by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

“Ecological Economics” is the third goal of Pope Francis’s seven-year Laudato Si’ plan. In many ways it is the broadest and surely most challenging of any goals set out by the Holy Father. Someone once said that economics is the “hilo conductor” of history. That phrase translated into English (“connecting thread”) does not do it justice. The Spanish “hilo conductor” reminds one of a vital electrical wire which is the principal source of current. The Pope here takes on this all-encompassing vision of an “hilo conductor” for humanity as we move into new global realities.

This goal raises a fundamental question for humanity. Do we – particularly we who live in the North, the “developed world, who are the privileged of the earth – do we have the capacity, generosity and the willingness to strive for ecological economics?

The question is crucial when what is involved in such an ecology is considered, beginning with its overall goal: right relationships within the whole Earth community that promote sustainable communities and economies of “enough”. Accomplishing such a world-changing goal bends the mind and challenges the imagination.

Consider some of its aspects:

  • Breaking an economic system based on a profit- and consumption-driven economic model.
  • Breaking a system based on the assumption of unlimited growth.
  • Generating “people power” to create globally equitable economic systems.
  • Demilitarizing the false and wasteful “peace through military power” economies.
  • Converting these to green economies.

This abbreviated summary of the third goal gives a sense of its scope, and its “absurdity”. Yet over and against negative and disheartening reactions here are realistic hopes Pope Francis holds out for a post-pandemic global society. They are based ultimately on what is considered the “impossibility” of Jesus’s message: “that all may be one” – “love your enemies”. It is important to keep in mind as we reflect on the Pope’s hope-filled words that we have in him a man whose roots are in a world where the chasm between the privileged and the rejected are profound.

Francis’s General Principles

“If we are to come out of this crisis better, we have to recover the knowledge that as a people we have a shared destination.”

“The goals and resources of the earth are meant for all. Fresh air, clean water, and a balanced diet are vital for the health and well-being of our peoples.”

First Steps

“To recover the dignity of the people we need to go to the margins of our societies to meet all those who live there. Hidden there are ways of looking at the world that can give us all a fresh start.”

“… reversing the process of dehumanization… will depend on the participation of the people’s movements. They are sowers of a new future, promoters of the change we need to put the economy at the service of the people, to build peace and justice; and to defend Mother Earth.”

“We can also begin to implement an ecological conversion at every level of society in the ways I suggested in Laudato Si’: moving to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels; respecting and implementing biodiversity; guaranteeing access to clean water; adopting more restrained lifestyles; changing our understanding of value, progress, and success by taking into account the impact of our businesses on the environment.”


“There will be temptations that distract us: to chew on a sense of powerlessness and anger; to remain stuck in conflicts and grievances, to focus on slogans and abstract ideas rather than specific local actions.”

These quotations come from an 84-year-old man who is coming to the end of his life but who continues to believe and practice the truth of words spoken by another prophet, Salvadoran Archbishop, St. Oscar Romero: “We are prophets of a future that is not our own. We plant the seeds that one day will grow… knowing that they hold future promise.”


Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.

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