As I write today, it is pouring rain and once again my neighborhood is under a flash flood watch. While this might be normal for some parts of the world, I live in a place that proudly boasts 300 days of sunshine per year. The Colorado Mountains are known for clean air, blue skies and plenty of sunshine and those of us who live here love to get outside and hike, bike, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
Unfortunately, lately that has not been possible since we are enduring our 54th consecutive day of rain. Don’t get me wrong; we need the rain especially since the last few summers we have been suffering from a severe drought. In 2012 alone, Colorado had 14 wildfires including the monster Waldo Canyon fire that destroyed over 350 homes. Today much of the flash flood warnings are over the burn scars from the wild fires because there is no vegetation left to soak up the heavy rain water. Colorado, however, is not alone when it comes to unusual and even devastating weather. Flooding, fires, drought, tornados, and earthquakes have all been the leading story in many nightly newscasts. Globally we hear stories of typhoons, hurricanes, tsunamis and other extreme weather occurrences. Is the earth’s climate really changing?
Pope Francis seems to think so and he’s calling on a billion plus Catholics to do something about it. In his encyclical on caring for our common home, Laudato Si, , Pope Francis makes it perfectly clear that climate change is a moral issue, because those most affected are the poor. The Pope will also encourage Catholics to accept the fact that climate change is real and that most climate change is caused by human activity. While Catholic social teaching has been promoting care for creation and the poor for years, apparently we haven’t been listening too well. Thus Laudato Si will be a call to urgent action for all.
A few years ago, I was selected to become a Catholic Climate Ambassador for the Catholic Climate Covenant. I had no idea what an eye-opening and challenging opportunity this would become. After a extensive training, I and other ambassadors were asked to go out and give presentations at various parishes, schools, and other organizations on climate change. I quickly became frustrated at how few speaking engagements I could put on my calendar. It seemed the greater Catholic community either did not want to hear this message or believed that the church was not a place to talk about a political issue such as this.
Even more surprising was that many young people didn’t appear to show any real interest in the topic even though it directly impacts their future. On all accounts it seemed as though climate change would become (like Catholic social teaching) our best kept secret. That is until Pope Francis quietly began working on his encyclical.
Perhaps our reluctance to climate changes comes from knowing that addressing the issue will mean each one of us will have to make some real lifestyle changes. Switching from plastic water bottles to a reusable one may not be enough. It might be time to take a hard look at our modern disposable lifestyles and really make some significant changes.
If we look to Jesus as our example of how to live, we know from Scripture that he was deeply concerned for the poor. If our current lifestyle is causing harm to those living in poverty then are we not living in conflict with Jesus’s teachings? It will be interesting to see how the church wrestles with the issue of climate change and how it impacts our understanding of discipleship. Thankfully, it seems Pope Francis has a few ideas!
To read more information on this topic, please visit http://www.catholicclimatecovenant.org/