Laudate Si: discussion notes 2

Chapter 3 of Laudate Si is titled “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis”. If we focus initially on the climate crisis, this is being caused by an ongoing increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

1. Looking at the diagram below, what do you think has been and/or is the cause of this rise on CO2? 

Prior to the industrial revolution, the energy to power machinery or equipment came from wind or water, human or animal power – oxen pulled ploughs and carts; wind or water ground flour and other such necessities; horses or ‘shanks’s pony’ moved people and messages; pedal power worked lathes and spindles; hand power cut timber, wove cloth or created portraits. Wood provided fuel for heat and cooking. When wood is burnt, it releases carbon dioxide in proportion to the amount of carbon that has been formed in the tree as it grew. Over a relatively short time scale the absorption of carbon dioxide by the tree and its release through burning, are evened out. This is not the case with the burning of fossil fuels.

Coal, oil  and gas are all forms of carbon that were living on earth millions of years ago as plants and animals. When they died and decayed the carbon content of those living beings was compressed in layers below the surface of the soil or the surface of the oceans. There it became deposits of coal, oil and gas: concentrations of carbon locked away. When these fossil fuels are burnt, the carbon dioxide absorbed into the earth over thousands of years, is realised rapidly within a whole different time frame.

2. The Industrial Revolution began with the use of coal to create steam to power machines in factories, in mines and on railway tracks. Continuing improvement and refinement gave rise to a proliferation of products that could be consumed, of labour-saving devises, of large scale farming, improvements in health, faster and cheaper communications …

As well as creating all this, did the industrial Revolution also create new markets? Did the industrialists need to stimulate demand for the products that they could manufacture with increasing speed and in increasing quantity? Who knew that they needed fish knives until they were marketed to the up and coming middle classes?

Can we say with any certainty that the Industrial Revolution was either good or bad? Might we vary our judgement if we were to consider who has benefited and who has lost out?

3. Over time, steam engines became more efficient and were the in their time replaced by petrol and Diesel engines, and electric motors. Continuing improvement in both purpose and efficiency are still ongoing. Telephones that replaced the telegraph, have now been replaced by the mobile phone – initially the size of a large brick, they now slip into a back pocket and yet have the capacity to make and show films, to interrogate the internet, send messages, programme home heating programmes, monitor hearts rates and so on. 

Why might it be that despite all these improvements in design and efficiency, our demand for energy is still increasing? And that despite the increase in nuclear and renewable energy, our use of fossil fuels and the consequent production of polluting CO2 does not seem to abate?

5. What causing us to consume more and more? Because it is more efficient, is it better? Because it advances technology, is it better?  Because it makes a bigger profit, is it better? Who actually gains?

Have we become trapped in a viscous circle?

Pope Francis begins by quoting from Benedict XVI “… we have “a sort of ‘super-development’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable  contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanising deprivation” and goes in to write “ while we are all too slow in developing We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.” (Laudate Si section 119) He then goes on to write (section 111) “Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial response to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocrat paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalised logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what in reality is interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.”

What might this ‘distinctive way’ look like? Here are some suggestions picked out from sections 112 – 122.

i. Be non consumerist, cooperative 

ii. Enable people to live with more dignity and less suffering

iii. Recover a sense of meaning and depth to life, encouraging wonder about the purpose and meaning of life

iv. Offer the possibility of a happy future

v. Be a cultural revolution 

vi. Recognise the intrinsic dignity and beauty of the world 

vii. Understand humanity’s true in the world and have a humble awareness of our limits, 

viii. Acknowledge the worth of our fellow humans and not to take advantage of them

ix. Accept our responsibility to care for  creation  – our particular gifts give us an equally particular responsibility

x. Acknowledge the connection between our relationship with God and our relationship with nature

6. How might these suggestions change the way we look at the world. How might they change the way we do things?

7.  Can the Christian faith offer this “distinctive way”?

Who could propose and promote it? And how? 

