Live a simpler life, follow encyclical's guidance - professor

David Goa says Pope Francis is calling us to shed our privileged use of resources

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

David Goa says Pope Francis is calling us to shed our privileged use of resources

August 17, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment is "a remarkably significant encyclical which hopefully will contribute to our capacity to turn around a bit."

With these words, David Goa, director of the Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, initiated a "conversation" on the encyclical Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home.

About 30 people attended the event at Ronning House, just north of the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus in Camrose.

In Laudato Si', Pope Francis speaks openly about the devastating effects of climate change on people and the planet, saying that climate change is real, urgent and it must be tackled. He also describes the climate as "a common good, belonging to all and meant for all."

Goa said the 190-page letter is long, but reads easily.

"One of the nice things about this encyclical is that Pope Francis is quite careful in how he speaks in the encyclical to the world and how he speaks in the encyclical to the Church," he said.

"He is making a distinction; he is making an argument that we have a common world so there is a whole range of things that are important for all of us, no matter who we are, and he is making that case."

In his July 31 presentation, Goa

focused on Chapter 1 - What is Happening to our Common Home - and Chapter 4, titled Integral Ecology. He plans to lead another session on the encyclical in the fall.

"There is a lot in it so it deserves more than one conversation."

Francis' encyclical is unique in that it embraces the science around climate change and calls for dialogue on the issue, Goa pointed out.

EARTH IS OUR HOME

"He said that the earth is our home and is beginning to look like an immense pile of dirt.

"This is linked to the throwaway culture, the disregard for the way natural ecosystems work. He argues that we need to come to see the climate as our chief common good."

The encyclical emphasizes the connection between environmental degradation and poverty, noting "the exploitation of the planet has already exceeded acceptable limits and we still have not solved the problem of poverty," Goa said.

"He talks about fresh drinking water as a human right, about what it means to move into a world where people are buying water and selling water. I suspect you don't ever see the pope with a bottle of water in his hand."

QUALITY OF LIFE

In Laudato Si' Pope Francis also writes about the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown in society.

"He is linking these together. He is showing how they are connected to each other, that the environmental deterioration that has resulted from our notions of development and our notions of a throwaway society have created a whole world of instability - cities which are disproportionate and unruly, almost impossible to live in and where huge numbers of people have to scrape out a living."

Then the pope speaks about global inequity. "This of course is such a big concern of his," said Goa. The pope has a strong feeling for the human dignity of the poor and the need to include them in the common life of society.

ENTITLED ATTITUDE

"He sketches the way in which that global inequity is linked so often to our culture of consumerism, our throwaway culture which assumes we have the right to devour the resources of the world (without concern for our neighbours)."

In an interview, Goa said, "At the centre of it, the pope is calling us to a simpler life as his namesake St. Francis of Assisi did, not because a simpler life requires heroic virtue, but because a simpler life is a better life.

"It is a life in which society and community can be much more intimate and much more textured, a life in which we can care more deeply for all of creation as Francis of Assisi did and be in a deeper communion with all of God's world."