12 Jul iMatter Youth Respond to the Pope’s Encyclical
Written by Anna Aguto |
I care about climate change because of the damaging effects it has on the Earth and people’s livelihoods. I live in Northern Virginia where the tangible effect of climate change is the strange weather patterns. However, others are not as fortunate as I am such as the Gwich’in people in Alaska whose entire culture and livelihood relies on the caribou. The Alaskan caribou will be in danger if oil companies are allowed to drill on their breeding grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Destroying an entire community due to lack of respect for the Earth is morally wrong, and as a practicing Catholic, I believe it is of utmost importance to take care of our Earth because we have stewardship over it. This month, Pope Francis released an encyclical which addressed climate change (among other things) and the importance to act on it now This encyclical is monumental for the environmental movement because of its ability to unite people of faith to stop climate change because of the moral obligation we have.
When the encyclical came out, I quickly texted one of my climate denying, Catholic friends about the encyclical. After a brief debate, I directed her to NASA’s website, and she looked at the science, something she was unwilling to do before. She wrote back, saying that she did now believe in climate change. I can honestly say that it was one of the most amazing feelings to know that someone who I respected and cared about believed in climate change, something she profusely denied before. Laudato Si has created a bridge to conservative Catholics to be receptive to the science of climate change. It has allowed Catholic environmentalists to have an open conversation about climate change with fellow Catholics, knowing that the Pope supports them.
One of the most important things we need to stop climate change is to have everyone be genuinely concerned. Pope Francis says that many solutions to the climate crisis “have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also become of a more general lack of interest.” It is easy for people to not act on climate change or think it is not a threat to them because it is not affecting them directly, but this indifference will affect future generations negatively. Additionally, as we continue on the journey to stop climate change it is important to have hope. We can get so caught up in the gravity of the issue that it can seem impossible. Pope Francis says, “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.” We do still have the ability to change the ways we live. One of the ways to build our common home is living as if our future matters, meaning that we must keep in mind the youth’s future and future generations when we make decisions. To me, it’s important to be mindful of the impact we make when use fossil fuels and pollute the Earth, and to also be mindful of the positive impact we can make by living sustainably.
Wriiten by Gabriel Aguto |
My Catholic faith is a part of who I am. And Catholics represent 22% of all Americans, meaning that if they voted as a bloc, they could have real impacts on the direction of the United States. Yet at my Catholic elementary school and church, opposition to abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage were virtually the only emphasized “political” points. These viewpoints are conservative, resulting in the idea that Catholic equals Republican, without regard for other issues. Yet that doesn’t mean that all Catholics share the same ideology on every topic.
The Pope’s encyclical, Laudato si, firmly addressed the Pope’s stance on humanity’s care for the earth. Overall, the Pope criticized consumerism and the “throw away culture” as a huge contributor to the destruction of creation. To witness Pope Francis’ articulate understanding of climate change, it’s causes, and why so little has been done to combat it, was a welcomed contrast to my schools over the years, where many students and even sometimes teachers didn’t even acknowledge the science of global warming. He displayed not only logic, but compassion, as he warned of the special danger to the poor through environmental changes. The Pope notes the “weak international political responses” to global warming, often due to corruption linked to economic interests. He also criticizes individual lack of care for the environment, as evidenced by excessive use of air conditioning for example and advocates for movement “towards a new lifestyle.” While certainly valid (I for one love AC too much), we cannot entirely place blame on average citizens who face few restrictions on their energy consumption and who may not want to be experts in how their energy is produced.
Governing bodies need to be held accountable, for it’s their duty to protect the citizens, even if it means changing the status quo. Yes, we need a new lifestyle, but this can be implemented through the leadership of elected officials. There needs to be some sort of political authority forcing such a reduction, for there are too many who will not budge without it. Regardless of the Pope’s moral call for climate action, apathy, misunderstanding, greed, and laziness will always claim some victims. That is why, at least in the US, Congress needs to pass legislation to reduce fossil fuel usage. With Laudato si, Christian legislators should now realize climate change is an urgent moral issue, a threat which endangers the lives of potentially the entire human race, and a crisis which has been virtually ignored for too long. It is reassuring and hopeful to see that my opinion, that of a random Catholic high school student, is shared by the Pope: we need to end the climate crisis.