The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’
Our second Climate Action WebForum is a discussion about Laudato si’, Pope Francis’s second encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home,” which asks “every person living on this planet” to begin a dialogue about the future of our world.”
The WebForum features an essay about Laudato si’ by Rev. Dr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SDB, author of The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’ (Liturgical Press, 2019). The Ten Green Commandments addresses each of the six chapters of the encyclical, and has been described as a“powerful and transformative book” [that] will ignite a radical environmental effort.”
Laudato si’ is also the focus of PWR’s Faith and Climate Webinar on Tuesday, June 18, 2019, the fourth anniversary of Laudato si’s release. This webinar is the first of two conversations about Laudato si’ in the Faith and Climate Series, which will seek to provide a multi-faith perspective on how religious communities are responding to the climate crisis.
The Faith and Climate Webinar Series is organized in partnership with the Security and Sustainability Forum, with the generous support of the Hanley Foundation.
Please read Fr. Joshtrom’s essay, join the discussion by sending us your comments and questions, and register for the webinar today.
Introducing the Ten Green Commandments of Laudato si’
by Fr. Joshtrom Kureethadam
“Francis, Go and Repair My House Which, as You See, Is Falling into Ruin”
The mounting avalanche of warnings from the scientific community in the last decades have made me more and more concerned about the increasingly precarious state of our common planetary home. We must rekindle a sense of awe and wonder before the grandeur and majesty of the infinitely vast universe, and a deep sense of personal responsibility for our increasingly imperiled planet.
Our home is falling into ruin. We are on the brink of unprecedented global challenges that place a question mark on the future of human civilization. The destruction of life on our planet, as far as we know the only home for complex forms of life in the universe, is playing out before our eyes. We face sweltering temperatures, melting glaciers, and inundated shorelines in the decades and centuries to come, condemning future generations to a world in ruins, as well as recklessly gambling with humanity’s destiny and survival. We live in a critical moment. Our actions today will determine the future
not only of present generations, but also the future of generations for millennia to come.
Laudato si’, Pope Francis’s groundbreaking encyclical on care for our common home, addresses the greatest challenge humanity faces today. It is the longest of all papal encyclicals, spanning issues ranging from climate change to creation theology, from favelas to coral reefs. The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’ is my attempt to gather the encyclical’s main ideas into a concise package and arrange them according to the “see-judge-act” framework increasingly used in social sciences.
I. Earth, our common home, is in peril. Take care of it. God loves his creation and so must we, and “love” is an active verb.
II. Listen to the cry of the poor who are the disproportionate victims of the crisis of our common home. The ecological crisis is not only a physical problem, but also a deeply moral one.
III. Rediscover a theological vision of the natural world as good news (gospel). The world is indeed “good news” that reveals the love, beauty, and glory of the Creator.
IV. Recognize that the abuse of creation is ecological sin. The destruction of our common home calls for repentance.
V. Acknowledge the deeper human roots of the crisis of our common home. Repentance begins by acknowledging human responsibility for the destruction.
VI. Develop an integral ecology, as we are all interrelated and interdependent. As every ecologist (and every farmer) knows, you cannot do just one thing.
VII. Learn a new way of dwelling in our common home and manage it more responsibly through a new economics and a new political culture. We need a new way to live on Earth, including a new economy and a new political order, focused on the common good of all creation.
VIII. Educate toward ecological citizenship through change of lifestyles. Ecological citizenship means establishing a new covenant between humanity and the natural world.
IX. Embrace an ecological spirituality that leads to communion with all creatures. The natural world is permeated with divine presence.
X. Care for our common home by cultivating the ecological virtues of praise, gratitude, care, justice, work, sobriety, and humility.
The original meaning of the word crisis in Greek does not have the negative connotation it currently has in English and in other modern languages. Originally it meant a propitious “opportunity,” in the wake of a serious obstacle, to pause, look back at the journey, and give it a radically new direction. Only crisis brings real change. The crisis in our natural world, with all its grim prospects, holds a beacon of hope for humanity to rebuild our common planetary home and heal the ruptured bonds of fellowship with the rest of the biotic community. Laudato Si’ provides us with the inspiration and moral compass to embark on this journey together, echoing the courageous challenge that was presented by the Earth Charter at the beginning of the new millennium:
As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning . . . Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life. (LS 207)
With Laudato si’s ten green commandments, Pope Francis tells us that “All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.” (LS 205)
A Response from Rabbi Rachel S. Mikva, Ph.D.
