Papa Earth

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 10.01.50 PM“In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.”  – Pope Francis, May 2015

Pope Francis is a Rock Star! And if there were any doubts, his first encyclical settles it. The Big Guy just spoke, and the world is listening. How ironic that people are sitting up and paying attention to a religious leader in regards to climate change. Which, of course, is right and just. Who better to speak to the inhumanity of our role in the degradation of very the earth that sustains us?

The Pope’s encyclical is profoundly important – arguably the most important statement made on behalf of environment in our lifetime. Of course, he is not the first eloquent advocate for the planet, but no other person on the planet possesses his reach and influence. I have hoped and dreamed that prominent religions would take up the environmental cause – to aid in moving the needle on the dramatic measures required to slow down climate change. Such a religious coalition could be incredibly powerful.

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.”

This recent encyclical is titled “Laudato Si,” or “Praise Be To You.Encyclical is from the Greek “kyklos,” meaning a circle, and are circulated teachings from the popes to the church. How apt a word really, after all, our planet is a circle – or sphere. This encyclical is essentially addressing our role in the natural cycles of the earth’s complex, interconnected eco-system.

Interconnection is a forward theme throughout Pope Francis’ vast encyclical, covering every angle of the current devastation of our environment from biodiversity, to glacier loss – and ultimately Man’s culpability, and responsibility for immediate correction. But it is the emphasis on our connection and responsibility to each other that rings truest and loudest.

“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” 

Pope Francis addresses how our misplaced priorities and allegiances have lead us down a road of destruction that cannot ultimately benefit or sustain us. We talk a lot about saving the planet – but we need to start taking action to save ourselves, because in no uncertain terms, the planet will survive with or without us.

“We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us.”…”Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us.”

Let’s look at water for example: Less than 10% of domestic water use is residential use (depending on where you live in the U.S.) – so we can designate the wealthy, lush-landscaped, golf club playing folks among us the villains in this narrative – but shutting off their water supply will not make a dent in our frighteningly diminished aquafers. Industry and agriculture has simply not evolved fast enough in terms of water usage and conservation. We continue to flood irrigate crops and neglect to close the loop on water use in water intensive industry and production, AND we continue to commoditize our water. We all consume these products. This is what Pope Francis is referring to when he writes:

“Our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.”

But Pope Francis does not solely address industry and consumption. He is making a plea for the poorest among us. Those that cannot buy themselves out of the discomfort, challenges and life threatening dangers of climate change. If you live in a part of the world with unreliable water due to scarcity or contamination, you are forced to rely on the water industry, which has serious environmental effects.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 1.47.10 PMIn the U.S. alone, it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to maintain our 50 billion plastic water bottle habit. These stats don’t include the fuel required to transport the water domestically and globally. If your daily, required water comes from the tap, it will run you approximately 49 cents a year. If you choose or are required to hydrate exclusively from bottles, your bill would be closer to $1,400 a year. If you are living below the poverty line, that’s 10 percent of your income (these are U.S. estimates). So, it’s not hard to imagine the cost to those living in extreme poverty worldwide, experiencing severe drought.

“Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”

Jim Yardley and Laurie Goodstein of the NY Times wrote: “Francis has made it clear that he hopes the encyclical will influence energy and economic policy and stir a global movement. He calls on ordinary people to press politicians for change. Catholic bishops and priests around the world are expected to discuss the encyclical in services on Sunday. But Francis is also reaching for a wider audience, asking in the document ‘to address every person living on this planet.’”

These are lofty goals. Goals that possibly only a Pope could set – and perhaps miraculously achieve. Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 1.26.14 PM

“Yet all is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.” –  Pope Francis, Laudato Si

The timing in the release of this Pope’s first encyclical is no accident. Francis is calculated in attempting to capitalize on the momentum heading into the Paris UN Summit meeting on climate in December, as well as his visit to the U.S. and address to the President and Congress in September. The Pope makes no bones about laying blame (and expectation) at the feet of the largest, industrialized nations and their leaders.

Political, global response has been overwhelmingly positive in spite of the cache of usual deniers – to which I can only respond with the words of Upton Sinclair:

“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Rolling Stone PopeUnfortunately for the world, U.S. Leaders are among those offering the most stringent pushback on credible climate change research and our role in the acceleration of global warming. As a direct result, not an insignificant number of our leading climate scientists are ex-patriots now living in Denmark, Sweden, Great Britain and Germany. The virulent hostility they experienced here in the U.S. in response to their expertise, research and findings – at the hands of politicians and the fossil fuel industry – was sufficient motivation for self-exile.

Although I passionately believe we’d better start making sure that we are electing representatives that have a firm grasp on our tenuous position on this planet, I’d rather not give those who willfully jeopardize our future any more air-time than they currently receive in our “buzz-worthy” media. Rather, I’d like to offer quotes and reactions to the Pope’s encyclical from members of the most informed caucus worldwide.

Bon Courage!

“The clear language of the encyclical and its depth of thought are offering impulses, which will have an effect far beyond the Catholic world, as an incentive for all to take dedicated action for the protection of the environment and climate.” – Barbara Hendricks, German Environmental Minister

“The Pope is almost saying: ‘You may not believe in God, but if you believe in ecology, you can’t ignore this.” – Austin Ivereigh, Papal biographer

“This puts the US politicians who ignore the overwhelming evidence on climate change in an uncomfortable position – many of their supporters place considerable stall in papal decrees and this one is unambiguous – start treating the planet better.” – Matthew Watson, Reader in Natural Hazards, University of Bristol

“The common person on the street knows that ice melts when we take it out of the freezer into a warm room, and likewise that glaciers melt during a warmer climate. The common person knows that when a city’s water supply runs out, life changes and residents’ aspirations dwindle. The common person knows that when nations run low on water, their power collapses and their people flee elsewhere. The Pope is making a statement about something that seems a “no brainer” to scientists and the layperson alike, but somehow many politicians just don’t get or choose not to get it so that they can avoid hard decisions.” – Dr. Jeffery S. Kargel, Senior Associate Research Scientist/Glaciologist, University of Arizona

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Japirish@mac.com' JoAnn Hunter says:

    JGJ, truly a wonderful, enlightening, educational article. I am not a religious human being but I do know the impact that a Pope, this Pope can have on the masses.
    I have a bit of a snarky smile thinking of those who are quivering in their boots in the anticipation of his visit to the U.S.

    You rock!

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