Reflections on Laudato Si - Concluded

“Never before has the world had a document that so eloquently unites ethics and environmental stewardship. That is why Laudato Si was the most significant environmental event of 2015.”

“Show your work.”

Does that bring you back to your high school math class in a hurry? That phrase was a near-daily refrain in mine. It didn’t matter if you intuitively, or by sheer luck, got a math problem right. You also had to offer a proof as well. You had to back it up.

In my January 4th post, I made the claim that the publication of Laudato Si was the most significant environmental event of 2015, beating out COP 21 in Paris. I stand by this statement. As I reaffirm this claim though, I cannot help but hear those haunting high school words echoing from my past….

Show your work.

Very well then. COP 21 was amazing. It served as a turning point in global action, a moment when governments came together promising to do more and emit less. COP 21 amplified our climate change dialogue and acknowledged the urgency of our challenges. Our world will be a better place because of it.

But with what exactly did COP 21 leave us? Ultimately, we are left with a document and these key words:

“The Conference of the Parties … [emphasizes] with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”

Wait, what? Come again? If anyone fully understood that paragraph on a single read-through, you’re much better at reading comprehension than I am.

Now, admittedly, COP 21’s resultant document wasn’t written for us. But folks, COP 21’s resultant document wasn’t written for us!

Conversely, Laudato Si is Pope Francis’s urgent appeal to the world. No matter a person’s creed, we are all welcome to read it and, hopefully, be inspired by it. And in many respects, it is a deeply personal document, one I urge you to take the time to read.

Laudato Si’s capacity to inspire is, to me, what makes it so remarkable and important. Never before has the world had a document that so eloquently unites ethics and environmental stewardship. And it is written for us.

And so I leave you with one last quote, which is to me the most inspirational of them all (again, emphasis is my own):

“What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? This question not only concerns the environment in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal. When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results. But if these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.”

Pope Francis, Laudato Si, Chapter 4, Paragraph 160