"The entire material universe speaks of God's love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God" ("Laudato Si' on Care for Our Common Home.")
Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is up to us, Pope Francis stated in his encyclical on the environment published in 2015.
We've made progress in the nearly two years since the encyclical was published, but much more remains to be accomplished.
An article in this issue of the St. Louis Review detailed the efforts of Holy Redeemer Parish in Webster Groves to adhere to the spirit of the encyclical. Adding composting at the parish school this year has diverted three times as much trash from landfills as only recycling did just a year ago. Recycling and composting also is an ever-present aspect of the parish fish fries.
Other schools, parishes and organizations have taken similar steps. A recent Iron Chef competition at St. Louis University High School, for example, showed students how to make flavorful food that respects the environment and protects growers' quality of life. A major effort has resulted in reduction of energy consumption in buildings throughout the archdiocese.
Kenrick-Glennon Seminary completed installation of a new solar array system in an effort to conserve energy and reduce electricity costs. In addition, the seminary established a native wildlife habitat throughout its 44-acre campus, through an agreement with the Missouri Department of Conservation. As part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, SSM Health in St. Louis has diverted more than 20 percent of its waste to recycling, reduced overall energy consumption, maintained or decreased air emissions throughout its system and implemented a more environmentally friendly equipment sterilization process. Mercy Health system also has sustainability practices that reduced environmental impacts.
Pope Francis has proposed adding the care and protection of creation to the traditional list of corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Pollution and climate change, due partly to human activity, has turned the beauty of God's creation into a "polluted wasteland" that impacts the world's poor, who have suffered the brunt of "irresponsible and selfish behavior," he wrote in his message for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in September.
Parishes, schools, organizations and individuals need to follow the pope's lead on the environment. Act now. Reduce, reuse and recycle. No more polystyrenefoam cups and plates. Preserve resources, use them more efficiently, moderate consumption and limit the use of nonrenewable resources. Transition to cleaner and renewable energies and reduce use of fossil fuels. Protect biodiversity, especially wild forests, wetlands, coastal areas and swamps. Promote smart growth with plentiful green spaces. Plant a tree.
Stop blaming problems on population growth. The real threat is excessive consumerism and waste.
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Plenty of resources are available to help you. Contact, for example, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Help
(www.franciscansisters-olph.org), the Missouri Botanical Garden (www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/sustainability) or the Catholic Climate Covenant (www.catholicclimatecovenant.org).