8. Who would listen? Would it ‘reach the ears’ of governments, businesses (their board and shareholders), banks and investors, social commentators? And if not, why not?

Below is a sustainability diagram which may be of interest.

A prayer for our earth

All powerful God,

you are present in the universe

and in the smallest of your creatures.

You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love,

that we may protect life and beauty.

Fill us with your peace, that we may live

as brothers and sisters, harming no one.

O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned

and forgotten of this earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives,

that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty,

not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

to be filled with awe and contemplation,

to recognise that we are profoundly united

with every creature

as we journey towards your infinite light.

We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle,

for justice, love and peace.

Amen.

‘A prayer for our earth’ was published in Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si’. It is for all who believe in God who is the all-powerful Creator.

Prayers for Creation 

Friday 29th April 2022 

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

You Lord, are the source of all good things: 

We praise you.

You call us to tend and care for your creation: 

May we strive to do your will.

You have made us as brothers and sisters with all that lives: 

May we live together in peace.

A Reading Ephesians 2:8-10 (The Living Bible)

Because of God’s  kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago God prepared that we should spend these lives in helping others.

To conclude the series we started in Lent, today’s prayers focus on Europe. 

Europe is the western peninsula of the “supercontinent” of Eurasia  and is  is divided from Asia by a series of watersheds, including the Ural River. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean, Black, and Caspian Seas to the south. Europe has been a dominant economic, social, and cultural force throughout recorded history, exerting influence (for good and ill) beyond its own territories. The North European Plain extends from the southern United Kingdom east to Russia. It is crossed by many navigable rivers, including the Rhine, Weser, Elbe, Oder, and Vistula. The climate supports a wide variety of seasonal crops. These physical features allowed for early communication, travel, and agricultural development. The Central Uplands extend east-west and are heavily wooded. They are lower in altitude than the Alpine region to the south. This region includes a few active volcanoes.  The continents forests were drastically reduced as a result of intense urbanisation throughout human history. Intense trade introduced many species, which often overtook native plants. The forests and grasslands of western and central Europe have been almost completely domesticated, with crops and livestock dominant. Today, around 15 percent of Europes animal species are threatened or endangered, mainly by habitat loss, pollution, overexploitation, and competition from invasive species. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/europe-physical-geography/

Glory to God,

Creator of rivers and streams, lakes and mountains. 

We praise you for the majesty of the Alps, their glittering snowy peaks 

and the frozen waters stored in their glaciers. 

 Glory to God, 

Creator of forests and plains:

We thank you for the vast lands where we can grow crops, for hillsides where we grow vines, and for meadows where sheep and cattle may graze.

Glory to God

Creator of rocks and minerals:

We thank you for the wealth of raw materials with which we can make so much; 

we thank you for fast flowing waters that provide us with energy.

Glory to God, 

Creator of  curiosity and ingenuity:

We thank you for the wisdom we have learnt from the study of your world; thank you for the skills we have learnt in harnessing the resources you have given us.

Forgive us when we have misused that wisdom; forgive us when we have used those skills for ill. 

Merciful God,

Creator of human kind, 

Forgive our greed that has mined land and sea for fossil fuels, jeopardising our future.

Forgive our greed that industrialises farming, destroying soils and draining lakes. 

Forgive our greed that turns animals into commodities and disregards their sentient nature. 

Forgive our greed for consumer goods that strips the earth’s reserves.

Merciful God,

Creator of our brothers and sisters:

Forgive the casualness with which we let the rich grow richer 

and the poor poorer.

Forgive the casualness with which we let the rich break the laws 

and yet still penalise the poor.

Forgive the carelessness with which we discard what we buy 

ignoring the meagre pay of those who labour. 

Guiding God,

Source  of all wisdom, 

Transform our hearts and minds, turn the direction of our hands and feet 

so that with alacrity and commitment we will reform our lives 

and live only in harmony with your creation. 

Amen.

The Grace