On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si)
by Pope Francis, Melville House Publishing, 2015, 165 pages, paperback, $14.95
Book review by Tammy Reiss, with quotes from the text.
Stock markets and economists are closely watching how consumers will respond to the landmark encyclical letter from Pope Francis, ”Encyclical on Climate Change and Equality: On Care for Our Common Home.” In it, the Pope shows us the toll a “global economy” is having on Earth.
His insightful and informative words are grounded by scientific data. The letter is an appeal to the ethical and moral side of humanity and is meant to unite and incite action from all of us, regardless of station, and of all faiths or no faith. We’re asked to use science and religion to start a fruitful and intense dialogue. “As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear.”
The 246 numbered paragraphs read as a call to preserve human dignity and quality of life and a guide on how to do it. It speaks to all generations, from this generation’s “disconnected youth” to “Baby Boomers.”
We are repeatedly asked to face reality and take an honest look at ourselves. We are shown how consumerism bereft of social and ecological awareness will be our undoing if we don’t act immediately. “Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence.”
The reader is given suggestions on how to become a happy, sustainable consumer. We see how we can show a conviction to protect Earth and the environment.
Many references are made to developing renewable energy globally and a need for adequate storage technologies for energy. Emphasis was placed on informing the reader. Coal, oil and natural gas are clearly highly polluting forms of energy and need to be replaced immediately. Though it is mentioned that gas is less polluting than other fossil fuels, the Pope does not let the industry off the hook. Many paragraphs speak directly to industry and our wastefulness.
The letter also thanks all who work to save us by protecting the environment from human exploitation, like the work being done to slow the oil and gas industry’s ever expanding infrastructure, which we can see clearly in horizontal hydro-fracking. “When a project may lead to a greater use of natural resources, higher levels of emissions or discharge, an increase of refuse, or significant changes to the landscape, the habitats of protected species or public…..[t]he culture of consumerism, which prioritizes short-term gain and private interest, can make it easy to rubber-stamp authorization or conceal information.”
Will Pope Francis’ words of love for our common home and its inhabitants fall on deaf ears or will his words move us to do our part to make a difference? “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity.”
Tammy Reiss is a conservationist and focuses her attention on the local region of central New York, where she lives. She teaches and promotes energy efficiency and independence through renewables in the Marcellus Shale regions of New York State.