A panel of international development workers brought Pope Francis’ Laudato si into the context of their own experiences working in developing countries during a Oct. 20 event in Knott Auditorium.
The panel’s four members focused heavily on Francis’ call for worldwide dialogue in order to address “the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots,”as stated in Laudato si. Panelists Meghan Bolden, Sister Winifred Doherty, Daniel White and Hilary Landfried offered personal accounts from their careers in considering the pope’s message.
“Laudatio si is the most fantastic document that has ever come from Rome,” said Doherty, an Irish member of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd and NGO Representative for the group to the United Nations. Doherty praised the encyclical’s emphasis on updating developmental code, but said it lacked input from the pope about women’s rights issues and abuses in developing countries.
“Many times when I read about development, I can read in there that the relationships between men and women are marked by dominance and aggression,” Doherty said. “These are the very same attitudes that pollute the Earth.”
White, the Technical Director of Agriculture for nonprofit ACDI/VOCA, offered an account of his time working to help farmers in Tanzania. White discussed the problems in agricultural development that often go unnoticed by statistics, like language barriers.
“We tend to lose sight of non-measureable problems that people confront,” he said.
For Bolden, a member of Save the Children and its international program, the pope’s message encouraged her to think about what she and other non-profit organizations could do to fulfill Francis’ focus on environmentalism.
During her time in Ethiopia, Bolden and a team of workers convinced the elders of a local village to close a portion of their ranchland to human activity and to build irrigation canals within it. Farmers had allowed their cattle to overgraze the area.
“Within six months, there was green grass, and there were species that people didn’t even recognize,” Bolden said.
Landfried discussed the pope’s thoughts on how future generations might be affected by the activities of human beings in the present day.
Doherty said the key for those in the developed world seeking to address the issues raised by Pope Francis is to focus on changing “structures and systems.”
“The planet is in jeopardy because of the violence done to it by technology,” Doherty said. “What people need to understand is that their personal actions feed into the system. What I buy impacts someone else down the line.”
The statement mirrored one quote by Pope Francis referenced in the introductory portion of the panel event.
“It is the technological frame of mind that is the problem,” Francis wrote. “We can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way.”