“When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.” ~ Augustin Burroughs.
The older I get, the more I agree with the sage observation of Augustin Burroughs, “When you have your health, you have everything…” The older we all get, the more time, energy and money we all spend on maintaining our individual health. With age and experience comes the understand that the quality of our life depends not so much upon the value of our assets as upon the state of our health. This is a basic understanding that humanity must now apply to the bigger picture regarding the health of planet Earth during this new age of global warming and a climate in crisis.
A week ago I participated in the annual fall ritual that most folks my age engage in to help stave off the latest variant/s of the annual influenza virus. I rolled up my sleeve and got a shot in the arm. On the same day that I was taking this precautionary measure in preventive medicine, Pope Francis was also doing his best to give the planet a ‘shot in the arm’. To prevent further malaise to Earth’s biosphere caused by human malpractice, Francis issued a papal letter on October 4, Laudate Deum, in advance of the upcoming COP 28 in Dubai.
Addressed “TO ALL PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL ON THE CLIMATE CRISIS,” the letter serves as a sequel to Laudato Si’ written back in 2015 in advance of COP 21 in Paris. In the 73 paragraph long letter, Francis minces no word in describing the lackluster response to the Paris Accord and the admonitions of Laudato Si’:
“Eight years have passed since I published the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, when I wanted to share with all of you, my brothers and sisters of our suffering planet, my heartfelt concerns about the care of our common home. Yet, with the passage of time, I have realized that our responses have not been adequate, while the world in which we live is collapsing and may be nearing the breaking point. In addition to this possibility, it is indubitable that the impact of climate change will increasingly prejudice the lives and families of many persons. We will feel its effects in the areas of healthcare, sources of employment, access to resources, housing, forced migrations, etc… And to express bluntly that this is no longer a secondary or ideological question, but a drama that harms us all, the African bishops stated that climate change makes manifest “a tragic and striking example of structural sin”.
Yes, the Pope recalls the African bishops’ use of the “s” word (sin) in his opening remarks. What humanity has done, and continues to knowingly do to the planet’s life support systems and life forms is glaring evidence of our sins of both commission and omission. The climate crisis exposes the planetary scale of this “structural sin,” the systemic malaise of corporate greed, political malfeasance, economic exploitation and human proclivity to ‘fiddle while Rome burns’ and find comfort in the status quo rather than daring to “boldly go where no man has gone before”.
The ‘sacred cow’ of unsustainable growth-based economy, crony capitalism and acceptance of wealth inequality that is milked continuously to the detriment of the planet’s health and a just society is the idol of secular worship that defines the sin against Creation which Francis calls out in Laudate Deum. We cannot truly “praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below…” when we, ourselves, treat the planet and its life forms as though we are the Deity ruling by fiat. That is why Francis released his letter on the Feast of Saint Francis whose Canticle of the Creatures was used to begin the Laudato Si’ encyclical. Saint Francis invites all his brother and sister creatures—whether minerals, plants or animals—to praise their Creator in his sacred song that knits all creation together in glorifying God.
It is the wholly (full) and holy (sacred) understanding and acknowledgment of whose we are rather than who we are that the Pope speaking on behalf of the Church seeks to drive home to “all people of good will on the climate crisis” in his latest attempt to give the planet a shot in the arm. But in order to have any chance of preventing further sickness to the planet from the human virus, we as individuals and as a society must be the ones to roll up our sleeves and open our hearts and minds to receive the good medicine that can move us to choose abundant life over impending death.
We can roll up our sleeves today by opening the Pope’s letter and carefully and prayerfully reading it in its entirety. Click HERE (if you haven’t already read the letter).
We can roll up our sleeves today by opening a link to a recent webinar from Presbyterians for Earth Care with an in depth discussion of Laudate Deum. Click HERE (and if it has not yet appeared, it should be there soon).
We can roll up our sleeves today by opening an article from The Atlantic, Capitalism is killing the planet…, and reading the whole thing from top to bottom. Click HERE.
And finally if you’ve gotten this far in the sleeve rolling exercise and are up to taking another shot, there is an article from the European Environment Agency, Growth without economic growth, that concludes with this hopeful and challenging paragraph:
“While the planet is finite in its biophysical sense, infinite growth in human existential values, such as beauty, love, and kindness, as well as in ethics, may be possible. Society is currently experiencing limits to growth because it is locked into defining growth in terms of economic activities and material consumption. The imperative of economic growth is culturally, politically and institutionally ingrained. As emphasised by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans (EC, 2019), however, the need for transformative change, amplified and accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for a profound rethinking of our activities in the light of sustainability.”
May we who are the Church in this malaise of global warming and climate crisis heed the admonitions to repent, turn around, and set a new course toward global health and abundant life by being the shot in the arm the planet needs for all God’s creatures great and small to survive and thrive.