Louise Abraham, parish and campaign volunteer for Brentwood Cathedral, reflects on some of the key messages of Laudato Si’ and how we can put them into practice
In 2015, Pope Francis published the encyclical Laudato Si‘. It articulated the Church’s critique of the ‘throwaway culture’ that we live in today and the unsustainable model of development that still relies largely on fossil fuels. There is a great emphasis on our climate being ‘a common good’ and the availability of clean, drinkable water. The encyclical also draws upon the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports warming of the environment and its adverse effects, a fact that is important to remember in this ‘Fake News Era’. Ultimately, Laudato Si’ invites all people of good will across the world to be stewards of God’s creation and right the social injustice many poor people face because of our over-consumption. Caring for our ‘common home’ requires a united effort because issues that concern our climate and environment transcend our man-made borders.
While there are numerous references to the relationship between man and the environment in the Bible, Laudato Si’ remains us that they should all be considered in context. The underlying message is that as humans we have ‘a mutual responsibility’ to care for nature in order to maintain it for future generations. However, this is currently not the case. Sadly it is often the people that live in harmony with nature – indigenous communities and many people in developing countries – that are bearing the brunt of our changing climate. We live in an interconnected world; our actions here in Western Europe have consequences that reach the other side of the world. Natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef are slowly being bleached by rising global temperatures. The glaciers on mountain-tops such as the Himalayas are melting, which is impacting the freshwater ecosystems that over a billion people rely on for drinking water, agriculture and hygiene.
“The underlying message (of Laudato Si’) is that as humans we have ‘a mutual responsibility’ to care for nature in order to maintain it for future generations. Often indigenous communities and people in developing countries bear the brunt of our changing climate”
In 2013 Brentwood Cathedral managed to become the first Cathedral in England & Wales to earn the livesimply award. This means that as a parish, we have shown that we have been living simply, in solidarity with people in poverty and sustainably with creation. Five years on, we continue to strive towards living simply by adopting more environmentally friendly forms of energy such as changing the lightbulbs in the Cathedral’s chandeliers to low energy bulbs and walking to Mass. I’m delighted to learn that several other parishes in the diocese have since either achieved or are actively pursuing the livesimply award.
As Brenda Underwood, coordinator for the Cathedral project said, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. Having a goal to strive for can be easier than to rally a team together and track progress. As a community, we must go beyond livesimply week to ensure we keep living sustainably. We can continue walking more, reducing water waste and turn off lights in an empty room.
We can also urge those in power to act responsibly and promote a more sustainable way of life. CAFOD’s recent ‘zero hero’ campaign invited people to write to their MPs and urge them to support a net zero target on emissions by 2050.
“As a community, we must go beyond livesimply to ensure we keep living sustainably. We can continue walking more, reducing water waste and turn off lights in an empty room”
In December I will be joining a group of over 30 campaigners from CAFOD, and others from partner organisations at the ‘COP24’ (the 24th UN Convention on Climate Change). We will be marching in solidarity with other campaigners to put pressure of world leaders push forward the goals of the Paris Agreement in 2015.
For those wanting to reflect more deeply about Laudato Si, CAFOD has produced a study guide which encourages us to examine our surroundings and the way we treat God’s creations. Study guides can be found here: https://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Laudato-Si-encyclical
A small adjustment in attitudes from everyone can have a great effect over time. Development and technology are evolving at a rapid rate, which requires more and more energy. Change will be difficult, but it is for the good of future generations.