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Encyclical Letter offers wise words

The reflections of “numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups,” in the Catholic and broader Christian community as well as other religions, the Pope states, have helped shape the long-awaited Encyclical Letter. Echoing wide-spread concerns about conditions among the human family today, and the environmental health of the planet, it is an appeal to “everyone” to come together in building a sustainable future on our common home.
In direct and simple language as though addressing “everyone” personally, its dominant theme is of need for inclusion of all in healing the wounded Earth, not only individual people and nations but the non-human world as well, from its smallest living organisms to the largest animals and plants.
The introductory chapters appear to echo the voices of some of America’s great naturalist writers and biological scientists. Where Henry Thoreau insisted, for instance, that “Nature has other children to feed beside us,” the encyclical speaks of our unity and interdependence with all other creatures. These must be given their proper value as each is included in man’s original injunction and responsibility, per the biblical Genesis story, to “till and keep” the garden of the world, not dominate and plunder it.
“God wills the interdependence of creatures,” the encyclical states. “The … cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow: the spectacle of their countless diversities and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in dependence on each other, to complete each other, in the service of each other.”
Each being a reflection of the Creator’s wisdom and plan for the world, man must therefore respect the particular goodness and beauty of each and “avoid any disordered use of things” that can lead to species being lost.
In “What is Happening to Our Common Home” the Letter attests: “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.”
Harvard University’s Dr. E. O. Wilson confirms that, continually since the 20th century’s latter decades, more than 100 living species disappear from the planet every day.
Aldo Leopold wrote much about the great beauty in Nature, as even “the little sandwort flower,” for example, “that throws a white lace-cap over the poorest hilltop,” or the marsh crane’s bugle call announcing the glory of returning springtime.
Though consumer technology and industry gadgets might bring more physical comfort, human perception of this beauty, Leopold held, will lead to a caring, conservation-minded ethic toward Nature.
In this sense, the encyclical encourages a renewal of humankind’s approach to nature and the environment, letting “openness to awe and wonder” about her mystery and beauty overcome consumerist or exploitive practices that threaten the health of people and the living earth.