Pope Francis, Saint Francis, and Our Ecological Challenge

Posted by Christopher Heffron on 10/6/17 7:00 AM

Our ecological challenge. | Image: Daniel Mallek

It’s no secret that we Americans have a dependency on our cars. In fact, the Sierra Club, one of the nation’s oldest environmental organizations, reports that Americans travel almost three trillion miles by car each year. Transportation contributes about one-third of all US carbon dioxide emissions, according to Sierra’s reports. That’s a lot of pollution.

Pope Francis, who was trained in science, knows the damage the world's citizens commit to the earth every day. He chose his name for a reason. Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology, spent his relatively short life seeking to protect and honor all of creation. The pope's encyclical, Laudato Si', is our challenge to change how we engage with the environment in order to save it. 

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While it’s unrealistic for most of us to give up our cars completely, making subtle adjustments to our lifestyles and our habits can offset significant environmental harm. Here are some tips for sensible traveling.

Drive carefully. The Environmental Protection Agency encourages drivers to avoid aggressive acceleration and braking. It’s also important to make sure tires are properly inflated. Tires that are inflated appropriately improve gas mileage.

Carpool. The benefit is twofold: we are aiding the environment by having one fewer car on the road; and the relationships we share with those in the car with us can be strengthened.

Combine trips. The US Department of Energy encourages drivers to have a game plan before running errands. Short trips from a car that has been idle can use twice the fuel that combining trips does. It also reduces the wear and tear on your car.

Bus it. Keeping your car in park just two days a week can lower greenhouse gas emissions. According to the American Public Transit Association, using public transportation regularly can save the equivalent of 900,000 fill-ups every day.

What would Francis do? Francis of Assisi, in his lifetime, was an optimist. “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible,” is a saying attributed to him. Francis had a deep love for the earth and for those who shared it with him. We can do the same. 

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Topics: Pope Francis, Ecology, saint francis