What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us? A world full of filth or an abode of fullness! Have we ever reflected and thought about that? If not, this is the time to act. Pope Francis is inviting communities around the world to celebrate Laudato Si’ Week on the fifth anniversary of the encyclical letter from 16th to 24th May, 2020.
Laudato Si’ mi Signore – “On Care for the Common Home” is the only encyclical focussing specifically on the global issue of environment from the wider perspective. It was published on 24th May 2015. The subject of the encyclical highlights the core matter of “Caring for the Common Home”. It is 184 pages long with deeper reflections and questions concerning philosophical, theological, anthropological, sociological, political and environmental nature.
The title of the social encyclical is an Umbrian phrase from Saint Francis of Assisi’s 13th century “Canticle of the Sun” also called the Canticle of the Creatures. It is a poem or prayer in which God is praised for the creation.
In the Nutshell
We have inflicted harm on Mother Earth by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods. We often see ourselves as lords and masters. We plunder her at will. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” says Pope Francis. The stress is on ‘the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity at large’. Now is the time to be awake, arise and act. The need of the hour is global ecological change.
There are six chapters in the encyclical letter having its own significance in the context of the Churches’ social teachings over the years. They are as follows:-
· ‘ What is happening to our Common Home’ highlights the issue of pollution, climate change, issue of water, loss of biodiversity, decline in quality of life, breakdown in society, global inequality and other matters.
· ‘ The Gospel of Creation’ throws light on faith, the wisdom of the Biblical accounts, the mystery of the universe, the harmony of creation and universal communion.
· ‘ The Human roots of the Ecological Crisis’ talks about technology, the globalization of the technocratic paradigm and the effects of modern anthropocentrism vis-à-vis crisis pertaining to ecology.
· ‘Integral Ecology’ speaks of environmental, economic and social ecology, cultural ecology, the principal of Common Good and Justice.
· ‘Lines of approach and action’ goes in detail focussing on dialogue at several spheres in order to create dialogical local and global communities.
· ‘Ecological Education and Spirituality’ tries to lead towards a new lifestyle, covenant between humanity and the environment, ecological conversion, and finally love, joy and peace.
It’s a wakeup call for the entire humanity to conserve nature, tackle environmental crisis, do resource management, protect wildlife and care for the flora and fauna present on the planet earth. The mass destruction and over usage of the natural resources by human beings have already degraded 60 percent of the ecosystem. We have consumed enough energy and resources which could have been used by the coming three generations.
According to me, the Pontiff raises various responsibilities of every human being towards protecting nature and tackling environmental crisis. The core issues of climate change, global warming, green house effect, deforestation, extra use of plastic, throw away culture, disturbed food chain, manmade natural calamities and destruction of the planet Earth for economic gains shines out. The document emphasizes on saying that Nature cannot be seen as something apart from humanity or just as a place where we live.
The Biblical Understanding
Pope Francis tries to present the biblical accounts to signify the importance of creation and the symbolic portrayal of human beings “created in image and likeness of God’ (cf. Gen 1:26) as the apex of the creation to take care of all creatures. Here the Pontiff is trying to relate the significance of creation and human co-habitation from the context of the Bible. We are part and parcel of this creation and not apart from it. We are stewards and not lords or masters.
The fact of the matter is that God created both humans and other creatures. The Pontiff presents the noble task given to humankind to “till and keep” the world by God (cf. Gen 2:15). It indicates cultivating, working, ploughing, caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature with inter-dependence for co-existence and prosperity.
But the real problem lies in the fact that human beings no longer see God as the Creator. We look down on God’s beautiful creation. We are overpowered with anthropocentric vision. We see ‘other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human dominion’.
Environmental & Technological Crisis
Laudato Si’ agrees with the scientific arena to say that changes happening in the climate are largely man-made. The encyclical highlights the role of fossil fuels in causing climate change and global warming. It is a global problem with greater implications and consequences for future on matters like environmental, social, economical, political and developmental.
In the context of the encyclical, the principal challenges facing humanity in our today’s scenario is destruction of ecosystem. No doubt that overexploitation of the planet may become the cause of extinction even of human beings like that of dinosaurs. Loss of bio-diversity, lack of clean water, lack of food, decline in human life, and less availability of resources are major issues to be tackled. Recent dangerous diseases due to Coronaviruses: COVID-19, SARS and MERS are hazardous outcome of human interference with the nature.
Pope also focuses on the reckless pursuit of fruits of money or profits by some people. Profit making business, excessive faith in technology and political short-sightedness is the cause of mass devastation. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm is needed. Science and religion can enter into fruitful dialogue for growth and development of humanity. Pope says that poor nations will bear the brunt of ill effects. He insists that the world must ‘hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’. He urges all to solve social, environmental and technological crises holistically. Thus, we need to take care of our ‘Common Home’ – planet Earth.
The encyclical very specially calls for discussion and dialogue between religions, countries and authorities of all sorts. The purpose behind this objective is to conserve the nature. Pope Francis says, “The concern for the natural world is no longer optional but is an integral part of the Church teaching on Social justice.”
Laudato Si raises the issue of dignity, respect and rights of the nature and human beings at large. Reading the signs of the time and space in the context is possible through charity approach, development approach and justice approach. An appropriate society and the earth are possible if we human beings strive towards that goal of creating a Cosmic Order or Justice. Although, this task seems to be a difficult one but not an impossible one if there is perspectival change from anthropocentric notion to cosmocentric approach for a better world.
Nature cannot be seen as something apart from humanity. We are part and parcel of ecology. Only a healthy environment and biodiversity can help us sustain and survive for years to come. But we need to pause and think twice before destroying the environment and utilizing excessively the natural resources that is sufficient for coming three generations.
I feel that the encyclical Laudato Si’ gives us a message for our lives. The call is to eradicate selfishness and imbibe selflessness in care and protection of the planet Earth. It’s a dialogical orientation to construct communion, fellowship, and love between humans and nature. What we need is not just sustainable development, but the practice of a sustainable way of life for the common good of all.
Finally, an integral or cosmic ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle, behavioural change, and our ideals and contemplating on the Creator who lives amongst us. It’s a planetary orientation to build a better planet and future for the coming generations.
(The writer is an educationist and a trainer.)(Published on 18th May 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 21)