One Complex Crisis, Many Opportunities for Change

By Ruth Moraes

We are in the middle of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development’s 40 day prayer campaign in the lead up to the next phase of action in the Laudato Si’ Action platform. In choosing to begin the campaign on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi (4th October) and end it on the World Day of the Poor (14th November) the campaign highlight two important crises of our time: poverty and environmental degradation. 

Or as Pope Francis deftly points out in Laudato Si’ it is just one problem: “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” With the COP26 conference occurring in just a few days and the worst effects of the pandemic once again being borne by the poorest of the poor it makes sense to re-evaluate and reinvigorate our action on behalf of all people and the planet.

In early October, Pope Francis addressed the participants at the pre COP26 parliamentary meeting co-organised by the Italian Parliament and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This meeting was followed by his signing a joint appeal, along with many other religious leaders and scientists in the lead up to COP26. 

That Joint Appeal called for an “awareness of the unprecedented challenges that threaten us and life on our beautiful common home… and the necessity of an even deeper solidarity in the face of the global pandemic and of the growing concern” in that regard (Faith and Science: Towards COP26, Joint Appeal, 4 October 2021).” At the Faith and Science meeting there was a clear consensus on two points: a sorrow about the grave harm inflicted on the human family and its common home and the urgent need to move decisively away from the throwaway culture towards a culture of care. 

In his address to the Pre-COP26 Parliamentary meeting, Pope Francis urged “governments to adopt without delay a course of action that would limit the average global temperature rise and to take courageous steps” to transition to clean energy, to adopt sustainable land use, conserve biodiversity, work to end hunger and malnutrition and encourage more moderate lifestyles. 

To meet this challenge, Pope Francis stressed that everyone has a role to play but noted the role of government leaders is particularly crucial and requires them to act in wisdom for the common good. He encouraged them to be guided by responsibility and solidarity because “We owe this to the young, to future generations, who deserve our best efforts to ensure that they can live in hope.” 

While the work of government leaders is crucial, as the Laudato Si’ Action Platform recognises, there is work that people can do at every other level including families, parishes, dioceses, schools and universities. Therefore on the 14th of November which ushers in the next phase of the Laudato Si’ Action platform, planning guides will be published and everyone within the church and all those of goodwill are invited to create their own Laudato Si’ action plans. 

This invitation extends to both those who are just beginning to care for creation and  those who have been active for years. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, in launching the Social Justice Statement for this year Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor has already announced its commitment and encourages people and organisations across the seven sectors to consider joining too. 

Despite the seriousness of both the ecological and social problems, Pope Francis is insistent in reminding us that there is hope. Hope is not wishful thinking but an attitude borne out of the fact that knowing that action can bring positive change. 

In the Joint Appeal the leaders also stated “The challenge to work for a culture of care for our common home, but also for ourselves, is one that inspires hope, for surely humanity has never possessed as many means for achieving this goal as it possesses today.”

As the Laudato Si’ Action Platform website states, this is a Kairos moment, a moment when action is urgently needed and everyone is called to take positive steps now.