What is happening to our common home?

(Numbers 17-61)

The chapter presents the most recent scientific findings on the environment as a way of listening to the cry of creation, “to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (LS 19). It thus deals with “several aspects of the present ecological crisis” (LS 15).

Pollution and climate change: “Climate change is a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, and political and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” (LS 25). If “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all” (LS 23), the greatest impact of this change falls on the poorest, but “many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms” (LS 26). “Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded” (LS 25). Pollution mostly affect the poor since it results in serious health dangers.

The issue of water: the Pope clearly states that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights”. Depriving the poor access to water means denying them “the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (LS 30). Where there is water, there is life, therefore, sources of fresh water should be preserved as they are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry.

Loss of biodiversity: “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plants and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever” (LS 33). Loss of biodiversity means disruption and loss of species and resources, which are not just any exploitable “resources”, but have a value in them. In this perspective, “we must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems”, but when human intervention is at the service of finance and consumerism, “it is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey” (LS 34). Also, the value of species lies in their creation by God and humans do not have the right to destroy them or take away their ability to live their purpose and give glory to God.

Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society: in the framework of an ethics of international relationships, the Encyclical indicates how a “true “ecological debt” (51) exists in the world, with the North in debt to the South. In the face of climate change, there are “differentiated responsibilities” (52), and those of the developed countries are greater.

Aware of the profound differences over these issues, Pope Francis shows how the “weak responses” deeply affect many lives. Even though there is no lack of positive examples (LS 58), there is “complacency and cheerful recklessness” (LS 59). An adequate culture is lacking (LS 53) as well as the willingness to change lifestyle, production and consumption (LS 59), while there are efforts being made “to establish a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems” (LS 53).

Suggested Activities

  1. Alone or in a dialogue with colleagues, family, small Christian communities, in a Sodality, in a community, at school, in a Parish, etc;
  • Reflect on how every aspect of your life depends on water. What would happen if the water you use would be polluted?
  • Discuss and find solutions to water pollution in your community, work with local authorities.
  • Reflect on your effects on water, land degradation, soil erosion, loss of Biodiversity etc. and find solutions
  • Engage in activities that reverse challenges in your area such as Soil Erosion, general land degradation and loss of biodiversity.

2. Finds solution and ways to reverse the situation.

  • Plant especially indigenous trees, grass etc.
  • Approach your local authorities, your Parish Priest and seek advice from Ministry responsible for Forestry, Range and Soil Conservation
  1. Answer Pope Francis’ urgent call to take action by taking the Laudato Sì Pledge to:
  • Pray for and with creation
  • Live more simply
  • Advocate to protect our common home.