permeated by the Spirit of God from the dawn of creation, where the Son of God pitched his tent in the supreme event of the incarnation. It is in this common home that God co-dwells with humanity and God has entrusted it to us as stewards, as we read in the book of Genesis chapter 2 and in the chapter 2 of Laudato Si. It is this common home, which is despoiled and desecrated today.
The contemporary ecological crisis, in fact, lays bare precisely our incapacity to perceive the physical world as impregnated with divine presence. We have swapped the lofty vision of the physical world as God’s own abode, sanctified by the incarnation of His Son, with the one-dimensional mechanistic outlook of modernity.
Accordingly, we reduced the physical world to a mere storehouse of resources for human consumption, just a real estate for market speculation. We have turned this sacred abode into a marketplace. Through land, air, and water pollution, we have degraded our common home that is also God’s own home. In a situation of planetary emergency, we need to be aflame once again with the zeal for our common home (Father Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam).
This is precisely the Laudato Si Goal 1 pleading a response to the Cry of the Earth. Pope Francis clearly express it when he says, “our sister Earth” claims to the sky because she fell oppressed and devastated. This cry is "an urgent challenge to protect our common home”. It is a call “to seek a sustainable and integral development" (LS 13).
Which actions can we take to achieve this 1stgoal?
We need to take conscience of our habits in the use of the resources at all levels: then reducing consumption of fossil oils, raising the consumption of clean and renewable energy, protecting and promoting biodiversity, and guaranteeing the access to drinkable water to all human beings.
All this, however, implies to quantify the existence and use of our common earthly resources: what quantity or quality of all natural resources and what amount of water is available in a geographic region. Which is the ability to reuse a resource without compromising its quality and existence. Do the people know the number and type of biological species in their area and the concentration of contaminants in the tissues of living organisms they interact with every day?
States and scientists should go further to examine and make their people aware of the atmospheric ozone status, the groundwater level, the water used per day, and control the amount of water used per production unit.
The interaction between earth and people’s health is relevant: the concentration of contaminants in air, water, and soil condition human longevity, the population density, the birth rate, and the epidemiological illnesses related to earth health.
People need an economic development never dissociated from social and environmental development. This requires investing funds in reducing consumption of natural resources and decreasing the resource consumption in relation to investment.
Every country has its own cultural and environmental identity. Different environmental reality calls to adapt the energy use - photovoltaic, geothermal, aerothermal, etc.-, according to different climate, to choose the means of transport and how distribution of natural resources, and the percentage of privatization of natural resources and their management according to the reality.
It is easy to see how this 1stLaudato Si Goal calls upon the Sustainable Development Goals n° 6 - Ensure access to water and sanitation for all -, n° 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy – and n° 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
Let us keep in mind the clear perspective of Pope Francis. All this necessarily entails reflection and debate about the conditions required for the life and survival of society, and questions certain models of development, production and consumption. It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. Time and space are not independent of one another, and not even atoms or subatomic particles can be considered in isolation. Just as the different aspects of the planet – physical, chemical and biological – are interrelated, so too living species are part of a network which we will never fully explore and understand (LS 138).
To know more see Time for restoration and joy