One of the key themes in Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’, on care for our common home, is that everything is connected. Often it is the poorest people and communities who suffer most from the consequences of environmental problems, but their poverty may leave them with few environmentally sensitive options for meeting their needs, and so they may also contribute to environmental problems.
In fact, here in Australia as in poorer countries, the deeper causes of environmental problems usually lie beyond the behavior of the poorest and most marginalized. Models of development, production and consumption are involved, not just personal behavior (LS n 138). That is why Pope Francis addresses ecology – the vast web of relationships between all that is – and not just the environment, and why he calls for an integral ecology (LS n 139).
It might be tempting to think that care for our common home is outside the mandate of CatholicCare, but Pope Francis reminds us that integral ecology requires “an integrated approach to combatting poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (LS n 139) Integral human development aims at the development of the whole person and the improvement of the quality of life for the whole community, intra and intergenerationally. Nurturing the human ecology of our communities is deeply linked with our thinking about development, and our relationship with the rest of creation.
Social inclusion and economic sustainability are interrelated. Pope Francis says that poor communities are often good at building positive human ecologies in difficult circumstances. Our work with those pushed to the margins of society may hold lessons that will help us all to care for our common home. Let us reflect seriously on how our activities might better respond to Pope Francis’ call for an integral ecology.
More on Laudato Si’ here.