As part of my formation as a third order Franciscan, my formation director insisted that I read Laudato Si. I did so begrudgingly. I am no environmentalist, even though I am conscious of recycling and reducing waste, and I really had no desire to read it.
But I did and the Pope's words struck me at the heart: Hear the cry of the earth.
I realized my complete ignorance of climate change and environmental issues and their impact on social issues like poverty. I stuck my head in the sand in my comfortable suburban life, like most people in the U.S.
Climate change's effects will devastatingly affect the poor more than the rich -- and that's one of the major reasons we Catholics need to care about this issue. It's already happening. In India, currently they are running out of water due to climate change, and millions of poor people there will face thirst and devastation. They may even die. This is a life issue.
We can't hear the cry of the poor without also hearing the cry of the earth. The two are becoming interrelated.
I never hear this up at the pulpit in any church or at any Catholic event. Why are we avoiding talking about this important issue? Is it too controversial? Is it too political? Do we fear we will lose parishioners if we tackle tough issues like this?
Let me argue that this message needs to be heard in rich, blessed areas that have the resources to provide for the poor and influence change.
More and more I am seeing the problems from my own worldview. I look out my window on the side of the highway and there is trash everywhere. I look in my home and I see overconsumption. I see an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor -- and a deepening of guilt because I am one of the rich by comparison to the poorest of the poor. I see days of rain and more severe thunderstorms in my community and realize the reality that climate is changing -- for worse.
This is a big problem. Bigger than you and I. I don't know what the answer is, but I do know that "the rich" like you and I have a social responsibility to take climate change seriously as well as respect and nurture all of creation, God's handiwork. I do know that you and I need to consider our overconsumption and reduce our waste. I do know that you and I need to stop polluting the earth in direct and indirect ways. I do know that you and I need to approach the world and all of creation with reverence -- and do what we can to give drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, and sustenance to the poorest of the poor.
You and I need to hear the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, and respond.