The Ten Green Commandments of Laudato Si’
posted on 2019-06-04, 4:32 pm
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.
Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, Coordinator of the Sector of “Ecology and Creation” at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
Professor Rachel Mikva, Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Chair and Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at the InterReligious Institute at the Chicago Theological Seminary
Saffet Abid Catovic, founding member of the Global Muslim Climate Network and the Islamic Society of North America - Green Iniatives, and Imam and Muslim Chaplain at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.
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?
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.