Pope Francis is gravely concerned about the 3 billion people who live in impoverished conditions — places that are very hot but have no air conditioning, where clean water is scarce and where families depend on subsistence farming. They contribute less than 10 percent to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet these are among the people most affected by global climate disruptions.
That summary of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’” by Mike Hoey of the Missouri Catholic Conference explains why the pope urges us to care for our common home. The St. Louis Climate Summit April 22-24 hosted by St. Louis University promises to be part of the work to fulfill Pope Francis’ call to unite in care of our common home.
A return to a simplicity “which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack” is among Pope Francis’ recommendations in the encyclical.
He urges policies that will drastically reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases, offer more investment for alternative and renewable energy sources and provide assistance to poorer nations trying to adapt to the harsh effects of a warmer world.
The pope commends nations that have cleaned up polluted rivers, restored native woodlands, began producing non-polluting energy and established more efficient public transportation systems. Poorer countries, however, will need assistance in following this example and creating a sustainable future for their citizens. As Hoey wrote, “Indeed, no nation by itself can halt global warming and adverse climate change. We are in this together.”
Calling the material universe “a caress of God,” Pope Francis has strong words for us to consider. Human beings, he stated, contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen. Many things have to change course, but we human beings above all need to change. The point of human life isn’t to buy and consume as much as possible.
As Pope Francis stated, all who believe in God and all people of good will have an obligation to take steps to mitigate climate change, clean the land and the seas, and start treating all of creation — including poor people — with respect and concern. We need hold ourselves accountable.