Sustainable Lifestyles: An Invitation to Trend Gently on Earth

Posted March 2, 2023

This is a reflection by Fr. Josh Kureethadam from the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

Fr. Josh Kureethadam, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development


The Season of Lent invites us to an integral renewal of our lives, of our communities, and of the world in which we live. One of the ways we can bring about this renewal is by returning to what is essential in our lives and relationships. The adoption of “sustainable lifestyles”, the fourth of the Laudato Si’ Goals, sounds promising in this regard. 

Our ecological conversion to simple lifestyles begins with the confession of our addiction to profligate and compulsive consumerism which is pillaging our common planetary home and ravaging the bodies of the poor. Pope John Paul II had told us already in 1990, in the Message for the World Day of Peace, that “Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle. In many parts of the world, society is given to instant gratification and consumerism while remaining indifferent to the damage which these cause.” At a deeper level, our “use and throw away” culture masks a profound disharmony within us. As Pope Francis reminds us, “The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.” (Laudato Si’, 204)

When our planetary home is on the brink of collapse because of overconsumption of the natural resources, it is time to effect a “bold cultural revolution” of sobriety, making a radical transition from affluence and wasteful abundance to sufficiency and moderation. An ecologically sustainable and responsible lifestyle calls for a certain degree of asceticism — self-discipline and avoidance of all forms of indulgence — the sure antidote for the ills of our consumerist society. The invitation to tread gently on Earth through the adoption of a sober and simple lifestyle is at the core of Christian spirituality. Pope Francis writes in this regard: 

Christian spirituality proposes an alternative understanding of the quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, one capable of deep enjoyment free of the obsession with consumption. We need to take up an ancient lesson, found in different religious traditions and also in the Bible. It is the conviction that “less is more”. A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. (Laudato Si’, 222)

It is in returning to a simple lifestyle that we return to the lap of Mother Earth, whose bounty is sufficient for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed, as Mahatma Gandhi used to say. Using less is also the way we can embrace the most fragile members of our common household, many of whom are denied a life of dignity because of the overconsumption and waste from the part of the rich minority. It is time that we began to live more simply, so that others may simply live!

May the adoption of “sustainable lifestyles” as part of our collective journey of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform help us to return to the “dust” (adamah) of the Earth, our common home, and to the bosom of our human and earthly community.