This is part two of a three part reflection on Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.
In part one of this reflection, I touched on how we need to focus on stewardship and not ownership. The idea of being a steward of the earth and its resources is not only why I want to contribute to solutions for ecological issues, it also informs other areas of my faith. I truly believe the statement the Pope uses about our role in restoring the planet: “Human beings, endowed with intelligence and love, and drawn by the fullness of Christ, are called to lead all creatures back to their Creator.” At the same time, these values are not self-sacrificing; as a steward, my efforts to protect the earth are in essence caring for myself and other humans on the earth. The Pope affirms this care as a clear aim of the church, stating that, “The work of the Church seeks not only to remind everyone of the duty to care for nature, but at the same time ‘she must above all protect mankind from self-destruction’.” This is no easy task though, and it’s clear from the extensive list of woes outlined that this will be a long process of problem solving and collaboration. This list of problems challenges us to thoughtful in the way we fulfill our roles as stewards on the earth. We have to be aware of our limits to solve the problems we’ve created. For some people, this may mean reintroducing the idea of limits being there for our own good and not as a punishment from God. There are limits on how much food we can produce currently and there is a limit on the fossil fuels that exist–these are limits that can spur us on to be creative problem solvers.
What kind of solutions do we need?
The solutions outlined in the letter aren’t specifics, but more guidelines of characteristics that the solutions should include. The Pope uses the term “integral ecology” to include environmental, economical, and social ecology. This is to say that any solution we come up with needs to be multi-faceted and inclusive of different areas of life. Because everything is so interconnected, solutions have to address the realms of business, ecology, and cultures around the world. “Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals related to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment.” These solutions also cannot just be for ourselves, but must be inclusive of the future generations and in thoughtful reflection of those who have come before us and what we can do to change the current patterns.
“The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity.”