Herman Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies and Senior Faculty Fellow,
InterReligious Institute, Chicago Theological Seminary
Centuries ago, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai told a story about a group of people traveling together in a boat, when one of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath his seat. His companions were alarmed and asked, “Why are you doing this?!” He replied, “What concern is it of yours? I am drilling only under my own seat” (Leviticus Rabba 4:6).
The man did not see—or did not want to see—how his actions affected everyone on the boat. “Seeing” the true impact of our actions is a critical first step, as Fr. Joshtrom suggests. Together we need to help people see.
We must challenge those who imagine science in conflict with religion, those who deny climate science, and those who imagine we can do whatever we want the created world and God will take care of it. We must shine a light on climate refugees and others whose lives have already been disrupted by climate change. We must reveal the web of money and power that perpetuate our self-destructive path.
Reading the verse in Ecclesiastes, See the works of God! (7:13), the rabbis imagined the Holy One showing the first hu/man around the Garden of Eden and saying, “Look
at My works—how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! All that I have created, I
created for your sake. Take care that you do not despoil and destroy My universe; for if
you ruin it there is no one to repair it after you (Eccl. Rabbah 7).
Yes, Fr. Joshtrom, we need a new way to live on Earth, and so we must learn to see.
A Response from Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF, Ph.D.
The Erica and Harry John Family Endowed
Chair in Catholic Theological Ethics
Rev. Dr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam’s 10th Commandment is: X. Care for our common home by cultivating the ecological virtues of praise, gratitude, care, justice, work, sobriety, and humility.
This “commandment” undoubtedly poses the biggest challenge to ACTION for people of the U.S., in spite of the overwhelming science pointing to the human causes of global warming. This game-experiment helps understand why1. This game was played with real money.
The Set Up. Six participants got 40 Euros each to invest in a “climate account.” Every round, these players got to pick one of three options—either they put 4 Euros, 2 Euros, or zero money, into the account. The investments are anonymous, but the participants can see the total amount going into the pot.
The Objective. If, at the end of ten rounds, the pot of money grows to 120 Euros—which is about 20 Euros a person—then the team has successfully averted “dangerous climate change”—in other words, it wins the game. Each participant gets a 45 euro prize in addition to the money they each have leftover. But if the pot does NOT grow big enough, the team loses the game, and they don’t get the prize—and remember, this is real money, so the players have a real incentive to win.
The game was played with three different sets of rules. Scenario 1: The 45 euro award would be handed to the participants the next day. Seven out of 10 groups won the game. Scenario 2: The cash would be paid out seven weeks later. This time, only four of the 11 groups succeeded. Scenario 3: The prize money would go toward planting oak trees, which would sequester carbon, and thus provide the greatest benefit to future generations.
What happened? Zero of 11 groups reached the target! The study’s lead author, Jennifer Jacquet of New York University, explained that: First, people instinctively seek instant benefits. They don’t want them later and certainly not when the rewards would be reaped by future generations. Second, it was important that the participants were anonymous. If their contributions were known, they’d likely be shamed into contributing more.
It’s a simple idea, but it highlights why dealing with climate change is hard. People are very reluctant to accept short term pain for long term gain. To apply that to climate change: what immediate incentive do nations have to say, tax carbon or invest in infrastructure that would make cities more resilient to storms and floods? No matter what the strategy—adaptation, clean energy, carbon taxes—someone has problems with them and few actually get done.
It wasn’t always thus. Sociologist Daniel Bell held that the best way to describe the “Protestant ethic” that produced capitalism, industrial revolution and the Rise of the West was—delayed gratification. Our age might be better described with one word change—instant gratification. This is something people of faith and anyone of good will need to take seriously. What is this stance costing us? By comparison—What is the cost of cultivating the ecological virtues of praise, gratitude, care, justice, work, sobriety, and humility?
