Marist Family members, from all branches of the Society, from all around the world, attended a Laudato Si Webinar on 11 February. The Rev. Dr. Joshtrom Kureethadam is Coordinator of the Sector of "Ecology and Creation" at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He is also Chair of Philosophy of Science and Director of the Institute of Social and Political Sciences at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. His most recent books include Creation in Crisis: Science, Ethics and Theology (Orbis Books, 2014), The Philosophical Roots of the Ecological Crisis (Cambridge Scholars, 2017), The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si' (Liturgical Press, 2019).
I am delighted to present to you today the "Laudato Si Action Platform". This is a 7 year roll-out plan. At the beginning I will introduce you to Laudato Si and then go the action platform. Laudato Si was signed by Pope Francis on May 24 2015 on the Feast of Pentecost. Within two weeks of Laudato Si coming out Dale Jamieson who teaches in New York State University wrote "that this is the most important environmental text of the 21st century". A lay person saying this about a papal encyclical (formal letter). Looking back, we are 6 years from the publication of Laudato Si. This was a prophecy which has come true.
Two things about Laudato si.
First, it is about a mission and second, it has a vision. The mission we see it in the sub-title of the encyclical – "On care for our common home". In talking about Earth as our common home Pope Francis is speaking not as an environmentalist, but as the Shepherd of the Church. He ushers in a major paradigm shift. It is not just a problem outside. Our own home is crumbling around us.
The first picture taken of the Earth was by Apollo 8. Their mission was to photograph the moon, and explore the surface of the moon. But, to their surprise they saw this beautiful image, Earth was rising. So much that they called it "Earth Rise". This was our Home. One home beautiful and fragile.
Pope Francis' mission is rebuilding our common home. He is inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi, whose conversion began in 1208. One day one Saint Francis was disappointed with his life and was looking for better things, he left his home and was wandering around. He happened to walk into the church of Saint Damiano (Saint Damien near Assisi). He entered the chapel which was in a very bad state. He heard the crucified Lord telling him "Francis, go and repair my home". Francis could see that the Church he was in was falling into ruin. Some 70 years later, Franciscan Saint Bonaventure said "it was not just a chapel, but the entire Church which Francis was being called to repair". 8 centuries later another Francis has come on the scene and has received a similar mission, hearing the same message "Francesco, va e Ripara La Nostra Case" or "Francis, go and repair our home". This is our home, and the home of the crucified Lord, and in a special way the home of the indigenous Peoples of our world. Two years ago we had the synod on the Amazon looking at how indigenous people are suffering around the world; and also how the poor people of our world are suffering, and in fact all created animal life is in a way crying out. Pope Francis is a man of providence, naming these realities because God has sent him.
Francis, go and repair our home
This is not just a green encyclical. This is a paradigm shift. It is a socio-economic and socio-spiritual encyclical. It has an integral vision. Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the Earth itself (LSi, #66). This is why we as Christians must care for the Earth. Because this is very much about our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. Everything is connected.
Only after 5 years of releasing this encyclical, Pope Francis announced a special Laudato Si year 2020 to 2021, this has never happened before. The 7-year Roll-Out Plan is an integral part of the Laudato Si Year. It is time to release this ecological and integral vision.
The Why, the What and the How.
We need to focus more on the "Why" to really motivate us into action. We can respond very simply saying "Pope Francis is asking us to respond to cries". The first two cries are already in Laudato Si. The cry of the Earth, and the cry of the Poor; the third cry we now see emerging in the global community: The cry of the Children.
The Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor
Here is an integral perspective. This is not just a "climate crisis". But the climate crisis is the most urgent. The slide below is from a famous study entitled, "Planetary boundaries". ('Planetary boundaries' is a concept involving Earth system processes that contain environmental boundaries. It was proposed in 2009 by a group of Earth system and environmental scientists, led by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Will Steffen from the Australian National University). This was updated in 2015.
If you look at it, it gives you an integral perspective of the state of the Earth. (It is all linked). They have divided the Earth's systems into 9 areas. In the center they put the green zone. If you remain their it is safe. But, if you cross the green zone, you are into danger – indicated by the color red.
Look at it. The climate crisis is not something we will have later. We are already in it. Pope Francis is using the saying "Climate Emergency" and many people are using this. We are causing the extinction of systems. We are causing soil degradation. In 2009 we had already gone beyond in 3 areas. But, in 2015, they added "land use". The reality is we are in danger.
What the scientific community is really worried is we are almost crossing several tipping points.
