“As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. …Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.” – Pope Francis in his papal encyclical (letter) titled, “‘Laudato Si’, on Care of our Common Home“
Since its release in June, this papal letter has easily become one of the most debated ones in recent history. As one of the world’s great religious leaders, Pope Francis with this provocative work calls for a new dialogue with all people about how we are shaping the future of our planet. He strongly stresses that we need a conversation “which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” The Pope doesn’t claim to have all the answers but is inviting world leaders, and all people, to come together to debate how to protect the environment.
On Tuesday, September 15, there is an exciting lecture opportunity at Iowa State University to help us all understand more about the encyclical and the global dialogue encouraged by Pope Francis. At 7 pm, in the Memorial Union Sun Room on the ISU campus in Ames, the Msgr. James Supple Chair of Catholic Studies, Professor Anne Clifford, will give a lecture on the Pope’s encyclical. Titled “The Encyclical of Pope Francis on Ecology,” Dr. Clifford’s talk will address the question Pope Francis poses to all people about our common home: “What kind of world do we want to leave those who come after us?” She will place this question within the context of environmental perspectives and movements as well as Catholic thought and teaching.
As a social scientist who has asked this question to a lot of people through the years, I have yet to hear someone say they want to leave it worse than they found it. And yet, we seem incapable of meaningful movement toward global/local solutions that can significantly alter the environmental degradation we are experiencing here in Iowa and throughout the world. We all need to get involved for long-term solutions which isn’t going to be easy. It is going to require sacrifice toward the greater good. It is so easy to be cynical about our chances for success.
On the other hand, the Pope’s letter nurtures my hope that together we all can and will do the work required to take care of our planet. Check out Dr. Clifford’s lecture, read the encyclical and understand that the problem isn’t somewhere else but here. Then get involved! We all have our part to do. A good way to start might be to do #1newthingforwater in 2015. And in 2016, let’s do one new thing for soil.