Will Pope Francis issue his much-anticipated encyclical on the environment on World Environment Day – 5 June? Even if we have to wait a little longer for the encyclical, we don’t need to wait to take action.
The theme for #WED2015 is Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with care. Like many of Pope Francis’ homilies and addresses, it suggests that consumerism is at odds with the wellbeing of the poor and care for creation. The United Nations Environmental Program demonstrates that current patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable. If all of us who share this planet are to realize our dreams, we need to reconsider our lifestyles.
Catholics believe that creation is God’s self-expression and gift to us all. We ourselves are part of God’s creation and we have a special role in it. We are stewards who have responsibility to care for all of creation, to tend it like a garden, and to use it for the good of all. Everyone, especially the poorest, must be able to share in the goods of creation in order to meet their needs, because it is God’s gift to all of us.
Our commitment to the common good, not just of our own communities, but of the whole human family, and of generations to come, means that we are called to choose simplicity, sustainability and solidarity.
Here are some ways in which we can celebrate World Environment Day – and get ready for Pope Francis’ anticipated encyclical on the environment:
1. Become Informed
Faith and reason work together. Read the recent statement on climate change by the eminent scientists of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Pope Francis is tipped to be stressing this critical current issue in the new encyclical.
2. Mediate on Faith Sources
Chapter ten of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church gives a good, brief overview of Catholic Social Teaching on environmental issues at the international level. The Australian Bishops have been actively teaching on these issues too as have other Bishops in Asia, Africa, and Oceania. You will find a collection of brief quotes for reflection from international and local Catholic Social Teaching on the environment here.
3. Everyday Practices
If you are lucky enough to live in a country where the tap water is safe to drink, use a refillable bottle rather than buying bottled water. Take your own reusable bag when you go shopping and refuse plastic bags. Use a Keep Cup for your takeaway coffee. Walk, cycle or take public transport whenever it is a feasible way of getting about. As a bonus you can use your transit time for prayer and reflection, and maybe get some incidental exercise too!