In case you haven’t heard, the Vatican has a new leader, and he is a rock star! Pope Francis visited Philadelphia this weekend, and it was sensational. Catholics and non-Catholics alike say they have been moved and inspired by the Pope. One of his key messages is that we must combat climate change and protect the natural environment. But is anyone really listening?
Since returning to the United States from Europe, I’ve been dismayed and discouraged by the waste and disregard for the environment in everyday life here. European governments frequently “nudge” their citizens toward sustainable behavior. And it works. Three examples:
- Gasoline is heavily taxed to fund public transport. The train is often cheaper (and almost always more relaxing) than driving.
- Depending on location, residents pay for trash removal according to the volume or weight of the household trash they throw away. Recycling is free.
- In Germany, supermarkets are required to charge customers for plastic bags. The price isn’t outrageous, but it’s high enough to make you wish you’d remembered your reusable canvas bag!
By contrast, in this country, sustainable behavior is mostly a matter of individual choice. And too many individuals just can’t be bothered. Convenience is king! Hopping in the car is easier than arranging a carpool or checking the train schedule. Throwing away plastic plates and cutlery is easier than loading the dishwasher. My first visit to “Party City” was one big culture shock: An entire “big box” store full of stuff intended to be thrown away!!!
So, as we bask in the afterglow of Francis’ visit, I would like to challenge my fellow Philadelphians: Now that the Pope has spoken, what will you do? What changes will you make to protect the planet?