Pope Francis hits home much-needed message on global warming

St. Francis of Assisi once told people to remember when we leave this earth, we can take with us nothing that we have received – only what we have given.

The patron saint of animals and ecology understood that our earth remains after we have left it, as does what we have given to the earth.

This is something many of us should keep in mind while throwing our Chipotle bags on the ground.

This message also seems to have been understood by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church, who has taken St. Francis of Assisi’s namesake.

Pope Francis visited the United States this week and met with common citizens and policy makers. He visited the nation’s capital, New York City and Philadelphia. He also stopped by jails and churches and addressed Congress and the United Nations on cultural, economic and ecological issues.

The pope’s views on climate change – and the fact he is even discussing it – has pushed some congressmen to speak out against his views and skip his address to Congress on Thursday.

Notably, Republican Paul Gosar of Arizona boycotted the pope’s address, saying, “If the pope wants to devote his life to fighting climate change then he can do so in his personal time. But to promote questionable science as Catholic dogma is ridiculous.”

But Gosar also sponsored a bill funding the U.S. Department of the Interior’s geothermal, solar and wind energy projects – so he is at least somewhat conscious of the deteriorating environments we live in.

It took some will power – as an environmentalist – to say this, but whether you believe in climate change or not is beside the point. What matters is that we as a nation, and as a human race, can see the harm we are doing to the environment and put an end to it.

Pope Francis’ message to Congress was similar: “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental change we are undergoing, and its human roots, concerns and affects us all.”

His message to the U.N. was analogous: “Any harm done to the environment ... is harm done to humanity.”

The pope’s message to our nation, and the world, came on the same day that the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted. This agenda includes 17 global goals, which look to fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years.

Some of the goals can be considered extreme – ending poverty and hunger. But many, like being more responsible about consumption and production, are attainable if we push our local, national and international governments to head messages such as the pope’s.

I hope that the world leaders meeting at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December can understand that we need to protect our waterways, fields and air.

Charles Schaab is a contributing writer and can be reached at charles.schaab@ubspectrum.com.