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Catholic Green Initiative: Pope Francis calls for Dialogue on Ecological Crisis


By Anthony Strawa
DSJ Green Initiative

In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, Pope Francis urges “all people of good will” to start a dialogue about the effects of the ecological crisis. But, even as the evidence showing the effects of climate change is increasing, recent polls show that the percentage of Americans who deny human-caused climate change is increasing. So, what would the dialogue that the Pope is calling for sound like?

This dichotomy is the subject of a recent book by Andrew Hoffman from the University of Michigan, called “How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate.”

Hoffman’s book describes recent research on how people receive and respond to information. Research shows that people are more likely to respond favorably to information and arguments that resonant with their core values and with arguments that they have heard from sources whom they trust.

Hoffman says that nothing can be gained by badgering or lecturing those who do not believe that humans are causing a warming planet or reject the solutions for addressing climate change. Instead we must seek to understand sociological processes by which all people hear and accept information.

To this I would add that we have to take time to listen to people to really understand their points of view and discuss the issues from their perspectives. This is what Pope Francis means when he is calling for dialogue.

Those who deny climate change and the broader ecological crisis tend to believe in an unfettered free-market system and fear the economic costs of climate solutions. To some the idea that human activities can affect the planet even challenge their concept of God.

In response to these concerns, Prominent Republicans such as Bob Inglis and George Schultz link climate change solutions with protecting the existing political and economic institutions. The conservative CNA Military Advisors Group, a group of retired admirals and generals have called climate change a “threat multiplier” and a threat to our national security.

The Diocese Catholic Green Initiative (CGI) and Catholic Climate Covenant (CCC) believe that “people of faith have a role to play in bridging the divide and creating safe spaces in our parishes and schools to have civil and constructive dialogue on difficult issues such as climate change.” In the spirit of Saint Francis’ Feast Day, CCC has started a program focused on the theme “Dial Down the Heat: Cultivate the Common Good for our Common Home.”

Many useful resources to help a parish, school, or community host a successful program can be found at www.catholicclimatecovenant.org/FOSF.

The CGI is dedicated to finding common ground for substantive dialogue for ecological solutions and can offer assistance to parishes wishing to start such a program, address the ecological crisis, and the Pope’s message in Laudato Si’.

Contact astrawa@sbcglobal.net for more information. Please use the phrase “Laudato Si” in the subject line.