Cryosphere Entities is another important study. This concerns not just one problem. In many areas the Earths systems are reaching limits. Once we cross these limits the consequences are unprecedented. Look on top, you have the Greenland ice sheet. The artic is melting. If we remain within 1.5 degrees centigrade this melting would be gradual. This is gradual. But, it is melting. If Greenland's ice sheet melted entirely, sea level will rise 6 to 7 meters. We must think of the people in coastal regions. Even if sea levels rise 1 meter, many people are affected. Imagine 2 or 3 meters rise. This is just one problem. Then we have the Amazon drying up. The Antarctic ice sheet in the south is also unstable. The Scientific Journals article of September 2020 said "Point of No Return". This is a problem.
Cry of the Poor
Along with the Cry of the Earth we have the Cry of the Poor. The ecological crisis effects food security. We live in a world where 821 million people go hungry. With COVID we know this number has probably doubled.
In Bangladesh, when floods come, water remains their 3 to 4 months. Imagine living in a home like that, with floods in your house. Not just the Earth but the homes of our brothers and sisters. It is not as simple as building a wall or raising the land. The problem is much, much, more than what we see.
Bishop Desmond Tutu once called global inequality "the Ecological Upper Tier":
The upper map is the world in terms of emissions. Like when I drive a car. Burn coal. Cause deforestation. We can see the countries emitting the most carbon. The US, Europe, India China, (and Australia). But, if you look at it, you do not see Africa on the top.
On the bottom. You have the map of the world of people dying due to the climate crisis. Look at Africa and look at India.
We live in one world, but, we do not sit at one table. In this painting below, each child is of real life, chosen by an artist in the Philippines. This is the world in which we live. The Cry of the Earth but also the Cry of the Poor.
The COVID pandemic as highlighted what we are living through. The cyanotic disease (heart and lung disease). The UN head for environmental health said "when the planet is not healthy we cannot be healthy". We have had SARS, we have had MERS, we have had EBOLA. COVID 19 is the latest, but I am afraid this will not be the last. Because, if you cause deforestation and degrade eco systems, these viruses will more readily jump onto us.
Who pays the price? The poorest countries. In India the prime minister announcing a nation-wide lock down. Imagine. Millions of people having to walk back literally 1000's of kilometers from work to home. Many died in this walk.
Cry of our Children
The Cry of our Children is a very recent thing. Recently, our children have been descending on our streets and public squares. Telling us very clearly – "Don't mess with my future". Our home is crumbling. The children are the ones who have to live in this world. It is up to the youth and children to respond, (why, because adults have failed to adequately respond).
The Paris Climate agreement is all about containing the global increase to 1.5%. Why is that important?
In the last 11,000 years, we are living in an "inter-glacial epoch". Ice ages last 100s and 1000s of years. We are living in the "Holocene epoch". This began 11,000 years ago. What is interesting during these 11,000 years Earth's temperature did not vary more than 1 degree. By the end of this century (2100), we are going to have a 3.5-degree increase. From 1830 to 2020 Earth's temperature has increased 1.2 degrees. We are seeing these impacts with bigger cyclones, hurricanes, storms and floods.
In 2018, scientists (IPCC intergovernmental panel), came out with a report saying, we have only 12 years to act in such a way to not to cross the 1.5 degrees centigrade. In 2021 we have less than a decade left.
In 1972, Earth's temperate had risen by 0.2 degrees, today almost 1.2 degrees, by 2100 3.5 degrees. 2100 is a very hot unlivable world. Children are concerned about this.
"The Cries of the Children are getting louder". Pope Francis has used these words on the 24th May 2020 when he announced this. These cries are becoming louder and more painful.
Action This year there are a lot of initiatives. Like "Laudato Si Living Chat", there is a movie being prepared called "Laudato Si Garden – The Living Chapel". But, the most important thing is what we call "The Laudato Si Action Platform". This is the WHAT. This has a very clear objective to "Make Communities around the world totally sustainable". We want the change to start from below.
As Mahatma Gandhi use to say "be the change you want to see in the world". The world is telling us we need to change. But, our politicians dare not responding adequately.
We need to begin from below. To make our own homes and our own churches and our communities, totally sustainable. In the spirit of the integral ecology of Laudato Si.
