In May 2015, Pope Francis released a ground-breaking encyclical - a letter from the pope - titled ‘Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home.’ addressing the urgent need for humanity to recognize and respond to the interconnected environmental and social challenges facing our planet, which it called integral ecology. It invited us to see how we are connected with all of life, urging us to care for our planet, our common home. Its remarkable moral force influenced the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and has continued as an important voice in sustainability and climate change debates ever since. Eight years later, on the feast of St Francis of Assisi, 4th October Pope Francis has once again emerged in our global consciousness with Laudate Deum. The papal exhortation assesses progress since 2015 in how the human family has fared. It urges political leaders, civil society and indeed, all people of ‘good will’, to re-connect, accelerate our ecological conversion and step up our actions.
But what is the key significance of the Laudate Deum published earlier today? Organisations representing the social and ecological works of the Jesuits in Britain offer here a first response on what this could be.
Dr Celia Deane Drummond, Director of the Laudato Si’ Research Institute (LSRI), based at Campion Hall, University of Oxford expresses the significance of Laudate Deum in renewing the seeds of our transition towards a paradigm shift that calls us all, but especially those in the corridors of power, to wake up and reframe the way we see and understand our relationship with our living planet. “What is required is a moral, cultural and spiritual revolution, especially among the most powerful decision makers. Biodiversity loss is not just an offence against God the Creator, but undermines the very basis for survival of all living things, including human beings. Hope for the earth is hope for all interconnected life, and as the ancient prophets recognised, without vision we will perish. An integral ecology approach refuses to turn away from hard and complex questions, but rather weaves in insights from different intellectual traditions in order to search for realistic ways forward. Such an approach involves, in the first place, carefully listening to the voices of those who are silenced. Laudate Deum expresses a renewed commitment to embrace people’s spiritual values and moral wisdom accumulated over millennia across all faiths and Indigenous cosmologies. It sparks a hope-filled call to reshape the mindsets we use to respond to socio-ecological emergencies like climate change, relying not solely on technical solutions but by grounding our actions in a values-based discernment process. As Laudato Si’ foretold eight years ago, the ecological crisis is profoundly a moral crisis. At LSRI we look forward in the coming months to responding to Laudate Deum by deepening our intellectual work in bringing the insights of integral ecology to both our research and the formation of young people in higher education.”
From another angle, Paul Chitnis, Director of Jesuit Missions says: ‘The climate crisis is not a distant threat; it is a reality now, especially for the poorest people on earth who have done the least to cause it. The science unequivocally points to human-caused climate change as a major contributor to rising global temperatures, extreme weather events, and biodiversity loss. How many more people need to lose their lives and livelihoods in droughts, floods and fires before we act? Laudate Deum is a call to politicians, business leaders and all of us for immediate and urgent action.”
When it comes to those displaced by climate change, Sarah Teather, from Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS UK) believes Laudate Deum’s fresh call for socio-ecological action also has implications for the way we respond to people displaced by climate change. She emphasises the need to understand their situation holistically, and in the context of global injustice. “I think of one Vietnamese man, supported by JRS UK in immigration detention. He had lost his livelihood and family home in floods that devastated much of his home region. In desperation, he borrowed money. And so he was trapped into gruelling, unpaid work, and trafficked via China to the UK, where he was subjected to a punitive border regime. I think of Laudate Deum’s messaging and it is at once clear how crucial it is to see how everything is connected. We can see from his experience how climate change interacts with and compounds other things that uproot and displace people from their homes. Environmental degradation destroys livelihoods. This itself often leaves people with no choice but to move. It can also exacerbate conflict and this conflict can in turn force people to move in search of physical safety. Profound scarcity also leaves people more vulnerable to exploitation and fuels conflicts.” Laudate Deum echoes a need for a values-based discernment that would allow us to understand all this and include more holistic and systemic solutions.
Laudate Deum’s moral call for action rediscovers the spirit of integral ecology and renews our efforts to become stewards of all life on Earth. Crucially, it also calls us to ground our actions on the values and wisdom that see life as a sacred gift we all need to care for. With the upcoming COP28 in November, the call to policymakers is clear. Integral solutions stemming from our planetary crisis call for an ecological conversion of us all and our systems, and that change is not easy. Yet, all life on Earth depends on it.
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