Pope Francis's Environmental Crusade

Pope Francis isn't like other popes. Since the time of his election, he has made headlines for his radical behaviors and teachings, such as rejecting the Apostolic Palace in favor of a modest guest home and embracing marginalized people like the sick and disabled. Unlike previous popes, Pope Francis isn't afraid to challenge tradition, and his leadership has been inspiring others to be better citizens.

Two years ago, Pope Francis recorded a video aimed at the garbage pickers of the world, who are often shunned by society because of their poverty. These "cartoneros," as they are known in the Pope's home country of Argentina, are poor people who sort through garbage to pick out cardboard, metal, glass or plastic, which they sell as a means to provide income for their families. Pope Francis has long been a friend to the cartoneros, even regularly celebrating a special mass for them and, during World Youth Day of 2013, inviting them to join him on the stage.

Pope Francis praises these recyclers, commending them for reducing the amount of waste that plagues cities where recycling rates are abysmally low (Buenos Aires, for instance, recycles less than 10% of all the city's waste). He makes a point in the video of saying that their work is dignified and deserves recognition, which challenges the overwhelming negative stereotypes that the cartoneros have suffered.

Pope Francis has spoken out on more than just recycling. His environmental encyclical made headlines around the world, denouncing rich countries for their wasteful lifestyles and calling on them to take action against climate change. Pope Francis is urging society to view climate change as an issue that is both environmental and moral, since it is often the poor people in developing nations who suffer most from the effects of global warming. Rich nations have a moral obligation to do everything they can to reduce the damage that is being caused by their excessive consumption and waste.

Like Pope Francis, Planet Aid also views climate action as a moral imperative. We help millions of people around the world who suffer from poverty and health-related issues that are consequences of the changing climate, so we understand the consequences of inaction. That's why, in addition to supporting global development projects, we also educate the public about the importance of recycling and sustainability. We hope that the Pope's presence in the US over the next several weeks will bring national attention to the current state of our environment and persuade people to do more to stop the effects of climate change.

photo credit: General Audience with Pope Francis via photopin (license)