A “neologism” is defined as the coining of a new word or expression. As I begin reading Laudato Si, it was hard not to notice a new word introduced by Pope Francis – “Rapidification”. This word cleverly expresses the speed and state of the current world.
Pope Francis reminds us of pollution and climate change, a subject for many years, I was largely distanced from living in very rural America. In November of 2009, my husband and I traveled to China to adopt our daughter. Our trip to China was incredibly enlightening. We were there for just over 2 weeks and we saw blue skies just once moments after a midday rainstorm. We were actually caught in that storm and my daughter’s white shirt turned gray and stained where it had been soaked by the rain. The rest of our visit, in all three locations of the east coast of China, the sky was filled with smog. I suffered from environmental allergies and a cough there and for months after we returned home. In Wuhan, our hotel room over looked the Yangtzee river, colored a murky shade of chocolate milk, with many objects floating along in it. We share this world, but until we visit more than my small corner it can be difficult to recognize that fact.
As I recollected my images of the river and read Pope Francis’ words, warning of the dangers of being a “throw away culture”, there was a twinge in my own heart as I recognized my own behavior. We are not handy in our house; we are most likely to buy new instead of trying to repair. We rationalize by saying we are helping the economy but have we really counted the cost. I am a terrible consumer, especially when it comes to food shopping and meal planning which leads to discarding of food. This is an area I immediately amended, after I read, “throwing away food is like stealing from the poor”. This is not the clean your plate club, this is much more – a mindful consumption of resources starting with our choices in the supermarket.
The cautioning of pollution and climate change leading to an “increase extreme weather” also hit close to home, literally as I considered how our Northeast summer forecasts now regularly include Tornado warnings and this winter we had over 5 feet of snow in less than 2 months! At one point I was unable to back out of my driveway because I could not see over the snow banks. I had to kick my 16 year old son out of the car to act as traffic control. I may want to disregard what Pope Francis is exhorting us to consider in chapter one but personal experience sure makes that much more difficult.
“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.” My small world view truly needs to change, even after my world travels including touring the slums of Rio during World Youth Day, I can still be foolishly unaware. Pope Francis’ words however are hopeful; reminding us it is not too late. We can make significant and efficacious changes in emissions to benefit the home we share, would it not act much like the reverse effects on a person’s lungs when they quit smoking.
Questions to ponder:
First appeared onCatholicmom.com 2015;
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras, 2016
Image "downtown Wuhan" courtesy Kevin Gingras, 2009