Laudato Si’ – Strikes, Elections, and Climate Catastrophe

 

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Today, 24th May, marks the fourth anniversary of the publication of Pope Francis seminal encyclical Laudato si': On Care for Our Common Home in 2015. The words “laudato si’” mean “praise be to You”; they are a celebration of God the creator and his handiwork. These words echo those of St Francis of Assisi, the pope’s namesake and inspiration, in his hymn of praise, Canticle of Creation.

Pope Francis brings an ecological lens to his analysis of our current global system, and reminds us that we are not above nature or in dominion over all creation. Rather we are all part of an integrated common home – the earth. This encyclical was seen as a watershed moment, and in many ways it has been, but it is not the first time the Church has responded to the “cry of the earth”: care for creation runs deep in Catholic Social Teaching, although perhaps has not always been emphasised as it should be.

At this critical moment in our history when we face an uncertain future because of climate change, Laudato Si’ speaks to all people and calls on us to reconsider our relationship with the earth: ‘The ecological crisis is also a summons to profound interior conversion [...] whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience’ (LS #217) 

Laudato Si’ proved to be timely, giving expression to the faith perspective at the moment when consciousness of the climate catastrophe is rising, and when such a faith perspective is most urgently needed. Francis’ encyclical was followed that same year by the signing of UN Paris Agreement on reducing carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement aims to reduce carbon emissions to stop the global temperature from rising to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level – the point of irreparable damage.

To date, governments have made some small effort since to the Paris Agreement on climate change, but many countries – including Ireland – have continued to fail to meet their targets. In response to the lack of serious action of government the young generation, those who will most bear the brunt of climate change, have been moved to action. 

The Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, began protesting outside her parliament in August 2018. She posed the all-important question: why bother to go to school to prepare for a future that will not exist if global warming is allowed to continue unabated. Her strike began to inspire others, and soon a global movement of school children had emerged.

Coinciding with the fourth anniversary of Laudato Si’, the Global Climate Strike is also taking place across the world today: school pupils will refuse to go to school and instead protest their parents’ and governments’ inaction on climate change.

Also coinciding with both of these events is today’s election for the European Parliament. Ireland’s economy and response to climate change is integrated fully with that of the broader EU. It is the EU which has responsibility for ensuring its member-states comply with the targets set out under the Paris Agreement. Election Day provides an opportunity for each voter to make the future of our common home a priority for the EU, and to bring Pope Francis’ ecological analysis to bear on the politics of the European Parliament: ‘I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation that includes everyone, since the environment challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all’ (LS #14).

 

John McGeady, OLA Justice Officer
24th May 2019