Pope Francis’ Encyclical Gives All A Reason for Hope

Pope Francis has released a highly anticipated encyclical on climate change.

Pope Francis during his visit to Naples, Italy.
Pope Francis during his visit to Naples, Italy. (Raffaele Esposito/Flickr)

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I have friends who are atheists, those who have a spiritual relationship with the earth and those who don’t quite subscribe to the notion of one God. We don’t judge each other; we just play fair in the sandbox we call life. They, like me, allow themselves to be guided by their moral compass to do what is just and fair.

That said, I have another driving factor—my Catholic faith. It has taught me that kindness matters, people of all racial, social and sexual orientations matter, and that all living things should be treasured. I learned the importance of conservation with reminders from my parents to turn off the water and eat everything on my plate because not all kids have access to these precious resources. I also learned to value people, things and places, as well as to share happiness with those in need. Giving comes naturally, whether that is of food, time and talent, or material things.

I believe in choices. And I believe in the science that humans are causing climate change and that we can do something to stop our world from catastrophe, especially in the Arctic where Big Oil looks to drill despite environmental and regional sensitivities. 

As kids we all know that if you trash your room you have to clean it. The same goes for our world.

We know as a fact that the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and that for the sake of wildlife, people and our climate we shouldn’t engage in activities that will further drive black carbon emissions.

My confirmation name, which I selected for myself in the Roman Catholic Church, is Esperanza. While some select the name of a patron saint, I chose this virtue which means Hope in English. 

Hope is what I have for our planet and the people who work tirelessly to protect our wildlife, our communities and our children, who will inherit our pollution, our mistakes and our efforts to make things right. 

Today is a very important day for Catholics and those who listen with an open heart and mind to Pope Francis’ encyclical, which is slated to be transformative not only for the environmental movement but also for those who practice the faith. 

It isn’t absurd to believe it is our moral duty to protect the earth and that in being given life and the ability to inhabit this planet we must also be stewards of the environment. We have communities in our own backyards and in developed countries that are disproportionately exposed to pollution. Too often, it is easy for us to look the other way, but those in poor and developing countries do not have that same luxury.

We all deserve to breathe clean air, drink clean water and have public lands where our children and grandchildren can fall in love with nature. We’re overfishing. We’re destroying our oceans and the irreplaceable species that live in them. Coal mining is putting our animals and natural lands at risk. Fracking is jeopardizing our waters. Pesticides are exposing the people who work tirelessly on our fields to dangerous chemicals.

For those who have been sleeping at the wheel, this is Pope Francis saying climate change is real and the time to take action to slow it is now.

This blog is also available in Spanish, here

From 2014–2016, Betsy was a bilingual press secretary on the Advocacy Communications team.