Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) gives thanks for the papal Encyclical, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home. We share the conviction that all life is sacred and interdependent, and that the natural world is an infinite source of awe, wonder and wisdom. We unite in the urgency to transition away from human systems, values, and lifestyles that are weakening Earth’s natural planetary health, causing the suffering and extinction of other species, and deepening the disempowerment of vulnerable peoples.
Although some language and sections of the Encyclical clearly reflect Roman Catholic tradition, by far most of the Encyclical speaks compellingly to us all. We find common ground with Laudato Si’ on a wide range of interwoven issues: the commonly held but mistaken understanding of humankind’s “dominion” over the earth (Chapter II*); an economic system founded in “misguided anthropocentrism” (122); a false trust in the free market (190); the “throwaway culture” (16, 20); a “self-centred culture of instant gratification” (162); and a “culture of consumerism”. (184) We readily support the call to “integral ecology” (Chapter IV); “responsible simplicity” (214); “sustainable and diversified agriculture” (164); and an “integrated approach to combating poverty” (139).
In accepting the common findings of the vast majority of research scientists, Francis acknowledges climate change as a civilization-wide crisis (25). QEW has for many years accepted the reality of climate change, and seen it, and other symptoms of our separation from nature, as deeply spiritual and moral challenges. We are encouraged that Francis supports grassroots organizations working for a global transition from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. We support his invitation to “every person living on the planet. … to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (3). We align with visions of progress grounded in human dignity, sustainability, and beauty to “reverse the downward spiral of self-destruction which currently engulfs us” (163), and for a “bold cultural revolution” (114).
QEW acknowledges some differences with the Encyclical. We hold deep concern about the rapid increase in human numbers which, along with excessive consumption, contributes to the destruction of the natural world. We believe Spirit speaks equally to all persons; we work to move beyond patriarchy and toward full social equality. In faithful recognition of past harms and contemporary concerns, QEW’s North American network joins with indigenous peoples in repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. Despite these differences we stand in solidarity with the urgent call for systemic economic and lifestyle changes that will protect our common home, vulnerable peoples, and a future for all life.
QEW is among the many faith groups and secular organizations expressing solidarity with Francis’ critique, and his vision of an integral ecology, justice and interior peace. A summary of Laudato Si’ was published in the July/August, 2015 issue of Quaker Earthcare Witness’ BeFriending Creation. Another Friends’ organization, Friends Committee on National Legislation, has also issued a public statement, as has New England Yearly Meeting. Reciprocating Francis’ openhearted invitation to interfaith dialogue and action, we invite everyone to learn more about QEW’s work, including our founding principles, and about the Friends World Committee for Consultation’s The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice.
The Encyclical, the tremendous interfaith response, and the clear desire for ongoing dialogue and action, remind all of us that we are not alone in this work, and that in the face of the immensity of our current crisis, we must be guided by Spirit toward a renewed life. We continue to encourage Friends and others to initiate interfaith dialogue where we live, inviting all voices into a conversation on our shared future. We strongly encourage all people not already involved with interfaith and interdisciplinary actions towards the healing of our common home to take this to heart.
Many of us ask, along with Francis, “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up? … Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us” (160). We encourage all to engage with Francis’ words, as we work to discern our role in the story that is unfolding on our planet.
Quaker Earthcare Witness is in continuing conversation and action to move this forward.
We welcome your participation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* References are to chapters or paragraphs in Laudato Si’.
** QEW’s response to the Pope’s encyclical was approved at the October 22-25 Steering Committee Meeting, with two Friends standing aside.