The new Encyclical Laudato Si is being widely discussed, and obviously contains some controversial sections. I would like to draw attention to a totally positive point, which easily escapes attention.
Here’s the final part of paragraph 26:
“Investments have also been made in means of production and transportation which consume less energy and require fewer raw materials, as well as in methods of construction and renovating buildings which improve their energy efficiency. But these good practices are still far from widespread.”
Energy efficiency is something everybody can readily agree with. There is never a need to waste energy, but often the incentives to save energy are insufficient to get people’s attention.
The phrase here about renovating buildings is a particular case in point. A big project like pouring insulation into walls is beyond the scope of most people’s thinking. But on the other hand, putting weatherstripping around a door is easy, cheap, and quick (any 11-year-old can do it). Think of a 1/16″ gap around a standard door. The net area of the aperture is the same as a hole 4″ in diameter! If you had a hole in your wall like that, you’d patch it. So why not close the gap with weatherstripping? Because people simply don’t know how much heat (and dollars) they’re losing. But through inattention, they’re very much engaging in the “throw-away culture.”
So here’s a simple, positive suggestion: to be a faithful follower of the Pope’s encyclical, start doing things to save energy, such as weatherstripping.
Then go do the same for your neighbor next door. Next, look around your house a little more and find another simple way to save energy (windows, etc.) Inflate your car tires properly to get better gas mileage.
There are a huge number of painless no cost/low cost things you can do to enjoy an energy-efficient lifestyle. Of the money you’ll save, give 10% to church if you like.
The bottom line is that energy efficiency is a win-win proposition. Everybody can do it, and thus follow the intent of the encyclical.
Dr. Thomas P. Sheahen is a professor of theology and science at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is Director of the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST). To learn more about the Institute, visit the website and consider becoming a member.