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September 17, 2015

Dialogue #1 on the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si

Participants in this dialogue were sent in advance the questions that would be addressed in the meeting along with a request to read a portion of the encyclical.

At the meeting, the first go-round addressed Question 1.

"'the continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work which might be called 'rapidification,'" Pope Francis says. (paragraph 18)

a) Do you agree that there is an acceleration of changes in our world today? If so, give a couple of examples of where you see it.

b) Are there some negative effects? If so, what negative effects do you see in your life?

Most participants combined their responses to both parts of the question in their responses. Following are summaries of some comments:

--I see increasing change. One newspaper today has more information in it than some used to encounter in a whole lifetime. A by-product is waste and some countries ship trash they don't know what to do with to other countries.

--The acceleration of change means we get all wrapped up in what we have to do and we forget to think about how we are expected to be by God.

--In my neighborhood teenagers are exposed to music and videos that are constantly changing and not always presenting the best values. They promote materialism and lead them to want things. It's a huge distraction to getting an education and creates resentment between the haves and the have-nots. They give up and don't take care of their own space.

--Everything is expected to move quickly. Speed is the ultimate idea of quality ignoring what is of long-term value. It's wonderful to fly around the world in X number of hours, but you miss most of it.

--I notice that people are always on their phones and don't talk to one another.

--Rapidification --I can't keep up. Just because we are able to do something doesn't mean we have to do it.

--It's the end of September, we haven't even had Halloween yet, and I'm seeing Christmas things all over in the stores. Growing up we only had Christmas things at Christmas. We no longer take account of the seasons. So many people are living under the gun, working long hours.

--At my bank there used to be many tellers. They have been replaced by the ATMs. The ATMs are handy but put people out of work. The brick and mortar stores are becoming obsolete because people are shopping online. People are being excessed. --The rapid globalization leads to the production of stuff that mostly goes to waste. This also has led to a rapid increase of income inequality. Billions are living on less than $1 a day and it is not sustainable. The whole paradigm needs to be changed so people look for other ways to be happy in life besides having the latest model of phone, for instance.

--Rapid technological advance started in the 19th century with the internal combustion engine. Everything now has become more abstract and has less meaning --not even great wealth, which is just a bunch of digits in a computer. Identities are hollowed out with brands replacing individual identities.

--I just came from a classroom where students were discussing the refugee problem. It was wonderful to see them in a face-to-face conversation instead of texting. I think we need to make them put away the electronic things to they can experience the satisfaction of face-to-face communication.

--I am organizing a leaf-raking day in my co-op where we will be replacing a few hours of noisy, polluting leaf-blowers with quiet but effective human labor. If we cut out fossil fuels in the future, there will have to be more labor-intensive jobs. I think this is going to be fun.

Question 2. How is the impact of climate change disproportionately felt by the poor? (paragraphs 48-52)

a) What examples of climate change do you see?

b) How are the poor more severely affected.

Here are some comments made by participants to this questions:

--After Hurricane Sandy people in Brooklyn Housing Authority buildings were the last to get help while help went right away to buildings on Wall Street. People's homes should have been a priority. Things were backwards it's the poor people who get things done; the rest of us wouldn't know what to do without the work they do. --Sad to see people's homes being destroyed by the wildfires in the west. Firefighters killed.

--Two to three billion people are concentrated in coastal areas that will be drowned by rising seas. Other areas are being turned into deserts. Increasingly the people in poor countries are taking most of the losses. In our own country, after Katrina the French quarter has been restored by not the areas where the poor lived.

--If we were to adequately take care of the poor, they could go on to sustain themselves on the land. The soil becomes more and more important.

--I met a man from Tonga 25 years ago whose island was going under. Where were they to go? Why do we have such inequality? Why are there children with empty rice bowls? I sit and cry about these things. Solutions have to come from the bottom up. There is no reason such things have to continue.

--I want to feel bad about the poor but I don't feel bad. Why are people having children they can't afford? There is irresponsibility going on. I don't see anyone really doing something for the poor, not even the people who say they care. On some level I feel, why should I pay for your mistake? The new health insurance I don't think we should be going into debt to pay for people's health insurance. People are out for themselves.

--No doubt there are some people who have made bad choices. Others have no choice, for example fisherpeople trying to make a living where there are no longer any fish. There is a category where people make wrong choices. Others were just born in a harsh place. In the school where I teach in the Bronx, 2/3 of the students are living below the poverty level. I've seen some of the things that happen to them growing up in rough environments.

--Pope Francis is asking us to approach all with kindness. We're not all playing on the same field. We have to seek understanding.

--We have to be careful not to blame the victim. One thing I know for sure is that some people work very, very hard their whole lives and are still poor. Some final thoughts: --There is a need for mercy, compassion. --I'm concerned that the earth we know will not be here for our children.

--The pope is trying to change leaders and what they do. --All of our inventions need to be infused with God's principles.

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