“Science without religion is lame; Religion without science is blind.” ~Albert Einstein
For the first time in history, a Catholic Pope has released an encyclical solely dedicated to environmental issues.
I was raised in the Catholic Church, and while I no longer identify with that religion, I am proud of the choice to acknowledge the effects that environmental change has had on our planet.
In the over 200 page document released by Pope Francis, he called for “decisive action here and now” to immediately stop environmental degradation and global warming—while supporting the vast majority of scientists who agree that the problem is mostly a result of human behavior, as well.
More so than other religions, Catholicism is not just a religion, but a cooperation specializing in creating movements of change among the masses.
And just like in business—they have to make the choice to use their power for good, or not.
I don’t agree with a lot about the Catholic Church, or with the organized Western version of what spirituality is. However, I am a strong supporter of this most recent document, not just because of what it says, but because of what it means for the world that the Pope recognized the need for action on climate change.
Francis is Latin America’s first pope, who took his name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology. He has said that protecting the planet is a morally and ethically essential for believers and non-believers alike that should surpass political and economic interests.
Since releasing the encyclical, Pope Francis has had his position come under fire from conservatives who fear that this will be used by scientists and lobbyists to advocate for new policies that will result in higher taxes.
However, Francis seems unaffected by the criticism.
In his most recent papal document he states that, “Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms.”
This was not a document that was about sidestepping the issues, but instead Pope France decided to delve right into them, stating the truth of the situation after discussing the issues with various scientists.
The old theory of Religion and Science not mixing is apparently not the case when it comes to environmental change.
He called out companies and governments who thought that there was a magical solution to the crisis of environmental change stating, “Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.”
While I no longer consider myself Catholic, I applaud Pope Francis for his direct and honest opinions and pleas for change in terms of reversing the current crisis.
“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generation’s debris, desolation and filth,” he wrote in the almost 200 page document.
“The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world,” he said.
Francis, stating that he was “drawing on the results of the best scientific research available,” called climate change “one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day” and said poor nations will suffer the most.
This is seen in the obscene way that countries like the United States water their lawns in excess, sometimes even when it is raining out, while others across the world are dying from thirst.
Already in my lifetime, I have seen the effects of climate change. I live in New England, an area where tornadoes were unheard of, yet in my daughter’s lifetime they already have seen the devastating effects of these storms. Our winters are more brutal, our summers tend to be cooler, and our storms more severe.
Beaches that I visited as a child are gone in places and the island of Nantucket, while always a changing landscape, experienced severe erosion this past winter. Cities like New Orleans and New York that are below sea level are also seeing their way of life change, and if left the way it is, these cities may cease to exist.
Climate change is not a fairytale that scientists are spinning to try to push their agenda—it’s simply a fact of life.
I hope that the dramatic and prolific words of Pope Francis will have far reaching effects to those accepting that this is. in fact, happening, and instead of wasting time debating about its legitimacy—spend the necessary time to make long lasting changes.
As a nation with incredible resources, we need to look at renewable sources of energy such as corn and hemp. We need to invest in solar and wind powered electricity, instead of using foreign energy resources. We need to focus on utilizing what we have here on our own soil.
We need to eat for the seasons—and locally. We need to be conscious of where our food comes from, and the process that it takes to get from field to table. The fewer steps involved the better it is for us, and for the environment.
Pope Francis took a brave step in declaring the impending doom we all face if things are left as they are, but now it is up to the rest of us to make changes so that we leave the world a better place—not because we are Catholic, but because we are all part of humanity, and only we can make the changes necessary to turn around the current environmental crisis.
Author: Kate Rose
Editor: Travis May
Photo credits: Flickr/Takver