Processing the Pope’s Message

Processing the Pope’s Message

Dear community,

Today the Pope released his much-talked-about encyclical, an official Catholic teaching about how climate change is “a dominant moral and ethical issue for society.” In it he talks about the “unprecedented destruction” humanity will face if we continue to treat the planet the way we do, and I want to offer some tips to help us really take in his message without getting totally overwhelmed.

  • We can have confidence that there is a path toward stemming climate change and this “unprecedented destruction.” This path includes buying locally grown and made things, supporting social justice and environmental organizations, advocating for laws that put a price on carbon emissions, increasing our awareness of interconnectedness, healing ourselves, and much more.
  • We can pace ourselves. This might look like genuinely absorbing the Pope’s message for a few minutes, then surfing the Internet for a while, doing some exercise, and then, when we’re feeling ready, returning to the message.
  • We can lean on each other. We can think of someone we know who is grappling with these issues and ask them for some support. If we’re scared, sad, or angry, we can cry on their shoulder for a while.
  • We can be kind to ourselves. It’s a big, hard message and it’s okay to have a big, hard time with it.
  • As crazy as it may sound, we can try to bring fun into the situation. For example, once in a while I imagine that I’m a Jedi warrior saving the world with my fellow Jedi.
  • We can feel grateful for the rapid evolution that we need to undergo to survive. Without such dire circumstances, we wouldn’t be forced to wake up and grow so much, both individually and collectively.
  • We can find refuge in spirituality. It may take some work for us to wake up, but there is a higher consciousness that we all have access to. From this place we know that no matter what happens we’re okay and everything is okay. This is not a recipe for complacency, it’s a source of peace and strength from which we become powerful agents of change.
  • We can remember that we’re not alone. If we want to help, we’ll be joining an unprecedented number of people who are already on board. This quote says it better than I can: “I now believe that there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. By any conventional definition, this vast collection of committed individuals does not constitute a movement… But after spending years researching this phenomenon, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye… What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change. When asked at colleges if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: if you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t have the correct data. If you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a heart.” -Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest (2007)

I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me.

In full support,


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