Caring for Our Common Home and the Most Vulnerable
Through our environmental justice efforts, the Jesuit Conference seeks to collaborate with Jesuit provinces and institutions, affiliated works and the global Society of Jesus to promote education, reflection and action to care for our common home. In all we do, we seek to place the poor and vulnerable at the center of our actions and advocacy for environmental justice.
The Jesuits in the United States and Canada are committed to responding to Pope Francis’s call in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, to care for creation and poor and vulnerable people who are most impacted by environmental harm. As Pope Francis emphasized, environmental problems are social problems and cannot be addressed in isolation. Global climate change and its impact on people, particularly those at the margins, and the environmental and human rights impacts of natural resource extraction must be examined in relation to an economy of exclusion that prioritizes profit over humanity.
As Catholics, we are called to reject a throwaway culture and instead to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter, and to work toward sustainable solutions that promote integral human development by combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and protecting nature (Laudato Si’, no. 139).
We recognize that environmental justice is intrinsically linked to all of our issue areas, with important implications for economic justice, racial justice, migration and human rights.
Climate Change, the Poor and the Common Good
As Pope Francis emphasized in Laudato Si’, climate change “represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity” today and is a global problem with grave environmental, social, economic and political implications. (Laudato Si’, no. 25). If the world does not take action to address climate change, then drought, floods, severe storms and sea level rise will affect the entire human family, increasing instability, forced migration and conflict and disproportionately threatening poor people in poor countries.
The United States, along with other developed countries that have contributed most to causing climate change, has a special and differentiated responsibility to demonstrate global leadership to mitigate climate change. As Pope Francis said, “We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family. There are no frontiers or barriers, political or social, behind which we can hide, still less is there room for the globalization of indifference” (Laudato Si’, no. 52). A just response to the challenge of climate change must include U.S. leadership to significantly reduce greenhouse gases, provide financial assistance to help poor communities in poor countries to adapt to climate impacts and help affected workers and communities participate in a just transition to an energy-efficient, climate resilient and clean energy economy.
Extractive Industries and Human Rights
As the Society of Jesus emphasized at its 36th General Congregation, “The current economic system with its predatory orientation discards natural resources as well as people … The direction of development must be altered if it is to be sustainable.” The extraction of natural resources, such as oil, gas and minerals is part of a short-sighted model of development that too often creates limited economic benefits for a few and leads to serious social and environmental consequences. Affected communities, such as indigenous peoples, farming and fishing communities, too often receive little information about these projects and are not consulted about whether or how natural resources will be extracted from their lands.
The Society of Jesus is called to care for creation and “accompany and remain close to the most vulnerable.” (GC 36, no.30) This means standing in solidarity with indigenous peoples and people in poverty in the U.S. and around the world who are advocating for environmental and human rights in the face of extractive industry projects. Through our work beside and ministering to native peoples, and with our Jesuit partners in South and Central America, we have witnessed how ill-conceived and poorly managed extractive industry projects can bring social conflict, feed corruption, displace people from their homes and lands, pollute the environment and damage human health.
We stand united with Pope Francis in recognizing that local and indigenous peoples “should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed.” (Laudato Si’, no. 146) We believe that those involved in extractive industries, including governments and corporations, should 1) consult indigenous and local affected communities, respecting their right to free, prior and informed consent, 2) uphold standards of transparency and public accountability, including the right to information on the social, environmental, and economic effects of oil, gas, and mining projects 3) respect human rights and the environment, health and safety of communities, including the right to a decent living, and 4) not criminalize individuals and movements that seek to protect their lands, natural resources and human rights.
The Jesuit Response
The environmental and social crisis that we face today demands an integrated and multifaceted response from the global Society of Jesus. This begins with us as individuals and through our Jesuit institutions, ministries and communities examining our consumption patterns and lifestyles, and how we can adopt behaviors consistent with our desire for reconciliation with creation. Many Jesuit colleges and universities, high schools, parishes, and social ministries in both the United States and Canada are responding to the call in Laudato Si’ by reducing their carbon footprint and integrating themes of sustainability, ecology and social justice into their dialogue, practices and curriculum.
We are called to accompany the most vulnerable who suffer most from environmental degradation. Our work with Jesuit ministries and Jesuit affiliated works abroad helps us to remain close to and prioritize the needs of those on the margins who are advocating for environmental justice. Our work with native ministries, such as Red Cloud Indian School and St. Francis Mission in South Dakota, as well as with Jesuit ministries in Central America including Radio Progreso and ERIC, and in the Amazon region in South America are shaping our advocacy for environmental and human rights in the face of extractive industries. We are collaborating with the global Society and the Church to address these global ecological challenges and to protect regions like the Amazon, an environmental reserve that is essential for the well-being of humanity.
The Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and with Catholic and faith-based partners is advocating for U.S. leadership to mitigate climate change and to help poor communities in poor countries to adapt to climate impacts. We are also raising before the U.S. Congress, the Administration and international bodies, the environmental and human rights concerns of local and indigenous peoples surrounding extractive industry projects affecting their lands and natural resources.
Please join us in our efforts to care for our common home by exploring the below resources.
Reports, Statements and Sign-Ons