February 12, 2016 — Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ may focus on climate change, but the essence of the Pope’s environmental encyclical is really a call for cultural change, said the director of the Vatican Observatory.
“This book, Laudato Si’, really is not about climate change,” Br. Guy Consolmagno told a Toronto audience Feb. 8. Consolmagno was in Toronto to deliver the 2016 Faith and Reason Lecture at the Newman Centre.
“It is a call for spiritual renewal, a way of looking at the entire world in a new spiritual way … (where) every creature reflects something of God.”
A key catalyst to bringing about the understanding that all creation is connected on a spiritual level is a genuine, open dialogue, just what Pope Francis’s encyclical aims to produce, said Consolmagno.
And while many claim to be willing to have such a conversation with opposing sides, Consolmagno noted that achieving a genuine debate is easier said than done.
“One key essential to having an open and honest debate is walking into it saying I’m willing to have my mind changed,” he said. “Be prepared to be challenged.”
For solving climate change will involve a change in human culture.
“There is a need for a solution but the solution is not merely a technological fix or economic fix or a political fix but a change in the way we as human beings behave,” said Consolmagno. “We have to change the way we live. The first thing that we do is that we start talking to each other and listening to each other.”
Not only do individuals need to change their minds, there is also a systemic problem inherent to capitalism in a free market — profits have become the driving force of industry.
“Profit in the narrow sense is an inadequate tool to use to make decisions about what do I really want to do because it loses sight of the questions that we ought to be asking (such as) what is the outcome that I really want to have,” he said. “That is the root cause of the environment breakdown of everything, the sinfulness of everything that we do.”
And while changing the main motivation of a global economy may seem impossible, Consolmagno said it is as simple as changing what we desire.
“Don’t desire health, riches, honour, longevity,” he said. “None of those things are bad but none of those things are the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to desire that which helps us be with God.”
About 200 people were in attendance for Consolmagno’s hour-long talk, among them environmentalist Cathy Lacroix, a member of Citizens Climate Lobby. Lacroix agreed that cultural change is necessary before the impact of climate change can really be addressed.
“We’re not going to solve climate change by putting on a sweater,” she said. “There does need to be institutional change. We need a change in our own way of thinking before we get into solutions.”