Live Simply with the earth?

I can still remember my first electric shock and my father, who was an electrician by trade, insisting that you always need to “make sure that things are earthed” or disasters can happen and not just to the wiring. Failure to “earth” can lead to fires, burnouts and ultimate disconnections.
What comes across most strikingly in Pope Francis’s communications, whether in his sermons, brief “tweetings” or now in his Encyclical “Laudato Si” (“Praise Be” taken from the first words of St Francis’s famous “Canticle of the Sun”) is the strong earthy language he uses. He urged priests to be “shepherds … living with the smell of the sheep”
Now he warns that together climate change , ecological degradation and exploitative global inequality is turning our “common home” into “a pile of filth”. Addressing the environmental issues arising from climate change in this encyclical he reasserts traditional Catholic teaching that the earth is our common inheritance and home but he goes further in insisting that “we have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the poor of the earth and the cry of the poor”.
Some years ago working in parliament on international development I visited both northern Nigeria where the desert is sweeping in and burying the fields and wetlands of the farming and fishing communities and driving them away, and the Dhaka Delta in Bangladesh where the sea is encroaching rapidly inland and the salt water is drowning the rice fields.
Again it is the poor who are paying the highest price. Meanwhile the poor in megacities are reduced to living of the pickings of discarded waste in rubbish dumps and the resources of the developing world “continue to fuel the lifestyle of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future”.
Pope Francis challenges this “cheerful recklessness” and spells out that the rich must begin to pay their “grave social debt “ to the poor and tackle the earth’s rising temperature. He pulls no punches in emphasizing “the rich owe the poor”. In his work “Ethics and Community” the theologian Enrique Dusserl drawing of the writings and lives of the early Fathers of the Church such as St John Chrysosotom who pointed out that extra stored food and clothing in a richer person’s cupboard was stolen from the poor, spelt out that “the life of the poor is accumulated by the rich. The latter live the life of the rich in virtue of the death of the poor”.
What characterises Pope Francis’s environmental encyclical “Laudato Si” is his deliberate fusing together tackling the environmental challenges and tackling poverty. “Hearing the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor” implies urgent and radical ( as in ‘rooted’) action, a transformation of personal lives and international economic and political action; “leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is first and foremost up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthy sojourn”.
Living more simply so that others can simply live?



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