Our Moral Imperative

Pope Francis begins his TED Coundown talk with:

The world is shaken by the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlights another global challenge: the socio-environmental crisis. And this requires us, all of us, to face a choice. The choice between what matters, and what doesn’t.

Let me repeat that: the choice between what matters, and what doesn’t. 

He continues:

Science tells us, every day, with more precision, that urgent action is needed…And for this we must act now. This is a scientific fact. 

A scientific fact. The time to argue or to sit on our hands is long past. It is a time for action.

The Holy Father asks us to go on a journey:

I would like to invite you to go on a journey together. A journey of transformation and of action. Made not so much of words, but rather of concrete and pressing actions…Our goal is clear: to build, within the next decade, a world where we can meet the needs of the present generations, including everyone, without compromising the possibilities of future generations.

Pope Francis then proceeds to ask us each to take three actions. The first action concerns education:

My first suggestion is to promote, at every level, an education geared towards the care of our common home, developing the understanding that environmental problems are linked to human needs…An education based on scientific data and on an ethical approach. This is important: both of them. 

The education of our children must focus on understanding climate change and on ethical action. But it doesn’t end with school and those employed as teachers; we–all of us–must be educating ourselves and then sharing that information with everyone, from age 1 to age 99, on the urgency of climate change.

The Holy Father’s second request concerns water and nutrition:

As a second proposal, we must focus on water and nutrition. Access to safe and drinkable water is an essential and universal human right…Providing adequate nutrition for all, through non-destructive farming methods, should become the main purpose of the entire cycle of food production and distribution. 

We must make sure the poor of the world have access to water and food. And we must shift our food system to non-destructive methods that reduce their carbon footprint, which means a shift away from wasteful animal agriculture, towards primarily plant-based diets.

His Holiness’ third request is about energy:

The third suggestion is about energy transition: a gradual replacement, but without delay, of fossil fuels with clean energy sources. We only have a few years. Scientists estimate approximately less than 30…to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Not only must this transition be quick and capable of meeting present and future energy needs, it also must be attentive to the impact on the poor, on local populations, as well as on those who work in the energy production sectors. 

Perhaps, it’s time to think about replacing your gas-powered vehicle with an electric or hybrid car. Can’t afford a new one? There are plenty of used electric and hybrid cars for sale too. And let’s not forget making more trips on foot, on bicycle, or on public transport.

Pope Francis concludes his TED Countdown talk with:

The current economic system is unsustainable. We are faced with the moral imperative…This leads to a new economy, where the production of wealth is directed to the integral well-being of the human being and to the improvement — not the destruction — of our common home…It also implies a renewed politics, conceived as one of the highest forms of charity. Yes, love is interpersonal, but love is also political. It involves all peoples and it involves Nature. I invite therefore all of you to embark on this journey, that I proposed in “Laudato Si’” and also in my new encyclical “Fratelli Tutti.” 

As the term Countdown suggests, we must act with urgency. Each one of us can play a valuable role, if we all begin our journey today — not tomorrow — today. Because the future is built today, and it is not built in isolation, but rather in community and in harmony. 

How do you plan to heed Our Holy Father’s call to action? What are the concrete steps you will take in regards to education, water and food, and energy use? 

Finally, I would like to invite you to an online meetup that I am leading where we will be discussing Pope Francis’ video and several others on Sunday, Jan 31 at 3pm. RSVP at https://www.meetup.com/SeattleClimateChange/events/275858863 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

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