Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, titled Laudato Si: Our Care for our Common Home, is sparking a rare opening for change. The messages within the 184-page papal encyclical, including the moral imperative to take global action on climate change, are gaining momentum leading up to Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Washington D.C. Sept. 22, where he will meet with President Barack Obama and address a joint session of Congress.
At the first in a series of interfaith events hosted by the University of San Francisco (USF) on the intersection of environment and faith, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, co-director of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, explained: “This encyclical, and its statement on the intrinsic rights of nature, is a breath of fresh air. Efforts to tackle climate change and other environmental issues have been driven by science, policy, economics, technology, and law. But science and policy alone are not going to solve these problems. We need these larger values–religion, art, and philosophy.”
According to a recent Pew Research Center study, less than half of all U.S. Catholics (47 percent) believe that global warming is a consequence of human activity. Take note: Pope Francis is saying that climate change is real and that humans are causing it. In addition, he connects stewardship of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable.
“This opening, it’s never going to happen again in this particular way,” stressed Tucker. She explained: “This is so rich. And that is why people are responding all over the world. It’s poetic. It’s scientific. It’s spiritual. It’s grounded. It’s ecologically sophisticated. And it’s appealing to the sense that we are part of a great mystery, a huge, holy mystery.”
Integral ecology, an ecology that links the human and social condition to the environment, is a key theme in the encyclical. “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature,” the Pope wrote in the encyclical. USF President Paul Fitzgerald artfully expresses the concept of integral ecology in The Beloved in Nature, a video co-produced by Green Impact, in partnership with Northcutt Productions.
You can watch The Beloved in Nature below:
McKibben commented: “On a sprawling, multicultural, fractious planet, no person can be heard by everyone. But Pope Francis comes closer than anyone else. He heads the world’s largest religious denomination and so has 1.2 billion people in his flock …” Building on the Pope’s reach, other religious leaders have become energized by the encyclical, including more than 400 Jewish rabbis and 20 Muslim scholars, who have responded to this moment of change.
Inspired? Here are a few ways you can learn more:
Deborah Fleischer is President and Founder of Green Impact. She recently helped the University of San Francisco launch its new Office of Sustainability, including the production of a series of videos (including the one in this article).
Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic sustainability consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. She helps companies design and launch new green strategies and programs, as well as communicate about successes. She is a GRI-certified sustainability reporter and LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications.
Deborah has helped to design and implement numerous successful cross-sector partnerships and new green initiatives, including the California Environmental Dialogue, Curb Your Carbon and the Institute at the Golden Gate.
She has helped create lasting alliances among such organizations as Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy with companies such as Disney, Arco, Bank of America and Passport Resorts.
You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact or contact her directly at Deborah@greenimpact.com.