We need an integral ecology, not an economy of exclusion

This story appears in the Laudato Si' encyclical feature series. View the full series.

“On Care for Our Common Home” is the subtitle of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s new encyclical, and it underscores its central message – we share a small planet in many interconnected and not fully understood ways. Our common home requires our striving for the common good.

This care can only become a reality in relationship: in relationship with God, with other people and with all creation. This celebration of relationship calls us to conversion of the heart that is both individual and communal. This is a challenging call for us not just as people of faith but also as people who seek justice.

Pope Francis calls us to make room for all people at the table of dialogue and engagement. He points out that ours is too often an economy of exclusion and a politics too often dictated by the desires of special interests and other powerful elites. These dynamics have resulted in the marginalization of our most vulnerable sisters and brothers and served as a principal cause of the current ecological crisis.

We at NETWORK know that we can address this imbalance by prioritizing the needs of the 100 percent. By having a heart for the 100 percent, we will stand in solidarity with people and communities at the margins as well as engaging those who create the margins. This will lead, for example, to allowing indigenous communities, who often have a history of care for the environment, greater say in environmental and other policies. It will lead us to challenging conversation with those who pollute and dominate the Earth. It can lead us to shoulder responsibility for what type of world (and most importantly, what set of values) we hope to leave behind for future generations.

On the international and national levels, Pope Francis calls in particular to people who hold positions of power to use that power for the common good. He calls upon them to act as creative leaders and find solutions to our global crisis that incorporate human, social, economic, political and cultural aspects to heal the crying needs of our time. Only through the creation of such an “integral ecology” can we truly live in fruitful relationship with other people, God, and all life on Earth. Political leaders must help forge effective and enforceable legal frameworks with a vision for the long-term future, not for short-term immediate gratification.

All of us are challenged to advocate for policies that promote the common good, whether that is access to affordable housing, the availability of employment paying a living wage, or humane policies that protect migrants and refugees forced to flee their homes. These are basic rights for all people. Through acting in concert with others, we can echo and embody Pope Francis’s invitation to create an economy that works for everyone.

It is only possible to heed Pope Francis’s call to conversion in community with others. As he wrote in Laudato Si’: “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God . . . which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.”

Our faith teaches that true spiritual growth only happens in relationship. I understand that my wellbeing, spiritual and otherwise, is intricately intertwined with that of all of God’s creation. Together, as Pope Francis notes, we can achieve great things. Together, we can put Pope Francis’s encyclical into action and make the world a more just place for all of creation.

[Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, is executive director of NETWORK and author of A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope, Change, and Community. She can be reached @sr_simone.]