Care for one another, care for our common home
Care for one another, care for our common home
A look into Pope Francis' exhortation Laudate Deum
Pope Francis once again sounds the alarm on the impending ecological apocalypse of our common home in his exhortation published on the 4th of October, 2023. It marks eleven years of his Pontificate, nearly eight years after the publication of his encyclical Laudato Si, in which he strongly advocated for the care of nature and the poor. Unfortunately, very little has been done to counter the damage that humanity, on a global scale, has inflicted on Mother Nature, with dire consequences for the poor and vulnerable who bear the brunt of natural calamities.
In this concise exhortation addressed to all people of good will, Pope Francis reaffirms the vital importance of interconnectedness, a lesson starkly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. He laments the rise of individualism and the accumulation of power by a select few wealthy nations, which hamper global efforts to address the climate crisis. Across its six chapters, the exhortation explores the core issues of the climate crisis and human responsibility, the political failures of multilateralism, and offers expectations for COP28 along with spiritual guidance.
Climate Crisis and Human Responsibility
Pope Francis reiterates that Laudate Deum, which means "Praise God," doesn't limit itself to spiritual matters, as it makes clear that caring for nature is intricately linked to caring for our fellow human beings, an essential aspect of our spiritual duty. He emphasizes the urgency of the situation, warning that we are fast approaching a point of no return. The lack of concern for those around us, coupled with excessive consumerism and irresponsibility, has created a crisis of unparalleled proportions.
Confusion and ignorance about the current climate situation hinder awareness and behavioral change. Despite numerous scientists pinpointing human responsibility as the root cause of the climate crisis, there has been insufficient action, partly due to power dynamics. Some argue that mitigating fossil fuel usage might lead to job losses, neglecting the millions who are already suffering due to the climate crisis. Pope Francis questions why great economic powers, primarily concerned with maximum profit at minimal cost in the shortest time, hesitate to take action when it is urgent and necessary.
The urgency remains, even as society emerges from the shadows of the COVID-19 pandemic and grapples with ongoing conflicts. Pope Francis asserts that we are at the brink of a snowball effect that threatens to irrevocably alter our world. Some of the creatures with whom we share this planet have transitioned from companions to victims, yet the pervasive delusion persists: "Why are we still numb?"
Pope Francis renews his focus on the technocratic paradigm, which views reality as a series of problems solvable by science and technology. David E. DeCosse and Brian Patrick Green explains that the paradigm leads us to believe that we can harness these tools to control every aspect of life. This technocratic approach tends to treat the world as raw material for human use, neglecting its intrinsic value and worth. Pope Francis, who took his name after Saint Francis, an advocate of gratitude for every gift of nature, points to the ideology of obsession and human ingratitude as central problems.
The Pope expresses concern about the power that technology has conferred on those with knowledge and technology, a dominance fraught with risks, as it falls under the control of a select few. He highlights the perils of power, quoting Solovyov's notion of an "advanced age" that may be humanity's last. The powerful have entrapped the poor in the illusion of a better world that isn't built for their benefit.
Pope Francis proposes and highlights the importance of cooperation between nations to achieve environmental harmony.
Political Failure and Multilateralism
The audacity of a religious leader, such as the Pontiff, to challenge the global power players raises the question: What motivates him? Those who understand the importance of goodness, love, and justice realize that achieving these values is an ongoing daily endeavor. Pope Francis never hesitates to take risks in pursuit of these ideals. He reminds citizens that without their active participation in controlling political power at national, regional, and municipal levels, protecting the environment is impossible.
Pope Francis proposes and highlights the importance of cooperation between nations to achieve environmental harmony. He envisions a new framework for multilateralism that respects human rights, social values, and the well-being of our shared home. He applauds the efforts of civil society groups and organizations that compensate for the shortcomings of the international community, such as the Ottawa Process's campaign against antipersonnel mines. The Pontiff contemplates solutions as responsive actions, including adaptations for less affluent nations.
Acknowledging the challenge of listing the United Nations climate change conferences (COP), Pope Francis recalls both successful events like COP-03 in Kyoto (1997), which set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and failures like Copenhagen (2009). He asserts that international negotiations often stagnate due to national interests taking precedence.
Expectations for COP28 and Spiritual Guidance
Pope Francis addresses the common concern without the courage to bring about change. He warns that the longer we wait, the more burdensome the necessary measures will become. The future of our children is at stake, and Pope Francis hopes that COP28 will enforce efficient, mandatory, and monitored energy transitions. This conference could represent a turning point, showing that the efforts since 1992 were indeed serious and worthwhile. Otherwise, it risks becoming a great disappointment and undermining any progress achieved thus far.
The Pontiff is concerned about attempts to distract attention and the slow transition to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power. He insists on the need for binding forms of energy transition that meet three critical conditions: efficiency, obligation, and monitoring. This is essential for international politics to regain credibility and substantially reduce carbon dioxide levels, averting future catastrophes.
Pope Francis's exhortation emphasizes the spiritual aspect and the necessity of collaboration, despite the prevailing technocratic paradigm that isolates individuals. He reminds us that the entire world is a "contact zone." He highlights the Judeo-Christian vision of the cosmos, which recognizes the unique and central value of humans amidst the incredible array of God's creatures.
Today, we must recognize the importance of a "situated anthropocentrism". Our existence is intricately intertwined with other creatures. We are part of a universal family, connected by unseen bonds. This recognition calls for sacred, affectionate, and humble respect for the Earth and all its inhabitants. It compels us to react responsibly to ensure the well-being of our shared home, where we coexist with our fellow beings in heavenly harmony. Pope Francis underscores that we are all interconnected by unseen bonds, forming a universal family. This understanding should motivate us to act responsibly and ensure the well-being of our shared home, where we coexist with our fellow beings in heavenly harmony.
Sr. Giduthuri Fathima Shirisha SDS
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