Summer is generally a time we relish the great outdoors, often taking a vacation to enjoy family life, soak up the sun, and maybe splurge on a few of life’s sweeter things. The warm blessings of Brother Sun and cool refreshment of Sister Water are particularly evident, gently reminding us of God’s goodness and the gift of creation.

Perhaps, if we close our eyes and pause to breathe deeply, the memories of June will transport us to our childhood summers, free of schoolwork and immersed in the joy of nature. Did you have a favorite spot?

Preserving summertime for future generations
As adults with children, grandchildren, or young nieces or nephews, we might consider how our care of creation magnifies or diminishes this gift for them — now and in their future lives. For example, the Scripps Institute at UCSD reports a 1.5-degree-Fahrenheit average temperature increase in California since the 1970’s and projects a greater than 2-degree increase by 2040, 4 degrees by 2070, and more than 6 degrees by 2100 if carbon emissions remain unchecked. More threatening, Scripps adds, extreme heat waves will occur with greater intensity and frequency, endangering the lives of our most vulnerable populations and causing severe disruption to our overall communal well-being. With temperatures already reaching 120 degrees in the Imperial Valley, our failure to act might cost generations to come the summer bliss we have been so blessed to know.

This month, as we continue to learn about caring for our common home, we focus on “Ecological Economics” as one of the seven goals of “Laudato Si.” This aim is defined by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development as an economic approach that “acknowledges the economy is a sub-system of human society, which itself is embedded within the biosphere — our common home.” In plain language, this means that we understand ourselves as part of God’s creation, interconnected with all things, and we recognize our behavior has an impact on this gift, affecting our sisters and brothers around the world. This behavior includes our economic choices, which should not supersede the good of humanity.

But what does that mean? In the United States, money can signify success, money has been judged by the Supreme Court as a constitutionally protected form of speech, money ensures our health, money is access to a good education and contributes to the safety and wellness of our families. Wealth even correlates with living in a less polluted and less climate-vulnerable location. When we hear that Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” most of us want to concentrate on the “spirit” part.

Paying it forward
In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” which translates to “Charity in Truth,” he teaches, “Global interconnectedness has led to the emergence of a new political power, that of consumers and their associations. This is a phenomenon that needs to be explored, as it contains positive elements to be encouraged as well as excesses to be avoided. It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act.”

Pope Benedict XVI is saying you have power. What you consume — the food you buy, the clothes you purchase, the packaging your items come in, the activities you pay to do, and the corporations/organizations to which your money goes — all of it has the power to do good or cause harm. The USCCB, for instance, has determined “Socially Responsible Investment Guidelines” to evaluate financial opportunity in terms of how companies or entities “protect life, promote human dignity, act justly, enhance the common good, and provide care for the environment.” The bishops summarize the ultimate goal of these “human values,” quoting Pope Francis, who writes, “They begin with the hope of the poor for the fullness of life, peace and fraternity, for equality and justice.”

How might your economic decision-making pay forward ecological goodness that contributes to or resists harming our common home so that the poor and vulnerable might experience the fullness of life? Recognizing that the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation will worsen over time, what consequences might your economic choices have on future generations? Pope Francis calls this “intergenerational solidarity.”

It’s fair to find this goal intimidating. Our financial realities vary widely, so the actions we might take will look different from family to family. You might be surprised. What starts out as a sacrifice — avoiding plastic packaging — might become something you enjoy —going to the farmer’s market. You might even acquire new skills, like gardening or baking bread from scratch. Some suggestions are listed here. Let us know how your family finds ways to take on ecological economics by emailing cslentz@sdcatholic.org.

Remember, creation is God’s gift to you. How you care for it is your gift to God!

“Ecological Economics” Suggested Actions

Buy used/recycled products.
Donate old items for reuse.
Purchase from local businesses.
Support companies that pay a fair wage.
Avoid excess plastic packaging.
Avoid single-use plastics and places that use them.
Patronize San Diego Green Business: sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/deh/doing_business/chd_greenbus.
If investing, seek socially responsible enterprises.
Choose an ethical banking company.
Give acts of love in place of material goods.

By Christina Bagaglio Slentz, PhD in the Southern Cross, San Diego Diocese newspaper