Much of the work we do at the Franciscan Action Network is centered around promoting justice and peace. Our work cannot be done outside of the context of climate change, and we cannot wait for our elected officials to sound the alarm, especially now, when we are faced with an administration that chooses to ignore and deny the reality of a warming planet. This is why we are marching together with many within the faith communities at the People’s Climate Movement on Saturday April 29th to elevate the urgent message of acting on climate justice.
For decades now, the impact of human activity on our planet has been evident, especially for those living in poverty or in otherwise vulnerable conditions. Extreme weather events have resulted and continue to result in the destruction of property, food shortage, displacement, and disease. In the developed world, most of us have the resources to combat these threats or, more likely, do not experience them at all. But for many in the developing world, climate change simply leads to rampant suffering. According to our faith, we are stewards of God’s creation, called to care for all life on this planet. To allow so many to suffer, to stand by as our resources become scarce and tainted, to watch as the planet that has sustained us for so long struggles to survive is inarguably immoral.
We are fortunate to have a powerful voice in Pope Francis, one who recognizes the moral imperative we have to act on climate justice ― now, not in some nebulous future moment. Many are familiar with the Pope’s message contained within Laudato Si, his encyclical on care for our common home. In this document, he urges us to think deeply about our role as stewards of the environment and human life. He cites the advance of science and technology as awe-inspiring but insidious. Both have brought us to incredible feats of human development and ingenuity. But they set up the paradigm of a human-centered universe. “When human beings place themselves at the center, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative,” Pope Francis writes.
It is our desire for convenience and our propensity to think only of our immediate needs that have perpetuated the destructive systems currently in place that are causing global-scale environmental degradation. As people of faith, we are called to challenge this paradigm; to recognize that we truly have been gifted with the role of caring for this one planet we have to call home and that in order to do so, we must examine our actions, we must listen, and we must work to strengthen the voices of those who are not being heard.
It is because we value our relationship with God and God’s creation that climate justice is, for people of faith, a profoundly spiritual, ethical, and moral issue. Francis of Assisi recognized God’s work in creation, and loved it. He celebrated the beauty of God in creation, and loved God all the more for this gift. Francis’s relationship with creation is best understood within the broader context of his religious journey. St. Bonaventure, a 13th century Franciscan theologian, described the created universe as the fountain fullness of God’s expressed being. As God is expressed in creation, creation in turn expresses the creator. Bonaventure also tells us that to love God we need to Love all that God created.
The time is now to take action to care for God’s creation before it is too late. The Pope gave us a message of hope when he said: ‘‘Today, amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others, to protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope. It is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds.’’
On Saturday April 29th, thousands upon thousands will take part in the People’s Climate Movement march, on the streets of Washington D.C. and in sister marches across the country. The Franciscan Action Network will join as part of this day of action. Our motivations are deeply rooted in our Franciscan spirituality and Catholic Social teachings. Climate justice is one of the great ethical, social, and humanitarian challenges of our time and so our faith impels us to act. By joining together, both as a faith community, and as a national and global community, we are working to send a clear message that action must be taken.
Patrick Carolan is the executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, a collective Franciscan voice seeking to transform United States public policy related to peace making, care for creation, poverty, and human rights. He is also a co-founder of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, an organization working on global climate justice issues as well as Faithful Democracy, a faith coalition focused on the issue of Money in Politics.