The Special Laudato Si’ Anniversary Year that started on 24th May 2020 ended on 24th May 2021, as did also the first of Laudato Si’ Action 7 year plan towards total sustainability in the spirit of Laudato Si with its 7-LSGs. After (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, and Adoption of Simple Lifestyles. 4thGoal of Laudato Si, 2nd Part, after The Ecological Education. 5thLSGs, 1st Part we continue deepening on the meaning of this Ecological Education.
The encyclical Laudato Si brings together the two themes, Education and Ecological Spirituality, dealing with them from the n° 202 to the final n° 245. The two themes are developed with nine subtitles. (1) Towards a new lifestyle. (2) Educating for the covenant between humanity and the environment. (3) Ecological conversion. (4) Joy and Peace. (5) Civic and political love. (6) Sacramental signs and the celebration of rest. (7) The Trinity and the relationship between creatures. (8) Queen of all creation. (9) Beyond the sun.
The center of this education and then of ecological spirituality is the fourth section Joy and Peace, in fact, with the adoption of simple lifestyles, to which we have to educate ourselves, “Such sobriety, when lived freely and consciously, is liberating” (LS n° 223). “Today's children are the consumers of tomorrow and it will be up to them to make decisions, even important ones. If they learn from an early age to take care of nature and lead an ecological lifestyle, they will develop a respectful approach to the environment and its resources” (World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
All ecological education is based on the correct information, the sine qua non condition to create a conscience, an open and global mentality. However, our consumer culture and the need, which must be recognized, of rebuilding the economies put in crisis by the pandemic, demand to educate young people to social co-responsibility, open to the universal human family, in a different relationship with creation.
Preparing the future means putting oneself on the side of the discarded, building resilient and inclusive systems for all, cultivating" and taking care of creation, changing the course in our way of thinking and dealing with problems, which implies from every person, but above all from the youth a serious formative and educational commitment.
This is the purpose of this 5thObjective of Laudato Si, aiming to a Christian spirituality that “proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption” (LS n° 222).
It is the spirituality of enjoying the little things, “and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack.” This implies reducing “unsatisfied needs”, diminishing insofar “obsessiveness and weariness. Even living on little”, we can live a lot, above all when by cultivating “other pleasures and find satisfaction in fraternal encounters, in service, in developing one own gifts, in music and art, in contact with nature, in prayer. Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer” (LS n° 223).
Is it a call to live in Siddhartha-like asceticism or in a radical ecologism? This is not the Christian viewpoint and neither is that of the LS. The problem is that when certain virtues such as sobriety and humility that "were not favorably regarded in the last century" (LS n ° 224), disappear from personal and social life, "a number of imbalances, including environmental ones", come in. “It is no longer enough to speak only of the integrity of ecosystems. We have to dare to speak of the integrity of human life, of the need to promote and unify all the great values”. The disappearance of humility in those who “become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment. It is not easy to promote this kind of healthy humility or happy sobriety”, “when we exclude God from our lives or replace him with our own ego, and think that our subjective feelings can define what is right and what is wrong (LS No. 224).
The Pope could be accused of pulling water for his one mill. Certainly, even if in new and acceptable terms also for secular ethics, the LS in its n° 225 speaks of what could be called the ultimate goal of life, "to mature in a happy sobriety" that is only possible when the person “is at peace with him/herself”. However, we need to fill out “what we mean by peace, which is much more than the absence of war. Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good because, lived out authentically, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle together with a capacity for wonder which takes us to a deeper understanding of life. Nature is filled with words of love", which cannot be listened to "amid constant noise, interminable and nerve-wracking distractions, or the cult of appearances."
A glance at the many youthful phenomena that sadden life in modern societies is enough to see how “Many people today sense a profound imbalance which drives them to frenetic activity and makes them feel busy, in a constant hurry which in turn leads them to ride rough-shod over everything around them. This too affects how they treat the environment. An integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us, whose presence must not be contrived but found, uncovered.”
Ecological education is not educating to ecology, but educating the heart to the values that are manifested in ecology. The Gospel shows us how Jesus “was completely present to everyone and to everything”, and in this way “he showed us the way to overcome that unhealthy anxiety which makes us superficial, aggressive and compulsive consumers. (LS n° 226).