Understanding What’s Happening to Our Common Home

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“Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” Laudato Si, paragraph 19

Have you begun to notice the piles of trash building up, particularly around the roadways and freeways? Have you searched in vain for the Monarch butterflies that used to fly through here? Have you or your loved one(s) started coughing more and more, and the doctor tells you it’s allergies or asthma?

Noticing what’s going on, realizing things are changing, sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly, wondering where does power come from, or how was this made, is the first step in the process of Learning to Action.

But it’s an important step.

After all, if you don’t even notice something is going on, or something is wrong, then that step towards positive change and action never happens, is never even thought of.  So now that we notice something is happening, we do what we’ve all been taught in school: research who, what, when, where, why, how.  This involves research, talking to people, fact-checking. Here is a simplified example after having done so:


Bad air quality in Stockton:

Who makes the decisions on air?:

           There are federal standards–EPA

           There are state standards–California Air Resources Board

           There are local standards–San Joaquin Air District

What is happening to our air?: The bowl-shaped Valley collects and holds emissions caused by the activities of the Valley’s 3 million residents and their 2 million vehicles, as well as vehicles from other areas traveling on Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Source: Adopted from San Joaquin Valley Air Control District

When did I first notice?: When my children were diagnosed with allergies and asthma this year, when I began coughing more and more after moving back into the Valley from out of state two years ago, when I’d drive into the Valley from places like the Bay Area and I could actually see the haze blanketing the Valley, again after having moved back.

Where can I go to make my concerns/voice heard?: Public meetings, church meetings

Why does this matter?: My family’s and my quality of life are being affected, and if I’m being affected, other families and their children are too. This is not the kind of environment I want my children and others’ children to grow up in.

How can I help?: Find out when the public meetings are, generate my concerns into facts and experiences politicians will (hopefully) understand, find out what things I can do to reduce air pollution, speak with friends and family, with church leaders or groups, and most of all, not give up or despair.

Pope Francis gently but firmly reminds us that we have a duty as stewards to be mindful and aware of what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are, after all, His body. And then use that knowledge to take action and not just sit and watch it happen. We cannot afford to have an apathetic attitude, because in the end, not only do our neighbors suffer, but so do we and our children. Apathy breeds apathy: our children and neighbors see it, and it becomes their example that they follow. But if we are compassionate, they will see that instead, and thus follow that example.

We are not asked to do everything, but we are asked to do something, and always in accordance with our Time, Talent, and Treasure.