Revisiting Laudato Si (“Praised Be”)

In July 2015,  Pope Francis released the Laudato Si or Praised Be, an encyclical letter on climate change and environment.

The head of the Catholic Church through the 180-page encyclical stressed that climate change is a major problem that all of us should address.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

The Pope warned us of the dangers the world faces if we fail to take care of the environment better, paying extra attention to the possible suffering of those from developing countries.

“Will probably be felt by developing countries in the coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry.”

The Pontiff simply didn’t criticize humankind for the negligence in protecting the environment. He also offered solutions, saying that replacing traditional sources of energy with renewable energy will go a long way in helping to decarbonize the world.

“We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions.”

It’s been four years since Pope Francis released the Laudato Si. And the Pontiff continues to campaign for the world to fulfill its obligation of protecting God’s gift, the earth.

Last June, the Pope met with the top executives of global oil and gas corporations in the Vatican where he insisted that carbon pricing is essential to address global warming. He also demanded climate change deniers be open about what science has to say.

The head of the Catholic Church urged to penalize polluters as the word needs a “radical energy transition” away from carbon to save the earth.

The meeting last June is not the first time Pope Francis met with leaders of gas and oil companies. He did the same last year where he said that the continuing search for fossil fuels is “worrying.”

Fortunately, the Catholic Church is heeding the Pope’s call for drastic action and shift to cleaner forms of power.

For one, the Filipino Catholics are working to heed the Pope’s call. A few weeks ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced that it will stop supporting fossil fuel energy source. Dioceses in the Philippines would instead place their money in renewable energy. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), called this decision “A milestone for the Church ecology advocacy.”`

He added that divestment from fossil fuel is part of the CBCP 10-point agenda in following the Pope’s call in the Laudato Si. This comes after the Vatican asked CBCP what the CBCP is doing to respond to the encyclical.

And it’s not just the Catholic Church that seems to be following the words of the Pontiff.

In the United Kingdom, some 5,500 Anglican churches have shifted to renewable energy. According to Christian Aid, 15 Anglican Cathedrals are now using 100 percent green tariffs.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam also the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment said that the Anglican Church’s move for cleaner power is due to the church’s recognition that climate change is “one of the great moral challenges of our time”.

“They are also giving a boost to clean energy which is essential to reduce harmful carbon emissions,” Holtam added.

It is heartwarming to see the Catholic Church and other religions recognize the need for drastic actions in saving our planet. More so, when we aren’t making many dents in saving the planet by limiting energy-related global dioxide emissions.

A report by the International Energy Association (IEA) showed that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 1.7 percent in 2018, the highest rate of growth since 2013. “We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

This data only shows that we have to act swiftly and shift to renewable energy as the power sector accounts for at least two-thirds of the energy-related CO2 emissions globally.

We then must act now as Pope Francis urged us to do so four years ago: 

“We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. 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. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”

Addressing climate change and the Pope’s call will go beyond just adopting renewable energy and other forms of sustainable energy. I think we need to take a closer look  at how our economies work. We need to delve into the disparity between the rich and poor in the world and why this gap continues to grow. Can capitalism as we know today be the right economic structure that allows the world to address climate change?  Or is it the source of the problem in the first place?

We need to ponder and wonder more if we want to leave to our children and grandchildren a cleaner and more sustainable planet Earth. 


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