12 May 2023
Responding to the Cry of the Earth: A Complex Response for Intersecting Issues

by Jennifer Kryszak, Director of Strategic Planning for the Franciscan Peace Center


What does it mean to hear the Cry of the Earth? In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis calls on us to recognize the ways in which we harm the Earth and the ways in which the Earth calls out to us.


In 2019, the Clinton Franciscans took a corporate stand on Care of Creation: “We, the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa, Sojourners, and Associates, recognize the interdependent web of all existence and honor the sacredness of all Creation. We acknowledge scientific evidence that climate change is happening and is caused in great part by human activity. We pledge to be faithful stewards of Creation and to work to reduce our impact on the environment (Earth - our Common Home).” To be faithful stewards of Creation, the Clinton Franciscans included several goals in our Laudato Si’ Action Plan that focused on the Cry of the Earth. These goals include increasing the solar panel efficiency at The Canticle, evaluating the carbon footprint of the vehicle fleet, assessing the ratio of land cover to the needs of wildlife habitats on The Canticle property, and assessing single-use plastic usage and sustainable alternatives.


Our commitments in the Laudato Si’ Action Plan acknowledge our relationship to Earth and call us to change our behaviors to lessen our impact on the created world. In order to do so, we have spent much time in the past year assessing and learning about the environmental impact of our practices.


Our efforts in these goals might seem straightforward. Take, for instance, our commitment to reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastics so that there is less plastic used and discarded. We have learned, however, that this is not straight-forward. It is increasingly difficult to go a day without using single-use plastics. In educating ourselves, we read an article by Martha Bebinger in which she relates the multiple challenges she encountered when trying to shop for groceries without plastic. Even when we are vigilant, we can overlook the presence of plastic around us. With the current statistics on plastic pollution, what does that say for our ability to lessen our impact on the Earth?


We also know that reducing plastic usage is not an isolated issue; the use of plastics does not only impact the Earth. The production and use of plastics devastates vulnerable communities. In April 2022, the Franciscan Peace Center released an Earth Day message that described the multiple connections between the production of plastics and the increase in pollution as well as cancer in St. James Parish in Louisiana, a predominantly African American area. The placement of petrochemical industries in communities of color is a form of environmental racism. We need to hold companies and the government accountable so that companies like Formosa Plastics do not benefit from killing communities of color.


In light of these realities, we desire to change so that our daily practices can heal our relationship with Earth and with all vulnerable communities. And so, we have become more aware of our own use of single-use plastics and have taken steps to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics. In our “Statement Regarding Single-Use Plastics,” we outline the steps that we are taking now to alter our practices by using reusable shopping bags, avoiding plastic bottles and straws, and using reusable take-away containers. Changing these behaviors will lessen our own impact on the Earth and vulnerable communities as well as encourage others to likewise change their own practices.


Nonetheless healing the Earth and preventing environmental racism will take more effort. Yes, individuals need to change their practices, but we as a society and as a global community need to commit to larger changes that include the rejection of fossil fuels, including plastics. Thus, we continue to educate ourselves and others and advocate for change. As nations call for a Treaty on Plastics, we must advocate for systemic change by calling our own government to enact legislation that will protect the environment and vulnerable communities, including enacting legislation to vastly reduce the amount of plastic used.


While we as a human society need to take immediate effort to protect the Earth and vulnerable communities, there is hope for our future as individuals, communities, and nations work to change practices and policies. For us Clinton Franciscans, that change arises from our continual conversion of heart and mind and takes shape in our Laudato Si’ Action Plan.


Want to learn more about issues related to the environment and plastics? Sign up for the Franciscan Peace Center’s Action Alert Digest to receive a weekly newsletter that includes recent news articles on items related to the Clinton Franciscan’s corporate stands.

Back to Laudato Si Week Reflections 2023