Environmental Manifesto – A CW Response to Pope’s Encyclical

Bob Waldrop

Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’, On the Care of Our Common Home, could be a desperately needed game-changer for our planet. But that will happen only if we all act on it. The encyclical’s name – Laudato Si’ (Praised be) – is a title reflecting St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun, a hymn of praise for God’s creation, written in 1224.

We got into the present situation with billions of bad decisions by millions of people over long periods of time. We will get into a better situation as we learn to make good, better, and best decisions. That process begins in each individual heart. It’s hard to do good because structures of sin, built up by those billions of sinful decisions, make evil easy.

Every time we do the right thing, we create structures of beauty, wisdom and goodness that make it easier for everyone else to do good. So let us never tell ourselves that what we do doesn’t matter. It does. It matters to us, to our families, to our communities. It matters to future generations and the legacy we leave them. It matters to God, who has left the planet in our hands.

Let us step outside of our politics, whether they be of the left, right, or the centre. Pope Francis is doing his job as the Bishop of Rome and instructing us in faith and morals. His message is not new. It goes back to the first chapter of the book of Genesis. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI made statements similar to the message of this letter of Pope Francis, only not with such visibility. And of course there was St. Francis of Assisi himself back in the 13th century.

12-Step Programme

Below we set out a possible 12-step programme for an environmental mani­festo. There are many simple practical things we can do to imple­ment the Pope Francis vision. This will require an effort from every single person who hears of it to bring that change about.

  1. Repent and change our ways! All of us sin against Creation. Our culture makes it easy to pollute and damage the planet. Changing that begins with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we understand that we are sinners against God and God’s Creation, we confess that sin, we resolve to forsake our sin – so that we live more lightly upon the land. Where appropriate, let us change our ways and manner of living!
  2. Pray! Prayer is the answer to confusion. Let us open our hearts to Christ, pray that the Holy Spirit comes to fill us with understanding. Let us believe that God will answer our prayers.
  3. Respect and honour indigenous Treaties. Centuries ago, indigenous people knew most of what we are having to learn now. They had good inter-connected relationships with the planet.
  4. Pay attention to what is happening! Watch the weather and your local climate and ecology. Discern the signs of these times – politics, economics, culture, community. Give careful thought to necessities, risks, challenges, resources, hazards, and opportunities for both our households and our communities. No one is an island! Will our lives be a blessing or a curse to our communities and this planet?
  5. Invest in solar power for your home. If you have money in the bank, a solar hot water system will pay for itself in a few years and solar electric systems can pay for themselves over about 10 years. You will get a better rate of return on money invested in solar power for your house than you will with money in the bank and it is much less risky than money in the stock market. For ecological reasons, Pope Benedict installed solar cells at the Vatican.
  6. Stop, or greatly reduce, your use of toxic chemicals. Urban areas apply hazardous fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides at rates that would rarely be found in farm country. These chemicals are death to the planet and its creatures and hazardous to humans. They destroy the micro flora and fauna in our soils. The chemicals kill beneficial pollinating insects like bees. One-third of our food supply is dependent upon pollinating insects. If we kill off all our bees, then say goodbye to most nuts, fruit, squash, pumpkins, melons, cocoa beans, cucumbers and three-quarters of our flowers!
  7. Compost! Brown and dry materials, plus wet and green materials, in a pile over time, change into a wonderful brown earthy smelling material that your plants will adore. No! Compost doesn’t stink. Read more about compost at http://justpeace.org/compost.html
  8. Walk, take public transportation, carpool or ride a bicycle more, drive cars less. Support public and private initiatives that promote public transportation, carpools, bicycles, walking, organic gardening and farming, free-range and pastured flocks and herds, urban agriculture, local food systems, and community capacities for food security.
  9. Don’t subsidise the work of demons who foist unhealthy foods upon us. Buy food from local farmer markets and locally owned supermarkets. Eat at local restaurants. If you buy stuff because of emotional needs, get counselling. You can’t spend your way to prosperity. Your life will not improve if you buy more stuff. Your kids will not be smarter if they wear designer stuff. Remember the advice of our grandparents: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair.
  10. Plant trees and bushes! Shade your parking lots, buildings, and houses with trees! Grow some of your food, even if it is only a tomato plant in a pot. Plant fruit and nut trees and bushes in parks. Line your streets and roads with shade trees.
  11. Start projects – big or small – that will save the world, or at least your little corner of it. Work together with your neighbours to increase the safety, security, health and well-being of your family, the earth under your feet and your community. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! Making small changes in your life over time will bless Creation and reduce the amount of stress, risk, and emotional trouble in your life. Procrastination, however, is the thief of time. So don’t delay, start today.
  12. Nurture blessings and hope in your own life and in the life of your community. Promote solidarity and cooperation. Trust yourself, respect others and God’s Creation. Understand our interdependence with each other and the natural world. Leave nobody behind for the wolves to devour. Turn your back on the demons who without ceasing preach the gospel of greed – ‘Buy more stuff! Make more trash! Ignore Church social teaching! Don’t listen to Francis!’
  13. The encyclical, Laudato Si’, is a call to a better life, a world with more justice, peace, equity, and sustainability. If we want truth, wisdom, justice, and beauty, then the best thing we can do is to practice truth, wisdom, justice, and beauty in our own lives and neighbourhoods.
  14. Make a decision – act now!

    Bob Waldrop is the founder of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City. His article has been adapted to suit local conditions by New Zealand CWs. Bob has two amazing websites – www.bobwaldrop.net and www.justpeace.org.

    Canticle of Creation

    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

    —Francis of Assisi

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