In this blog, we write little about our Catholic identity – but behind what we do is a set of principles, based on faith and sense of mission. In this post, I would like to highlight a source of these principles.
In May, Pope Francis published Laudato Si (Praised Be), his encyclical on the environment. This treatise is the continuation of a body of teachings on critical social, political, and economic themes by Popes that form Catholic Social Teaching. The first encyclical (Rerum Novarum) was published in 1891, and dealt with capital and labor. Laudato Si is brilliant and practical – 150 pages, 250 paragraphs.
For some inspiration to delve into the full document, see this short article on “Ten Takeaways”, written by James Martin – Stephen Colbert’s favorite Jesuit.
Below, I highlight three themes of relevance to our work in coffee, especially on water resources and the environment. Laudato Si is well written and clear, so rather than bury the prose in my commentary, I have copied phrases straight from the encyclical. The [Number] in brackets following each quote refers to the paragraph numbers in the encyclical.
1. Urgency to act.
Pope Francis makes a powerful case for urgent and bold action to reverse environmental degradation, for the good of the planet, and for humanity. He calls for a new way of doing business, based on “integral ecology”. The first quote highlights just how sharply the encyclical is written.
“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more like an immense pile of filth.” [Number 21].
“Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. Still, we can see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point, due to the rapid pace of change and degradation…” [Number 61].
“The idea of infinite or unlimited growth is based on the lie there is an infinite supply of the Earth’s goods and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit.” [Number 79].
“In any discussion about a proposed venture, a number of questions need to be asked in order to discern whether or not it will contribute to genuine integral development…. Some questions must have higher priority. For example, we know that water is a scarce and indispensable resource and a fundamental right which conditions the exercise of other human rights. This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” [Number 185].
2. All things are connected
In this blog, we’ve highlighted how “We All Drink Downstream“, how your morning cup of coffee is connected to water sources in communities where coffee is produced. In prose that people may associate more with Thich Naht Hahn, this theme of interconnectedness permeates the entire encyclical.
“God wills the interdependence of creatures. The sun and the moon, the cedar and the little flower, the eagle and the sparrow; the spectacle of their countless diversification and inequalities tells us that no creature is self-sufficient. Creatures exist only in interdependence on each other to complete each other, in the service of each other.” [Number 86].
“The Spirit of God dwells in every living creature and calls us to enter into relationship with him.” [Number 88].
“Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites brother sun, sister moon, brother river, and mother earth.” [Number 92].
“We are part of nature, included in it, and thus in constant interaction with it.” [No. 139].
3. Purchasing is a moral act
As pioneers of Fair Trade principles, progressive coffee companies and organizations will appreciate how the encyclical highlights how consumers impact the wellbeing of the planet. It is also a call to savor simple pleasures, like a great cup of responsibly sourced coffee.
“Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act.” [Number 206].
“Today, the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.” [Number 206].
“…Problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as quickly as it quickly reduces things to rubbish.” [Number 22].
“A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic, and social power… This shows us a great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.” [Number 206].
Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. [Number 22].
Praised Be Water
Pope Francis took his name from Saint Francis, a revolutionary mystic, peacemaker, and ecologist from the 13th century, who wrote a beautiful poem in praise of nature, called the Canticle of the Sun. The Pope quotes this poem in Laudato Si:
Praised be you, my Lord, through Sister Water, who is useful and humble and precious, and chaste. [Number 87].