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Network for Peace through Dialogue

January 21, 2016

Dialogue #5 on the Papal Encyclical Laudato Si

This dialogue was based on an article about Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si that appeared in the Network's last newsletter. A copy of the entire article can be found at the end of this report.

The dialogue began with a quote from the article: "The [Catholic] Church often encouraged fasts with indulgences and other symbolic affirmations and could do so again in order to protect our common home. Industrialized animal agriculture is one of the main drivers of global warming so why not simply revive the tradition of abstinence to reduce meat consumption? And why not expand the concept of fasting to include fossil fuels and other harmful products and processes?"

The first round of the conversation began with high-minded thoughts such as:

--Overcoming the problems created by industrialization and our individualized ways of thinking brings us quickly to the global commons; everybody and every living thing is connected.

--All the cells in our bodies are made of the same stuff as the stars and planets. This is a basic truth of life.

--The Pope was asking us to see the treatment of our common home as a moral question more than one of "saving the earth." After this round, the dialogue became more personal. Thoughts about fasting and meat eating ranged from "my mind is clearer after I've fasted" to "I am not ready to give up meat to save the earth," and "I hate mistreatment of animals but I'm consoled by the fact that Jesus's disciples were not vegetarians."

Other comments about abstinence from meat, fossil fuels, etc.:

--The Pope speaks of the "intrinsic value" of animals independent of their use. It's not only animals that are looked at only for their utilitarian value. We look at people and think "is this person worth my time?"

--Eating habits have to do with conditioning. We do what we see everybody else doing. It becomes the norm. Why not revive abstinence?

--I grew up with people telling me what to do family, friends, TV. Now I've started meditating and I realize that a lot of what we do every day we do without thinking. I now think of animals as my children and try to avoid anything to do with animal products.

--I am a student just starting out in life. I live as an American, make lots of trash, use airline travel. Although I share a room and try to be conscious of how I live, I have my own wishes and desires for the future that involve using the earth in a certain way. It's hard to resist the opportunities of the American way of life.

--We have to be able to get from place to place. Nobody is going to remain in their provincial place all their lives.

--There's no way that I can give up fossil fuels. I need public transportation, elevators, running hot water. We need synthetic fuels.

Some ideas for the future that surfaced:

--Solar power everything. Humans can do spectacular things if we put our minds to it.

--New York is the greenest city in the country because we live in such a concentrated way. Heat is conserved in our multi-storied buildings. We use public transportation instead of driving everywhere. More people are riding bikes.

--Permaculture is a way some people are thinking about living within the earth's natural processes instead of thinking of ourselves as separate from the earth. Our dialogues with people we know on Skype about how they are thinking about their relationship with the earth now include two people who are involved in permaculture. We have an interview with Caroline Peani, a permaculture designer who is using her 7 acres to figure out ways of feeding her family in a sustainable way into the future. In another Skype dialogue Greg Todd talks about urban permaculture how we can think about feeding the people in this city by growing food in all parts of the city and how he's thinking about decentralized composting that can be done in neighborhoods so that people in communities can use the compost in their gardens.

--In Canada a head of cauliflower now costs $7 because of drought. We have to learn to grow food in every place we can.

--Prices should include fees for any damage to the earth or people that result from production. It should be built in that a manufacturer has to be responsible for the end uses of a product. For example, electronics need to go back to the manufacturers. Discarded machines can be often be used somewhere else.

--Think of all the boxes and packaging that we littered the streets after Christmas. Everything has too much packaging. Re-cycling all this cardboard is a good business for somebody.

--The city now picks up electronics e-cycling.

--Books now can be printed on demand so you don't have unsold books collecting dust in warehouses.

--Consciousness must be changed. The arts can help with this. There is an artist who paints tree portraits. Each tree has its own inner being that he captures in his painting. These paintings have been used in ceremonies honoring trees and have inspired poetry. We should appreciate and celebrate the trees that give us the oxygen we need to live.

Final thoughts:

--Industrialization has brought easier lives but now is causing distraction. We need to get away from overuse of paper, plastics, etc.

--I walk it's cheaper than a gym and saves carfare.

--70% of the world doesn't have all this luxury. They have no choice, which makes me more determined to find out what I can do.

--We need to change systems and policy starting from the grass roots level.

Dialogue

Newsletter of the Network for Peace through Dialogue

Fall 2015, Vol. 20 no. 2 p. 4

Abstinence, Fasting and Climate Change

Pope Francis has called for a new dialogue about the fate of the earth, and in the spirit of his namesake he's invited everyone to participate, including the earth herself as our sister and mother along with all of her creatures as our brothers and sisters. The goal of the unfolding conversation, Francis writes in his encyclical, is "to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus discover what each of us can do about it." And so, he hopes, painful awareness will spur action. "The climate," proclaims the pope "is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all." Elsewhere he identifies the common good as the central and unifying principle of social ethics. Repeatedly he calls the earth our common home, which, he laments, is falling into disrepair so severe that radical change is needed as well as "an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called 'global commons.'" "The gravity of the ecological crisis," he insists, "demands that we all look to the common good, embarking on a path of dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity, always keeping in mind that 'realities are greater than ideas.'"

What's essential for positive change, he claims, is "disinterested concern for others, and the rejection of every form of self-centeredness and self-absorption." Overcoming individualism is necessary if we're going to develop a balanced lifestyle and transform society. "We can," he warns us, "no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way." The earth and her creatures have an intrinsic value independent of their usefulness. As Jesus said of the birds of the air: "not one of them is forgotten before God." (Luke 12:16) "How then," asks the pope, "can we possibly mistreat them or cause them harm?" But if that's true, Holy Father, then how can we kill and eat them?

Oddly, Pope Francis never explicitly invokes the ancient Christian traditions of abstinence and fasting. Early Christians abstained from all food, and later specifically from meat, on Wednesdays and Fridays and during Lent. The Church often encouraged fasts with indulgences and other symbolic affirmations and could do so again in order to protect our common home.

Industrialized animal agriculture is one of the main drivers of global warming, so why not simply revive the tradition of abstinence to reduce meat consumption? And why not expand the concept of fasting to include fossil fuels and other harmful products and processes?

Why shouldn't we abstain from everything that degrades the earth, and boycott all of the polluters?

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