Let’s avoid being accused of more “blah, blah, blah” by taking action now to care for the earth

BY SR. RICCA DIMALIBOT, CCVI

Humans took a break in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Earth was able to be! With less human activity, the past year turned out to be the best breeding season in most of the animal kingdom. Monkeys gave birth to twice the number of babies; turtles laid a record number of eggs; and even endangered species such as the South African jackass penguin bred in peace and flourished. Less noise from machines meant the mating song of birds could be better heard, and the cheetah cubs were better able to survive under the protective growl of their moms. Fewer sea craft meant quieter waterways; humpback whales could communicate for longer distances, and killer whales could use their sonar more effectively to hunt. The benefits were not just for animals, though. During the days of the lockdown, we humans had better air quality, less toxic gases, and CO2 fell by 6%. With all this, can we fail to see the lesson nature is perhaps teaching us? That our only chance of survival is to lovingly coexist with all of creation?

A few unintended benefits from the lockdown cannot now justify complacency in our environmental care efforts. With even the small ecological reprieve, 2020 still tied 2016 as the warmest year on record, registering record-high greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Let’s not run the risk of deserving the same critical condemnation from youth climate activist, Greta Thunberg, who declared the recent COP26 Conference a failure of so much “blah, blah, blah.” Let’s set fire to our words instead and respond with action! Pope Francis is pleading with world leaders, and with us, to act “urgently, courageous and responsibly” to care for our planet.

He gives us a guide for such action in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform (LSAP), a global, seven-year journey toward total sustainability.

In line with our congregation’s 2018 Chapter Direction, we officially enrolled on Nov.14th in the Laudato Si’ Action Platform by publishing our LSAP Commitment Statement (see December 2021 News & Notes). Aware that the origin of the environmental crisis is multifaceted and that our sustainability strategies need to address poverty, environmental justice, climate migration, etc., we share LSAP’s vision to seek a comprehensive framework and innovative solutions, welcoming all ideas, including those from the people most affected. LSAP’s seven Laudato Si’ Goals (LSG’s) will provide us with clear lines of action. The goals include the following:

  1. Response to the Cry of the Earth – a call to address climate change, biodiversity loss and ecological sustainability equitably.
  2. Response to the Cry of the Poor – a call for global solidarity with special attention given to vulnerable groups such as indigenous communities, refugees, migrants, and children. It is also a defense of human life from conception to death and all forms of life on Earth (non-human and nature).
  3. Ecological Economics acknowledges that the economy is a sub-system of human society, which is embedded within the biosphere – our common home.
  4. Adoption of Simple Lifestyles – is grounded in the idea of sufficiency (living with just enough and not excess) to ensure a good life for all.
  5. Ecological Education – refers to the need to re-think and re-design curricular and institutional reform in the spirit of integral ecology to foster ecological awareness and action.
  6. Ecological Spirituality – encourages greater contact and connections with the natural world in the spirit of wonder, praise, joy, happiness, and gratitude.
  7. Emphasis on Community engagement and participatory action to care for creation at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

As one family, the encyclical Laudato Si’ calls us to a “new and universal solidarity” (LS 14) and in recognizing that “Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan” (LS 164). “All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents” (LS 14). To this end, LSAP invites the following seven sectors to participate in its environmental journey:

In the first month of the LSAP enrollment, more than 4,000 church organizations, including Religious Orders and educational institutions worldwide, have joined. It is encouraging that more than a thousand families have already enrolled. The prophetic role of Religious Life situates us at the forefront of the transition to Integral Ecology. As one of LSAP’s seven sectors, we are encouraged to articulate Laudato Si’ according to our charism. We can link local to the global and bridge the different realities to form a community of people through our ministries.

The process of creating a plan for Religious communities follows the principles of synodality, solidarity, subsidiarity as informed by LSAP’s four basic criteria:

  1. It should build on what Religious communities are already doing. We tap into our creativity and existing initiatives.
  2. It should be simple and gradual enough to be manageable. We recognize that we are often already overstretched with our many commitments and a limited number of personnel.
  3. It should be inspiring enough to motivate. We need to see LSAP as an opportunity to live our charism and our prophetic mission to the fullest.
  4. It should be flexible enough to suit different situations and contexts. Our plan needs to be adapted to the needs of our regions.

“In this moment when we can’t do everything, let’s do what’s possible.” – Cardinal Braz de Aviz

LSAP asks us to consider these three Components as we begin our Laudato Si’ Action Plan:

  1. Public Commitment: We communicate our LSAP pledge to be accountable to the public.
  2. Transition to Integral Ecology: Through the “See, Judge, Act” methodology, we start with discernment and self-assessment concerning the 7 Laudato Si’ Goals. Following SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound), we create a Laudato Si’ Action Plan that we evaluate and track against set targets every year. Lastly, we certify your level of accomplishment and celebrate!
  3. Journeying Together: We join the other sectors in networking, advocacy, and campaigns. We share and exchange experiences and invite other communities to form a relationship.

To remain enrolled, we are required to submit:

  • A reflection (document or video)
  • An annual Laudato Si’ plan
  • An annual progress evaluation

We need a new consciousness regardi ng our relationship with ourselves, others, society, creation, and God (LS 202-221). When we think about solving the environmental problem, we must work together for the common good; this is the path to Integral ecology. It emphasizes that “everything is closely related…and that today’s problems call for a vision capable of taking into account every aspect of the global crisis,” according to Pope Francis. In our effort to care for creation, we need to transcend differenc es of social class, creed, race, generation, gender, and culture. When the different sectors of society sit at one table, our hope is for a rich dialogue to influence better policies, advancement in technology, and research to serve the whole of creation with a preferential option for the poor.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with the immensity of the climate crisis. When we start feeling hopeless, let us consider the words of Cardinal Braz de Aviz’s (Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life): “In this moment when we can’t do everything, let’s do what’s possible.”

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