The encyclical Laudato Si' offers a special intuition of Pope Francis: the concept of integral ecology an approach highlighting that ‘everything is closely interrelated.’ The cry of the earth is no different from the cry of the poor; the ecological crisis is a social crisis. The second goal of Laudato Si' is thus a call to respond to the Cry of the Poor defending life in all its forms, with special attention to vulnerable groups such as indigenous people, migrants, unborn children and children at risk of modern slavery.
Many people see the ecological crisis as the climate crisis, because the climate crisis is one of the most pervasive manifestations of the ecological crisis. However, we cannot talk about protecting the environment whilst we are neglecting the needs of the Earth’s most vulnerable people. Laudato sí calls to look at the environmental crisis as an issue of social justice, which encourages safeguarding the interests of our brothers and sisters – the nearest and the furthest - if we want to protect the future of the earth. The actual ecological crisis is thus a spiritual crisis, too. The ecological conversion and the care for each other and for the creation needs a spiritual conversion. Pope Francis therefore speaks of an integral ecology, that is environmental, economic, social, cultural, and daily life ecology, that is a human ecology (LS 138-155).
For Yeb Saño, a member of the Global Catholic Climate Movement the environmental crisis is rooted in three human weaknesses. Arrogance, the belief that we are better than God is, and smarter than nature. Apathy the dangerous belief that it is somebody else’s job to care of people and of the environment. Avarice, the extreme greed making this world a worse place to live in. Greed drives individuals and corporations to think only about profits, never about people nor about the planet.
The love we embrace as a commandment from God and as followers of Jesus calls Christians to stand up against these three “A’s” and change our lifestyles, pursuing ones that are friendlier towards one another and to the planet, living simple lives, being mindful of others and showing love for the planet. These three “A’s” are weaknesses, absence of love - for creation, for our neighbors, for God - and alienate us from our own selves, from each other, from nature, and ultimately from God.
There will be no real answer to the cry of the earth and of the poor in the Chambers of Commerce, or in plenary Halls of the UN, or in parliaments around the world. Even though, there is a huge amount of work to do in those venues. The answer will come only from the people who suffer, whose lives and livelihoods are at stake. From those millions, perhaps billions, of people who, right now, this crisis affects already. It is not a crisis of a distant future; it is here and now. We need to work hard and together, now, stand together, as a human family, to confront this crisis. “This is the moment that I feel can be the uniting factor for humanity. We must not lose that opportunity,” is Yeb Saño’s advice (The cry of the earth is no different from the cry of the poor).
"God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good".
The throng of poor and most vulnerable in the world today are mainly due to wars, pandemic, economic crisis, social injustice and inequalities. They ask protection of human life in all forms, from birth to death, with special attention to indigenous people, migrants, unborn children and children at risk of slavery. However, today there is what Pope Francis calls the “ecological debt between the global north and south,” (LS 51), related to the cry of the earth provoking the cry of the poor.
As scientists explain, “climate-related hazards exacerbate other stressors, often with negative outcomes for livelihoods, especially for people living in poverty” (Climate Change 2014). Therefore, “it is the poorest of the poor who suffer”, the “double injustice of climate change.”
The first injustice is that the poor suffer the largest impact of climate change from extreme weather events like floods and hurricanes, increasing water scarcity, reductions in crop yields, and rising sea levels affecting coastal cities. Tropical countries are often the world’s poorest and the most vulnerable to climate change.
The second injustice is that the poor are the least responsible for global greenhouse gas emissions that disrupt the climate system. The fewer goods and services one consumes, the less greenhouse gas emissions one produces (Pope Francis, Foundation for Sustainable Development).
Which actions can we take to achieve this 2stgoal?
Pope Francis offers an answer in his message for the 54th World Day of Peace (2021), ‘A culture of care as a path to peace’. At n° 6, he explains the principles of the Church’s social doctrine.
Care as promotion of the dignity and rights of each person. Person always signifies relationship, not individualism; it affirms inclusion, not exclusion, unique and inviolable dignity, not exploitation. Each human person is an end in himself or herself, never simply a means to be valued only for his or her usefulness. Human rights derive from this dignity, as do human duties. Everyone is our neighbor, near or far in space and time.
Care for the common good, that is the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily. Our plans and projects should always take into account their effects on the entire human family, and consider their consequences for the present and for coming generations.
Care through solidarity that concretely expresses our love for others, not as a vague sentiment but as a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all responsible for all.
Care and protection of creation because all in creation is interconnected. Constant and attentive listening to the cry of the poor and to the cry of creation leads to effective care for the earth, our common home, and for our brothers and sisters in need. A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be authentic if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.
‘The compass of these social principles, so essential for the growth of a culture of care, also points to the need for relationships between nations to be inspired by fraternity, mutual respect, solidarity and the observance of international law,’ conclude Pope Francis. Deep ties binding peoples, ‘Our planet is a homeland and humanity is one people living in a common home,’ (LS 164), he keeps repeating. Social justice and the well-being of the planet are two sides of the same coin, ‘We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.’ (LS 139)
It is easy to see how this 2ndLaudato Si Goal calls upon the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Directly to Goal 1, 2, 6, and 13. Indirectly to Goal 3, 4, 8, 10, and 12. We dare to say that the central exigency coming from 2ndLaudato Si Goal is the SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong democratic institutions.