In September 2015 at the United Nations, 193 countries signed on to 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be reached by 2030. It is critical that these goals be met for, as Pope Francis stated in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.” (161). The 17 goals take into account not only our planet with its worsening climate in which destructive human activity has played a significant role, but the fate of all life on Earth. The goals call for prosperity, partnership and peace for all peoples. No one is to be left behind. Scientists, including social scientists, agree that an integrated approach to a solution, a solution that takes into account every aspect of the global crisis, an integral ecology, must be promoted.
Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’ echoes this new paradigm of an integral ecology for just action. However, the brand of integral ecology promoted by Pope Francis, while confirming him as an ally of environmentalists in combating the earth’s exploitation, calls for an exaltation of the Creator God and a defense of the dignity of the human person.
“Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”(49)
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother Earth.” (92)
Pope Francis also reminds us:
“Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.” (230)
The Acts of the Thirty-fourth General Chapter give many concrete examples of ways to promote integral ecology in our daily lives, for instance on the subject of clean water (page 10). They also encourage us to commit ourselves“... to reduce our level of consumption; to advocate and to act for an end to the dehumanization of human beings and communities; and to work toward a more equitable distribution of resources and the greater sustainability of Earth, our common home.” (page 5).
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life” (Deut. 30:19)
(Laudato Si’, No. 87)
“Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
who is the day and through whom you give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of you, Most High.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather
through whom you give sustenance to your creatures.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be you, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong”.
Reflection prepared by Dorothy Guha, SNJM Associate