31st Sunday B
Church of the Immaculate Conception, Kanturk
31st October 2021
Faith and Climate Change
It is not often that a pope has encouraged politicians to be radical in their decisions. But then no pope has done what Pope Francis has done – namely written not one but two encyclicals on climate change and care of the earth Laudato Si – issued in 2015 offered the core calling to all of humanity to care for the Earth because it is our common home – we are all losers if we fail in that task.
Fratelli Tutti – Brothers and Sisters all – calls humanity to a social friendship and solidarity. These letters of Pope Francis are themselves truly radical documents – they go to the roots of why both the environment is being destroyed and its consequences for so many people whose livelihoods are at risk from catastrophic changes in weather patterns.
What has climate change got to do with our faith and religious practice – to-day’s Gospel is a very precise answer. The Great Commandment of our love of God and neighbour are all of a single piece. That is why Pope Francis calls in Laudato Si – for an ecological conversion as part and parcel of our faith commitment. The fruit of that desire for conversion means when we examine our conscience, we ask ourselves if we need forgiveness for our failures to care for the environment round about us. To be fair to all young and not so young many have heard the message and have changed personal habits.
I raise these issues because the call of Pope Francis I mentioned at the beginning – the call to be radical was of course addressed to the political leaders gathered in Glasgow this week for COP26. This meeting is a global drive to plan together to reduce the emission of gases which lead to increasing temperatures in turn leading to drastic change in the weather patterns. There are genuine fears that the targets needed will be set too low and will not prove effective. The reason they may be set too low is the cost of the change over from fossil fuels to a cleaner source of energy.
The truth of the matter is all of us will be affected by this change over, this transition. In fact, we are beginning to feel the effects of rise in the price of gas and oil. It has a huge potential impact for those in farming, which is seen as a particular “culprit”, and indeed all whose livelihoods are linked to it. In that sense there is a great need to ensure that the transition is a just one so that one sector of society is not asked to carry an undue burden as part of the change. Replacing grass with trees is not realistic nor is the reduction of the role of the farmer to a curator of wilderness.
We know and accept the science that decarbonization is necessary – locally, nationally and globally. Plans are in place but their cost needs to be calculated not just in Euro but also on its impact on livelihoods. This will require a lively engagement with the issues so that people far removed from the daily farming enterprises are not allowed eliminate our social and cultural fabric with the stroke of a pen. An essential exercise of our communal responsibility is to indicate our willingness to engage this process positively. Accepting that change and adjustment is necessary but in a gradual manner that allows for continual evaluation of its impact.
Care for our common home is shared responsibility in faith. In doing so we are mindful of the plight of all in need out of a sense of our common humanity and the dignity that is due to all.