Ecological conversion begins with Families – Collaborating with families. Parishes and Dioceses; Education and institutions – schools and universities; Hospitals and Health Care Centers; Economy – Businesses, co-operatives and farms, Organizations – Sports groups, NGOs, communication centers, all groups,
Religious Orders – Provinces, Communities, Congregations,
So, the idea is to propose to families, parishes, businesses, schools, groups, religious orders, in the next 7 years become a Laudato Si Family. Laudato Si School, Laudato Si Business, Laudato Si Religious Order, Laudato Si Parish.
We need to find leaders. In Rome for example, there is a conference of religious. For economy we have the economy of Francisco people. For hospitals dialoguing with the Mercy Sisters. For schools we have the Don Bosco Green alliance. We already have hundreds of partners already as leaders, but many more are needed. Who are willing to animate and bring to life this journey.
We hope you will give us a hand using your own expertise.
We all need to help create a sustainable future. We have proposed 7 goals.
1. Response to the Cry of the Earth (greater use of clean renewable energy and reducing fossil fuels in order to achieve carbon neutrality, efforts to protect and promote biodiversity, guaranteeing access to clean water for all, etc.)
2. Response to the Cry of the Poor (defense of human life from conception to death and all forms of life on Earth, with special attention to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, migrants, children at risk through slavery, etc.)
3. Ecological Economics (sustainable production, Fair-trade, ethical consumption, ethical investments, divestment from fossil fuels and any economic activity harmful to the planet and the people, investment in renewable energy, etc.)
4. Adoption of Simple Lifestyles (sobriety in the use of resources and energy, avoid single-use plastic, adopt a more plant-based diet and reduce meat consumption, greater use of public transport and avoid polluting modes of transportation, etc.)
5. Ecological Education (re-think and re-design educational curricula and educational institution reform in the spirit of integral ecology to create ecological awareness and action, promoting the ecological vocation of young people, teachers and leaders of education etc.)
6. Ecological Spirituality (recover a religious vision of God's creation, encourage greater contact with the natural world in a spirit of wonder, praise, joy and gratitude, promote creation-centered liturgical celebrations, develop ecological catechesis, prayer, retreats, formation, etc.)
7. Emphasis on Community involvement and participatory action to care for creation at the local, regional, national and international levels (promote advocacy and people's campaigns, encourage rootedness in local territory and neighborhood ecosystems, etc.)
Laudato Si Action Plan
The 7-year journey will begin at the close of the Laudato Si year in May 24 2021.
In the first year we need to begin planning. To adapt. To learn.
The next five years are about action.
The seventh year is the sabbatical year. A year of rest. Do not work all the 7 years. Keep the seventh year to give thanks and to give praise to God.
If a school is going to join in the second year, they still need to do planning.
There will be a Laudato Si Planning Web site. The Web site will be in 9 languages.
There will be an action platform steering group with Caritas International. Working very much with the global Catholic Climate movement.
There are youth groups and ecclesial networks who are becoming involved.
In each area there are at least one leader and sub-leaders. These leaders are trying to make it more concrete to reach the Laudato Si goals. The Laudato Si Web site will help put this into action.
Once you express desire to be part of this, you will be accompanied. We need to network. We have people who will accompany you - with schools, with hospitals, with businesses. It is a journey together.
We will begin in 2021. But, in 2022 we hope another group will join. Some groups, schools, may not join in 2021, but they are invited to join in 2022. In 2023 another group will join and do their 7-year journey. We hope that in every year passing we will keep on doubling the Laudato Si Action Plan. So, in 2021 if there 2000 schools, we hope in 2022 there will be 4000 schools. The idea is that we grow exponentially.
Why is this important? We want to create a "critical mass". Any change will take place only when there is "critical mass". That is the group of people who will change the entire system. We can see Mahatma Gandhi did in India, we can see Nelson Mandela did in Africa. Even the Berlin Wall came down in 1993.
For the entire system to change we need 21 to 25% of all people. We hope to create a "critical mass". We hope to work with other churches, ecumenical, and inter-religious and inter-faith. (You can do this to in your own communities – start ecumenical and interfaith dialogue about this plan)
The Holy Spirit is inspiring people to change, to come together, to witness our common home. And defend the most vulnerable. The cry of the earth. The cry of the poor. These cries always go together. Pope Francis writes "we see the great mobilization of people from below and the edges and peripheries. From below and from the peripheries this is God's signature.
The perfect model of care is "Mary" who cares with a maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid wasted by human power.
It is providence which has brought us together. To care for the world and to care for the poor would not be possible without the Marian touch.
So, we need you. Please come. Join us.
We will walk together.
Video of the Presentation: here