COP 26 was a spectacle, indeed, and there is lots of analysis about what happened in Glasgow and what it means. It can drive big systemic change, and that has been happening. But equally, it matters what each of us does individually – a lot of many small changes made by many people can create big change.
That is the thinking behind the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which aims to mobilize the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, who make up about 15% of the global population, and to leverage its large property footprint in a seven-year journey towards sustainability and ‘integral ecology’.
The goal is to turn the pope’s 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” into actions. In a May video, the pope said there was a need for “a new ecological approach, which transforms our way of living in the world, our lifestyles, our relationship with the Earth’s resources, and in general, the way we look at people and live our life.”
The platform idea dates back to 2018, following a major report from the United Nations’ top climate science body that sketched out the differences between planetary warming of 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius — the goals stated in the Paris Agreement — and stated that global emissions would have to be halved by 2030 to keep the 1.5 target in sight, Earthbeat says.
Its launch, right after the UN climate summit in Glasgow Oct. 31-Nov. 13, sends a symbolic message that the global church is ready to do its part to take action on climate change, said Salesian Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam, coordinator of the dicastery’s ecology and creation sector. “This is the (only) action decade that we have to heal and restore our common home and bequeath a livable garden planet to our children and future generations,” he told Earthbeat.
Enrolment began on Nov. 14, the World Day of the Poor, and will remain open until April 22, Earth Day. There will be future enrolment periods each year. Participants enrol in seven categories – families; parishes and dioceses; religious orders; educational institutions; health care facilities; lay-led organizations; and economic entities.
“For each, the action platform, conceived by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, outlines seven categories of Laudato Si’ goals — such as responding to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, ecological economics or adopting simple lifestyles — and identifies specific actions within each,” says Earthbeat, part of the National Catholic Reporter.
Action steps include using renewable energy, reducing consumption of meat and single-use items; fostering ecological education and spirituality; advocating for sustainable development; and following ethical investment guidelines, including divestment from fossil fuels.
“Already, more than 4,000 church organizations and bodies — including the Jesuits and the Salesian Sisters, the Pontifical Gregorian University and 80 Catholic colleges worldwide, the California bishops’ conference and upwards of 1,000 families — have committed to the ambitious initiative to put integral ecology into practice in their lives and work,” it reports.
All the world’s religions
It is not just the Catholic Church that is focusing on this work. For 23 years, a unique religious-conservation alliance, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, encouraged all the world’s religions to examine their relationship to the natural world. It ended its work in 2019 but its work has been continued by the International Network for Conservation and Religion.
“In the past 23 years we have seen an incredible rise in the global perception of the importance of religions in environment and conservation programmes,” said Martin Palmer, who co-founded ARC with the late Prince Philip in 1986. “That rise in perception has happened right across the board – in NGOs, religious leaders, religious followers, among members of the general public and in governments, which were, with exceptions, the last to get on board.”
“There is work to be done, and there are now many organisations and bodies to do that work. ARC was always going to be a relatively short-time project and we can look back at many highly successful programmes. INCR is an opportunity to use our experience to help with ever growing faith interest in the environment.”
“There’s a growing awareness among many people – of faith and of no faith – that there’s a spiritual link between environmental awareness and wellbeing,” said David Shreve, environmental advisor to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England and co-chair of INCR.
He said faith groups are making environmental issues much more mainstream in the way they run their buildings, land, schools and financial investments as well as in their teachings. Appreciating that environmental concern is ‘core business’ and fundamental to their beliefs is no longer unusual.