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do you ever feel like a plastic bag? --Plastic waste and CST by Meaghan Sullivan

Glossary

  • Catholic Social Teaching (CST): "is based on the belief that God has a plan for creation, a plan to build his kingdom of peace, love and justice." It consists of the following 7 themes~ life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for poor and vulnerable; dignity of work and rights of the workers; solidarity; care for God's creation.
  • Laudato Si: "Praise be to you, my Lord" (LS, para. 1)

Pope Francis & Laudato Si

Pope Francis has been the Pope for the last 6 years. His papal title acknowledges St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, merchants, and ecology. Pope Francis is a big supporter of the poor and marginalized as well as environmentalism and is an advocate for political diplomacy.

He wrote the Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality, also referred to as Laudato Si. Most importantly, this documented highlighted the very obvious existence of climate change and how humans are heavily at fault. He also highlights how much it disproportionately affects the poor. He also reassures that there is something we all can do to help make things in the environment better and that it is mostly up to politicians to lead this change. But are these things happening?

My Generation's Outlook

"There is a fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities" (LS, para. 113). Reading this sentence really resonated with me. I know that myself and all of my friends are constantly fearing for our futures and our children's futures because of the state of the world at this present moment. There is so much violence, inequality, hatred, sexism, racism, overconsumption, wastefulness, and environmental destruction. This makes us so scared to go on each day. Since there is so much bad in the world, how do we find the good? How to we strive to be the good? Many people I talk to about these issues feel like we as a generation can hardly make a difference at all. They say, "I am just one person. What difference can I make in a world of 7 billion people? If I change the way I recycle and sort my trash it does not have an effect on the overall destruction or saving of the environment." It saddens me that so many people share this mindset because if all of these people were to contribute to a change then there really would be a significant effect.

The below videos represent a common mindset of my generation (Gen Z, 1995-2010). This includes a sense of worry yet masked with a sense of humor or sarcasm. Also, there is commonly an outcry of how we want things to change yet being unsure how to achieve this kind of change.

Eco-Anxiety

Eco-anxiety is fear and worry about the impending doom of the environment and the world as we know it. Including myself, there are many people in this world experiencing eco-anxiety whether they know it or not.

is this how we should treat our mother?

Pope Francis discusses the problems occurring in the environment presently and humanity's contribution to its destruction. This is the world we live in, should we not treat it better? "For human beings... to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth of its natural forests or destroying the wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life--these are sins" (LS, para. 8). He highlights the fact that these horrible things are happening at the hands of the humans and it is WRONG. A lot of problems regarding pollution, or the previously mentioned contamination, are "closely linked to a throwaway culture" (LS, para. 22). The consumer culture of humanity produces so much garbage and needless waste as a result of excess packaging. Not only are people not recycling things when they should, but companies are wrapping their items in unnecessary amounts of materials that are not environmentally friendly. Landfills are overflowing with garbage. What happens when we run out of room? Things are getting into the parks we walk our dogs in, the streets we drive through, the oceans that our sea animals live in; where are we and all the creatures supposed to live if our home is covered in trash? Not only do we produce too much plastic waste, we also do not dispose of it properly. Currently, over 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste has been produced and 60% of this has ended up in landfills or worse, in nature. Presently, the world creates about 300 million tons of plastic waste each year. So much of this is the result of single-use plastic within our "throwaway culture," which affects the entire planet (LS, para. 22).

Laudato Si also presents how humans clearly still do not have a handle on resources: "We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them" (LS, para. 22). As a young person, I do not hold much power over what the large companies of the world do. However, I do get to control the waste that I produce and put into the world. I can choose to carry around my reusable bottle instead of grabbing a plastic one at Einstein's. I can sacrifice my afternoon Starbucks if I forgot my reusable cup in my dorm. I can spend a little extra time chopping watermelon in my kitchen instead of buying the pre-cut watermelon in plastic containers at the grocery store. Although these are small things, over time they really do matter. I agree with Pope Francis when he says "humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it" (LS, para. 23).

CST and the Environment

Call to Family, Community, and Participation

How we participate in our communities and surrounding areas can spark a change. We are called to do what is necessary to have change occur. Pope Francis highlights how important it is to have politicians get involved in saving the environment. As a community, we can ban together to contact legislators to pass laws and take action to make a difference.

There are some laws in place but they are extremely loosely followed and abided by. For instance, the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 was put in place diminish pollution and waste as well as reduce the use of single-use materials or produce things that can be recycled. Our country especially has done a pretty poor job at executing this law, considering the mass amounts of pollution and waste/trash produced each day. Our reckless trash accumulation is poorly regulated. Something must be done. So much more can be done. (photo below)

US Garbage Handling

Rights and Responsibilities

It is the right of HUMANS to work to make the environment a better place. The animals and other organisms are not going to do it, they have not done anything to damage the environment. The trees are not going to do it, they are diminishing in number. What else is left to save us but ourselves?

It is our right to refuse certain pointless plastic packaging. Bring your own reusable bags to grocery stores and shopping malls. Use reusable bottles or bring your own cups. Skip the straw with you fountain drink. You can bring muslin or cloth bags to put produce in (from a local market is even better!). You can consider buying things from a different brand that uses glass jars or paper containers as opposed to plastic ones. There are so many things you can do by only putting in a little extra effort. It is our responsibility to do things that the planet will benefit from, not be harmed by. (more here)

Solidarity

Solidarity is all about banding together and uniting to act in favor of the common good of the people. Perhaps you have learned something that you can do to help the environment from this site. Tell your friends about it and tell your friends to tell their friends. Sometimes people do not realize the amount of plastic and other materials that they use and then throw away as if it does not matter.

If you feel you are doing everything you can but want to do more, consider donating to a notable organization that works to help the environment and reduce waste. As a college student, I do not have much money available to donate to different causes. If you feel the same way, you can always tell someone you know that has the means to donate. (The 6 Best Environmental Groups to Donate to for a Better World)

Care for God's Creation

The absolute most relevant component of CST relating to this site is care for God's creation. That is what saving the environment is about. Whether you believe in God or not, we all inhabit the same earth and have to work toward saving it. For whatever reason, whether it be to save God's creation, to save your future children, or to undo damage of companies you hate, it is important to do what you can to care for and help the environment. With some of the current issues being plastic waste, abundant greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather changes, rising temperature, sea level rise, and air pollution, there is still much to be done.

Where do we go from here?

Do research. Click on all the links that are listed on the site and learn more how you can fight for our planet. I will continue to do the same. It is important to be educated and up to date on the state of our planet. There is only one earth. (photo below)

The future is scary, especially if you have eco-anxiety. We must do what we can to change the state of the environment. If not for you, do it for your future children and grandchildren. If not for them, do it for your dogs so they always have a field to run around in. If not for them, do it for your friends and your younger siblings. Have the audacity to want to survive and to change the course of the future. Be strong for the planet you live on. Stop thinking that you cannot make a difference. Pope Francis believes in you, so believe in yourself too.

Thank you. (photo below)

Background photos by Meaghan Sullivan

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