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Our Deadly Choices: The Ocean and Our Lifestyle Kerilyn Pon

On June 18, 2015, Pope Francis released his second encyclical named, Laudato Si, Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality; On Care for Our Common Home. Throughout the one-hundred and forty-eight pages, Pope Francis critiques human lifestyle and consumerism, grieves over the decline of our environment, and urges everyone to take action.

Pope Francis acknowledges many different parts of the environment that need help, from unsafe drinking water to the extinction of species to the melting of ice caps. He blames throwaway culture and the rise of civilization for the demise of the environment. "Highways, new plantations, the fencing off of certain areas, the damming of water sources, and similar developments, crowd out natural habitats and, at times, break them up in such a way that animal populations can no longer migrate or roam freely. As a result, some species face extinction," (Laudato Si, 35).

On the topic of extinction, Pope Francis notes a staggering statistic. "Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, our children will never see, because they have been lost forever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity," (Laudato Si, 33). That's horrific!
The picture on the left was the Amazon Rain forest in 1975. The picture on the right was the Amazon Rain forest in 2012. Deforestation has destroyed it and has continued to do so. Pope Francis hints to this in paragraph 34, "A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism is actually making our Earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey."
The picture shown is a sculpture depicting the reality of many sea animals. Contrary to art, the following description is from a true story from April of 2018. "Plastic bags, fishing nets, nylon ropes and a drum were removed from the stomach of the young sperm whale that was discovered off the Mediterranean coast of southern Spain. In total 64 pounds of plastic trash were removed from the whale’s digestive system," (Frerck, 2018)
It's no secret that there is trash floating along the top of the ocean waves, but where does it all go? "The ocean’s floating plastic garbage is carried by ocean currents that eventually congregate this debris into five giant, rotating gyres," (Frerck, 2018). Basically, they are huge trash concentration areas that are forming by rotating ocean currents, similar to a whirlpool. Sometimes, they can be hard to see because they are made up of tiny micro-plastics, often hidden on the surface. However, Midway Island, an island right in the middle of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, makes it easy to see the garbage's' impact.
Coral Reefs are dying. But why? "Coral bleaching is a stress response. When water temperatures get too warm, corals will expel the colored, microscopic algae living in their tissue, which provide them with nutrition. When corals are without the algae for too long, they die of starvation," (Witschge, 2018). This is devastating and we need to help find a solution.
Laudato Si has been described as an urgent call to action. Pope Francis aimed this text at every human being on the planet. Urging them to save our sister, for "to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God" (Laudato Si, 8). Because of our sins, "the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor," (Laudato Si, 2). We have to do something or our kids will have no place to live. We need to stop this.
So how can we help?
Admit it. We are all guilty of using single use plastic. From plastic water bottles to Ziploc bags, we live in a throwaway culture. One way to stop plastic buildup in the ocean is to stop using plastic. Get a reusable water bottle, or order a box of metal straws from Amazon. Wash and reuse Ziploc bags, and carry around your own utensils. Lastly, and most importantly, RECYCLE!!!!
We can help by reducing fossil fuel usage. This can be done by carpooling or using public transportation. Walking or biking to places nearby is an easy way to reduce fossil fuel usage. Converse energy at home by turning lights off when they're not in use or switching to energy efficient light bulbs. Lastly, look into using renewable energy sources.
What else can we do? Start composting! Plant trees in your local community! Use ceiling fans to cool off during the summer or hang your clothes outside to dry, instead of using the dryer! Bring your own bag to the grocery store and avoid using plastic bags!
Pope Francis knows that civilization has disconnected us from the beautiful outdoors. "We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature," (Laudato Si, 44). We are meant to be enjoying the outdoors and basking in its beauty. So go! Go outside and enjoy the world around you! Travel the world and see all that the Earth has to offer!
Find the beauty of the outdoors and start fighting to keep it that way. Love the world around you because as Pope Francis so greatly puts it, "We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves" (Laudato Si, 34). There is so substitute for nature. Let's fight to keep it beautiful.

Works Cited

Pope Francis. Laudato Si. Melville House Publishing, 2015.

Frerck, Robert. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Plastic Pollution.” Blue Ocean Network. 17 Apr. 2018. 10 May 2018. <https://blueocean.net/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-plastic-pollution/>

Witschge, Loes. “Why are coral reefs important, and why are they dying?” Aljazeera. 29 Jan. 2018. 10 May 2018. <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/coral-reefs-important-dying-180128135520949.html>

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Kerilyn Pon
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Created with images by bilyjan - "guise plastic waste" • reynaldodallin - "pope francis rome religion" • Pexels - "architecture buildings city" • nile - "suspension bridge rainforest amazon" • Dustan Woodhouse - "untitled image" • Boxed Water Is Better - "untitled image" • AliceKeyStudio - "coral cay aquarium" • geralt - "cross sunset sunrise" • geralt - "problem solution help" • goranmx - "plastic caps recycling" • Timon Studler - "untitled image" • Haydn Golden - "untitled image" • AliceKeyStudio - "rose red flower" • congerdesign - "daisy heart flowers"

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