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Home » Five Years After Speaking Out on Climate Change, Pope Francis Sounds an Urgent Alarm

Five Years After Speaking Out on Climate Change, Pope Francis Sounds an Urgent Alarm

Five Years After Speaking Out on Climate Change, Pope Francis Sounds an Urgent Alarm

The encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ motivated many people to take action on global warming, but governments, the pope said, have lagged far behind.

When Pope Francis issued his landmark teaching document on climate change in 2015, his words went straight to the heart of Susan Varlamoff.

Varlamoff, 70, a biologist, read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in the 1960s and speaks proudly of a Catholic faith that embraces science and calls on church members to take care of the earth. Her sister, she said, died from cancer as a child, and she wondered whether her father's liberal use of pesticides in their suburban yard might have been the cause.

She asked Archbishop Wilton Gregory, who was then the leader of 1.2 million Catholics in Atlanta and across much of Georgia, whether she could write a review for the archdiocese of the Pope's "Laudato Si': On Care for our Common Home," the first encyclical to be dedicated to the environment.

So with her colleagues at the University of Georgia, Varlamoff wrote and illustrated a 52-page treatise on the science of climate change that offered Georgians motivated by their faith a road map for dealing with a warming earth.

The plan strengthened climate education at Catholic schools across much of the state and prompted a series of local energy audits and efficiency improvements at churches and schools. It also provided a template for climate action among Catholics nationwide.
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