by Franck Brych
Pope Francis’ stance on the environment is especially striking and quite controversial. Through its creation, distribution, and implications, Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, has redefined the perception of the relationship between religion and science in today’s Western world for many non-Catholics.
The encyclical expounds upon the Catholic Social Teaching tenet “Care for Creation.” Pope Francis repeatedly refers the the planet as “our common home” to communicate that we are all obliged to protect and care for the planet and get things moving in the right direction, for a significant portion of the encyclical is dedicated to explaining how, because of our consumerist culture, our planet is heading in the wrong direction.
Pope Francis does not only addressing Catholics in this encyclical but all tenants of this earth, that his message can be heard by everyone (again, his “our common home” phrase is relevant). He encourages humans to have an ecological approach to climate change that is also social, easily applicable by everyone, and synergistic. His thesis is that, in order to combat climate change and protect the poor and vulnerable who will first be affected by it, we–all of us–need to apply an “integral ecology” to this complex, multi-layered issue.
His idea of an integral ecology entails two acknowledgments: the first is that environmental issues are not singularly environmental issues. Climate change impacts economics, geopolitics, food supplies, religious observance, trade, art, infrastructure, and the list goes on and on. They are all connected. The second acknowledgment is that we must work together, drawing on people’s expertise in varying disciplines, to solve complex, multifaceted environmental concerns; politicians, economists, farmers, professors, architects, civil engineers, and countless other professionals must work together to combat climate change.
Pope Francis’ view is fundamentally communal. The protection of the environment is imperative for Christians, but it is also a necessity for all the people whom God has willed to be on the earth at this time. And we can only protect it together.