Turning despair into action for creation
Knox Peden, far left, leads a prayer walk at the Catholic Parish of St. Joseph’s, O’Connor in Canberra, Australia
For Knox Peden, Laudato Si’ and the Catholic Church’s response to climate change have done much more than simply motivate him to act.
The message of Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical on climate change and ecology helped convince Peden to join the Catholic Church.
Peden had been raised Presbyterian in Texas (USA) but hadn’t practiced any form of Christianity for years.
But among the reasons the philosophy professor in Australia became Catholic in July 2019 was because of how the Church was responding to climate change.
He felt encouraged by “the alternatives that Laudato Si’ provides to purely materialist or naturalist treatments of climate change.”
His worries about what the climate crisis was doing to his adopted homeland also compelled him to join Global Catholic Climate Movement’s Laudato Si’ Animator program earlier this year.
Peden, along with millions of Australians, felt horrified by the bushfire crisis that killed about 450 people, including those who died from smoke inhalation, and destroyed more than 44 million acres during the past two years.
An estimated one billion animals perished because of the fires, which raged for far more than the few months they were in the global headlines.
From July 2019 to March 2020, some Australian states, such as New South Wales, endured bushfires for 240 days.
Bushfires have been happening in Australia for decades, but climate change makes them more likely to occur and increases their likelihood to be very intense.
As more and more greenhouse gas emissions are released into the atmosphere and warm the planet, more moisture evaporates from the Earth, creating drier conditions that are more susceptible to bushfires.
Peden said the bushfires served as a “catalyst” for him to join thousands of people on six continents and become a Laudato Si’ Animator, a Catholic champion for action on climate change.
Animators receive free online training in their language from world-renowned experts. Throughout their training, the Animators dive deeper into the tenets of Laudato Si’ and explore how this groundbreaking document can guide all people to help solve the climate emergency.
Animators conclude their training with a final project, or two, as Peden decided to do. The senior lecturer at Flinders University in Adelaide recorded a YouTube reflection on Laudato Si’ (below) and led a prayer walk.
In the video, he shared how Laudato Si’ “is a means of ecological conversion for Catholics. But I also think it’s a remarkable resource for evangelization for people with common concerns,” Peden said.
Peden had conducted prayer walks solo, so it was easy for him to invite his fellow parishioners for a prayerful stroll.
“The overall goal was to introduce my parish to these important issues and to stimulate their own spiritual growth in this area,” Peden said of his projects.
He completed his Laudato Si’ Animator training earlier this month, but Pope Francis’ encyclical continues to motivate him to inspire others.
“Laudato Si’ is a vital document, a touchstone for what it means to be Catholic here and now,” he said. “As a document, Laudato Si’ unifies and orients my concerns about this most urgent political task facing humanity. And it provides hope, as Christ provides hope.”