Laudato Si and its Implications for Santa Clara University
Center for Sustainability
This June, the Vatican released a new encyclical titled Laudato Si, a Medieval Italian phrase which translates to "Praise Be to You." Pope Francis’ second encyclical focuses primarily on moral ecology, social action, and critiquing the consumerism and incessant development of today - all within the context of the Catholic Church. In summary, the encyclical calls for developed nations to take the lead in combating climate change and environmental degradation, while urging greater dialogue between world leaders to alleviate the burden upon the poor.
In direct reference to his namesake, the Pope’s letter begins with the full (translated) quote from Saint Francis of Assisi: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.” After reminding the audience of this holy fact, Pope Francis explains that creation is not domination over the Earth, but rather a mutual relationship between God’s children and the environment that we inhabit. In the chapter “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis,” the Pope criticizes the marketing of unsustainable products for “the interests of certain powerful groups.” This leads the encyclical to an urgent tone, calling for an “integral ecology” that includes an analysis of our environmental impact in all of life’s decisions.
The final two chapters propose unitive action in distinct ways. Governments must be transparent and compromising to solve issues that have been institutionalized in modern industrialism. Additionally, the dialogue between science and religion should be more commonplace. Pope Francis concludes by advocating for holistic education, one that supports simplistic living, individual responsibility, and communal action to mitigate environmental damage. In the final, reflective Prayer for our Earth, the Pope asks God to forgive and “touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth.” In essence, the entire Laudato Si can be read as a redeeming invocation and guide for those that contribute egregiously to climate change.
To address the messages of Laudato Si and how it contributes to Santa Clara’s mission for “a more just, humane and sustainable world,” a committee was established to plan a response. Headed by Dr. David DeCosse, Director of Campus Ethics Programs, the team was comprised of various faculty, staff, and students that have a shared interest in the encyclical’s significance. The result: our campus will host a conference, titled Our Future on a Shared Planet: Silicon Valley in Conversation with the Environmental Teachings of Pope Francis. The event, spanning from November 3rd-4th, will cover four topics - climate science, public policy, business ethics, and economics - each tying into the central theme of taking immediate action. The keynote address will be given by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, a Church leader in social justice who was involved in the preparation of the document. Several other speakers will also attend, including UCSD atmospheric scientist Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a participant in the 2014 Vatican meeting on “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature.” Additional panels regarding responsible investment and campus sustainability will be held during the evenings. Registration information will be posted at the above link soon.
Contributed by Blair Libby ‘16, Sustainability Intern for Buildings and Grounds