June 30, 2020

The care of creation is a very topical topic. Five years have passed since the publication of Pope Francis 'Laudato Si', a document that has greatly impressed world leaders and has also had repercussions in the political field, at an international level, reaffirming that defending the environment is not enough if at the same time focuses on the dignity of the human being.

Francis urges each of us to "integral conversion". The earth is the home of man, in which he is not an intruder, but the only conscious and therefore responsible presence. Man is called to make good use of his knowledge and power. So if one party degrades, the other party suffers accordingly. It's all interconnected.

The global pandemic crisis, in an attempt to find a new normal, has posed a new way of life for believers and non-believers alike, which has an imperative: to deal urgently with the care of the common home. A commitment that ranges from waste pollution to global warming, from the reckless exploitation of resources, to climate change, to water as an essential right for everyone, to the ecological debt of the North to the South, and finally to the culture of waste. It is a wounded land, damaged also by an economy that pursues only profit at the expense of entire populations. He asks us what kind of world we want to leave to the new generations.

"We continued undaunted thinking of staying healthy in a sick world" exhorts Pope Francis in the world prayer of 27 March in San Pietro, in an empty square, calling for the end of the pandemic. The bishop of Rome unmasks our vulnerability and leaves uncovered those false and superfluous certainties with which we have built our agendas, our projects, our habits and priorities. The new ecology is to take charge of each other.

Laudato Si 'is not a pre-established catalog of solutions to offer or impose. Takes stock of the situation in a concrete way on the tasks of our planet. In the encyclical the environmental challenge is inseparable from the educational one. From the first years of life, the person must learn to grow in awareness of his responsibilities. This means that action must be environmentally sustainable and supportive, starting primarily with the family.

The green alphabet of Pope Francis warns us. We are still in time to reverse the race towards the abyss. But we need a revolution from below, which starts from daily choices: from the moment we go shopping, to the investments of our savings, to the cordiality in the relationship with our neighbor. It is time for Christians to really start networking, to think collectively, with the awareness that any choice, even the smallest, makes the difference.

We met Franca Giansoldati, Vatican journalist for the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero, and author of the book: "The green alphabet of Pope Francis".

There appears to be no Plan B for the survival of the planet and the human species. So, five years after the publication of Laudato Si ', does Pope Francis' message remain current?
This is the big question. La Laudato Si 'proves to be almost visionary and illuminating, more than ever after what we experienced with Coronavirus. The encyclical gives us a path, asks all people of good will to open their eyes and observe what is happening to us and the planet. Furthermore, he asks us what kind of future we can give our children. The revolution that Francesco asks us is to start again starting from the bottom, to have virtuous behaviors to be put into practice in everyday life, to understand that the resources we have available are not infinite. In the past 20 years we have witnessed scientific and political debates on the environment with very serious difficulties. COP26 ended badly, it was a flop, you can't find a composition.

In the light of this discussion, how should we start again after the pandemic?
The pandemic forced us to open our eyes, it will most likely act as a flywheel, it will raise awareness of the environmental problem at various levels, which does not have a political color, and cannot be treated as an ideology. In the encyclical, Pope Francis removes the issue of the environment from the ideological cage and underlines that complex problems need complex answers, but this can happen to the extent that a new type of approach will be adopted.

Pope Francis recalls that the consequences of some economic decisions in a certain region of the world always end up having repercussions on the opposite side of the planet, and vice versa. After the pandemic, what can world bodies actually do?
Unfortunately, the world's organisms have been almost paralyzed for some time now. The pandemic made us think. Any economic system, without an effective health system, collapses. A virus was enough to send so many economic systems to haunt. Francis recalls that it is not possible to have an economic social system that does not take care of or put human beings first. The green encyclical focused on an issue that the pandemic made clear. No economic system can be said to be safe unless it cares for the health of its citizens. This is true for all countries in the world. At the base there is a global economic interdependence that no state can do without.

The Encyclical uses terms such as "harmony" and "balanced life". Where can we start in our daily life, to reverse the course of our lifestyles?
To think that one of your actions has repercussions on the other side of the earth would seem absurd, but instead it is not. For example, with the consumption of plastic we have invaded and contaminated other oceans in different parts of the world, entering the food chains. The high concentration of plastics has increased global warming. Therefore, we must change our lifestyle: we need virtuous behaviors, which awaken our conscience, and which put the balance between man and the environment at the center again. For many years we have neglected this balance with the environment because we have always imagined that nothing could be altered. But today we lived it on our skin, and we saw that it is not so.

In reading the book I was very impressed by his concept of happiness. In practice, one must find the daily purpose of one's life, which is not necessarily work or profit. So are you happier when you have more money or when you have more friends?
There was more than 30 years of research from Harward in which researchers tried to evaluate the impact of various factors in the lives of each of the people examined as a sample. In the end it was concluded that the people who had a stable relationship, in the family, positive, rich in friends, relatives, and kind to their neighbor, were the ones who were substantially more satisfied and who also showed better health. In the industrial age man has somewhat lost his spiritual dimension. There is a lot of tendency to favor relationships, but there is also a tendency to discard what may be spirituality. Verticality is a research that not only concerns the Christian religion, but also other religions and other philosophies. Happiness is a harmony between inside and outside, it is a being in peace with the world. Happiness is believing in a God for those who have the gift of faith, and for those who do not have it, it is to try to have happiness in giving to others. There is this research linked to spirituality which is often set aside, and which is sometimes also the origin of individualism, unhappiness and depression. As San Tomasso D'Aquino said: "Walking with your feet on the ground giving a look at the sky".

Pope Francis insisted so much - even with us journalists - not to liquidate this document with a limited definition, a "green encyclical". Is there an error of interpretation?
No. Very often it is called a "green" encyclical to simplify, synthesize and to get the message straight to even those who are not Catholics. But we know very well that Laudato Si 'goes beyond the theme of the environment and focuses on very profound social problems. It is such a demanding and delicate topic that it has already been addressed by other popes in the past, such as Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI; the times were obviously not yet ripe. With the progress of science and simultaneously with the increase in reflections within the Church on the subject, it was established that climate change was caused by human hand. With Pope Francis we have come to a fairly homogeneous scientific horizon, and to the certainty that the hand of man, and the improper use of resources, were producing and producing today strong climatic changes.

The issues posed by Pope Francis and the Church are extraordinarily advanced. What is still the hard core in our country that is preventing us from starting again after this pandemic?
I think that after Covid-19 there will be a strong interest on the subject. Before, it was even self-referential. Environmental issues are becoming very popular, they have entered the homes of Italians with greater force. The pandemic made us understand that we are interdependent, that if an epidemic breaks out in China, the rest of the planet is affected. What happened is not the sudden fall of a meteorite from the sky; virologists have been pointing out for years that there will be more viruses and that they also carry because of exploitation and deforestation. Man does not respect the environment in which he lives and substantially alters the natural balance. I am optimistic, but at the same time I see that after the pandemic there is a greater participation of people in the care of the environment, it is talked about more and surely there will be more spaces in all areas of daily life dedicated to the themes of Laudato Si ' .