A Response from Saffit Abid Catovic
Imam and Muslim Chaplain at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey
In 2015 many of the traditional global faith communities, organized religions and spiritualities were literally catapulted unto the world stage, when the global faith communities declared loud and clear their intent to battle climate change and protect the earth with the release of statements and declarations, such as the Papal Encyclical on the Environment and Climate Change, Laudato si’. Specifically considering the Muslim case, I was honored to be a consultant to the Drafting Committee of the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change which was adopted in Istanbul, Turkey in August 2015 (http://www.ifees.org.uk/declaration/). These declarations and the movements behind them provide heretofore missing religious language, symbolism and imagery, coupled with the moral voice that was necessary to inform and transform the loosely connected environmental socio-political movement into a sacred movement for planetary salvation. The Islamic Declaration lays out what can be best described as a series of Azans (Calls) namely: The Call to the inescapable scientific realities of Global Climate Change and the UN position that aims to limit global warming to 2, or preferably, 1.5 degrees Celsius, through the reduction and limitation of the anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels and the resultant greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The Call to Islam’s Eco-teachings and Green principles are found in the Quran and Sunnah/Hadith (Traditions/Sayings of the Prophet Muhammed – Peace Be Upon Him-PBUH). They describe the Earth, our mother (Umm), as a creation of Allah (God) and our home, with sufficient resources and enough provision for humanity and creation, if properly managed and not squandered (Q 74:12 and 17:70). The Earth is sacred, having been sacralized by the pronouncement of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that the earth was made sacred and pure and a Masjid (mosque) and that her soil was made as a means of purification so that whenever the time of prayer comes his followers should pray where ever he/she finds himself/herself. The Earth herself and the natural world are in fact a type of Divine revelation (wahy): manifesting signs (ayaat) of His presence and majesty. The Arabic term Ayaat literally means signs and is the same term that is used to describe the verses of the Qur’an. There are over 750 verses in the Quran which speak about nature and natural phenomena as being signs (Ayaat) of God which testify to His Power and Glory. Additional Islamic eco-teachings include that: Human beings enact the Divine Will in their divinely-instituted function/role as Khalifatul Ard or vice-regent (steward/guardian/protector) of the Earth, with the ability to freely choose how to act in and upon the Earth. According to this view, Human beings have been charged with the amanah (trust) (Q 33:72), that is the just (adl) and effective (ihsan) administration of all that has been placed under our control and use (taskhir) to maintain the natural and cosmic order and balance (mizan) (Q 55:7-9) in our multi-faceted role as Khalifa – vicegerants (Q 6:165). This trust not only encompasses the web of human relations, but extends outward in ever expanding concentric circles to include all within the natural world. With this awesome power and delegated authority comes the individual and collective responsibility for such actions
The Call to Nations and their governments for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewable energy, as well as increased support by the major greenhouse gas emitters (the geo-political global north – the so called Developed Nations and China) for vulnerable communities (geo-political global south – where much of the global Muslim population reside). Wealthy oil-producing nations (of which the USA is now top) are urged to phase out ALL greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Call to all peoples, leaders and businesses to commit to 100% renewable energy in order to tackle climate change, reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. This in fact is a call for divestment from fossil fuels and investment in renewable energy solutions and technologies though it was not specifically stated as such in the Declaration.
1Jennifer Jacquet et al, https://jenniferjacquet.com/2013/10/22/intra-and-intergenerational-discounting-in-the-climate-game/ Jacquet, J., K. Hagel, C. Hauert, J. Marotzke, T. Röhl & M. Milinski (2013) Intra- and inter-generational discounting in the climate game. Nature Climate Change 3:1025–1028.
A QUESTION FROM A WEBINAR PARTIPANT:
How do Chasidic and orthodox Jewish understandings attend to all this modernity, in hopefully modern, effective, and responsible ways?
RABBI RACHEL MIKVA:
While most Jewish environmental activists come from progressive movements or are unaffiliated, Chasidic and orthodox Jews certainly are responsible to the texts we discussed in the webinar—texts and traditions that make substantive claims on how we relate to the environment. Canfei Nesharim (On the Wings of Eagles) is an orthodox Jewish environmental group. Groups in Israel also involve a variety of folks. Yet there are particular issues that need to be addressed; these two articles address some of them: http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp415.htm and https://www.aish.com/h/15sh/i/48965876.html