As glaciers melt, Pope Francis encourages contemplation to help people care for our common home

September 16, 2020

Cracks in the Pine Island glacier. (Photo: NASA ICE)

Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged the use of contemplation to help people better care for our common home and avoid further damage to creation, such as the continued melting of Antarctic glaciers.

“We need to be silent, we need to listen, and we need to contemplate,” he said.

“Without contemplation, it is easy to fall prey to an unbalanced and arrogant anthropocentrism, the ‘I’ at the center of everything.”

Such thinking has placed mankind in the precarious situation it finds itself now, Pope Francis said.

Scientists say human activity has produced heat-trapping greenhouse gases that have warmed the planet and changed the climate around the world.

In the U.S., wildfires made worse by climate change have left families to mourn lost loved ones, destroyed towns, and worsened air quality across the country.

In Brazil, a worse than usual wildfire season has ignited virgin parts of the Amazon.

Also of particular concern are the melting Antarctic glaciers, which contribute to rising sea levels that can lead to warmer ocean temperatures and more powerful storms.

A recent study published in the National Academy of Sciences examined satellite data of two important glaciers from 1997 to 2019.

The glaciers connect the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to the ocean, and if completely melted, could lift global sea levels by four feet (1.2 meters), according to National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the U.S.

Researchers found rapid crumbling of both glaciers, and much of the melting also has come in the past four years.

“Today I was reading in the newspaper about those two great glaciers in Antarctica, near the Amundsen Sea: they are about to fall. It will be terrible, because the sea level will rise and this will bring many, many difficulties and cause so much harm,” Pope Francis said.

“And why? Because of global warming, not caring for the environment, not caring for the common home.”

His Holiness encouraged all people to not only think about their lives, but how creation will be for those who come after them.

“What will be the legacy, life for future generations?” Pope Francis said. “Let us think of our children, our grandchildren: what will we leave if we exploit creation? Let us protect this path of the ‘guardians’ of our common home, guardians of life and also guardians of hope.”