Pope Francis holding up anti-fracking t-shirts following a meeting with a group of Argentinian environmental activists to discuss water and fracking issues. The shirts read “No To Fracking” and “Water Is More Precious Than Gold.”
I thought it’s worth a shoutout when the guy with a direct line to 1.2 billion people’s ears says that it’s not cool to frack. This week the Twitterverse went ablaze when Pope Francis met with Argentine filmmaker Fernando “Pino” Solanas (La Guerra del Fracking — The Fracking War) and environmental activist Juan Pablo Olsson at the Vatican to discuss fracking and water pollution. Olsson posted the photo of himself, Solanas and Pope Francis.
Finally, a logical pope. If your belief tells you that God gave us the Earth to be stewards of, then injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the ground to fracture massive rocks for their extra oil and gas and in the process threatening the air we breathe, the water we drink, the communities we love and the climate on which we all depend, seems like a really bad idea.
For a pope who has demonstrated that he is able and willing to connect some serious dots by coming out against poverty, inequality, and bigotry, stepping into the environmental arena is the next logical move. After all, it is the poor and underprivileged who have not only been taking the brunt of industrial pollution and environmental degradation that comes with the fossil fueled life but are also at the forefront of suffering the consequences of climate change. He reportedly told the group he “is preparing an encyclical about nature, humans, and environmental pollution.”
I’m really digging on Francis who is actually living up to his name as the patron saint of the poor. What I didn’t know is that St. Francis was named the patron saint of ecology by John Paul II in 1979, because of his theological connection to poverty.
“It is my hope that the inspiration of Saint Francis will help us to keep ever alive a sense of ‘fraternity’ with all those good and beautiful things which Almighty God has created,” Pope John Paul II later explained. “And may he remind us of our serious obligation to respect and watch over them with care, in light of that greater and higher fraternity that exists within the human family.”
And, of course, simply by pissing off Sarah Palin you know you’re moving humanity in the right direction.
According to one report of the meeting, His Holiness’s concern was “clear” when hearing about the Chevron deal in Argentina and other environmental disputes in the region. On Tuesday, Sarah Palin said she was shocked by the pontiff’s “liberal” statements. Wait ’til she hears about his new role as the face of Argentina’s environmentalist movement.
What I’m thinking is why stop here? What if Francis became known as the Solar Pope? Advocating for Creation Windows and Heavenly Energy, like his Lutheran brother, Pastor Peter Hasenbrink, whose church in Schönau Germany has 431 solar modules on its rooftops, generating more than 40,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, enough for eight churches of its size.
So I’ll end this post with a few statements from my interview with Pastor Hasenbrink about tying Christian theology into environmental action. Lutherans in Germany have long been on board with the Energiewende, but their Catholic brothers and sisters are starting to get into it too. So this is some of the “theosolar” language Francis could use.
“God has put a lot of love into this creation,” Hasenbrink says, explaining what he considers the natural affinity between faith and environmental stewardship. “When you look around, you can only be in awe of how well-conceived everything is, and we humans are called upon to not only be beneficiaries but to intelligently and responsibly sustain this creation.”
In his sermons, Hasenbrink would point to the importance of combining inner and outer work, citing St. Paul’s letters in Romans 8—“For the creation is eagerly awaiting the revelation of God’s children”—as a call to action for us caretakers to relieve the strain on the earth, to signal our participation, and to move toward salvation. “Not that we humans can or should salvage the world—Christ himself must do this—but we are God’s collaborators in sustaining this work of creation.” Hasenbrink says. “For me, and for the Christian community, this is the task of our time.”
The name “Creation Windows” was a cinch. “We thought, wouldn’t it be a great metaphor of what a church should be doing anyway, transforming the power of God into energy for our daily life? Just as electricity is a symbol of light and power, faith is a symbol of the power that God gives us to have hope and trust in humanity, to help each other and to co-create.”
With Germany’s recent decision to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 and switch to 100 percent renewables by 2050, the small church community suddenly finds itself at the cutting edge of a new energy age. Together with EWS, the Schönau energy rebels’ cooperative, which today employs more than 50 people, provides renewable power to 115,000 homes and businesses throughout Germany, and earned Sladek the Goldman Prize. They are leading the way in a shift of both policy and consciousness that few could have imagined just a decade ago. “If we wait until powerful leaders start to do good, the train will long have left the station,” Hasenbrink says. “You have to start wherever you’re at, but if it’s many of us, then one drop will turn into a big lake. And that’s what happened here.”
Tag, you’re it, Francis!
For more discussion, check out my crosspost of this on Daily Kos