Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change

0 Comment    Last updated: 2015-11-04 20:28:49

        Around the world millions of scientist and concerned citizens are lauding Pope Francis’ sweeping and ambitious 184-page papal encyclical released June 18, 2015.  Francis says that apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness are to blame for relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment.  He points out that most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

        Interfaith Power and Light explains that “Encyclicals are formal letters issued by a pope to the universal Catholic Church—its bishops and Catholics everywhere—concerning moral, doctrinal and disciplinary matters. The Pope is one of the most popular public figures in the world, both in and outside of the Church. Regardless of their religious beliefs, people around the world will admire Pope Francis, and his leadership can create an atmosphere where world leaders will act on climate change in Paris in December of 2015 at the UN climate negotiations.”

       Huffington Post reported the support of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  This is the world's largest general scientific society, representing some 10 million individual scientists worldwide.  This group strongly commends Pope Francis' Encyclical, "Laudato Si'," which reaffirms the reality of human-induced climate change, and calls for action.  

       The New Your Times points out that “Francis has been sharply criticized by those who question or deny the established science of human-caused climate change, and also by some conservative Roman Catholics, who see the encyclical as an attack on capitalism and as political meddling.”

       The pope begins the encyclical with a hymn by St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment. He used the Book of Genesis to underpin his theological argument. But in a passage certain to rankle some Christians, he chastises those who cite Genesis as evidence that man has “dominion” over the earth that justifies practices like mountaintop mining or fishing with gill nets.

      “This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church,” Francis writes. The Bible teaches human beings to “till and keep” the garden of the world, he says. “ ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, plowing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving.

      His most stinging rebuke is a broad critique of profit-seeking and the undue influence of technology on society. He praises achievements in medicine, science and engineering, but says that “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”

Below is the outline of the entire Encyclical, followed by some excerpts:

Introduction

Chapter One: What is Happening to Our Common Home
I. Pollution and climate change
II. The issue of water
III. Loss of biodiversity
IV. Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society
V. Global inequality
VI. Weak responses
VII. A variety of opinions


Chapter Two: The Gospel of Creation
I. The light offered by faith
II. The wisdom of the biblical accounts
III. The mystery of the universe
IV. The message of each creature in the harmony of creation
V. A universal communion
VI. The common destination of goods
VII. The gaze of Jesus


Chapter Three: The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis
I. Technology: Creativity and power
II. The globalization of the technocratic paradigm
III. The crisis and effects of modern anthropocentrism


Chapter Four: Integral Ecology
I. Environmental, economic and social ecology
II. Cultural ecology
III. Ecology of daily life
IV. The principle of the common good
V. Justice between the generations


Chapter Five: Lines of Approach and Action
I. Dialogue on the environment in the international community
II. Dialogue for new national and local policies
III. Dialogue and transparency in decision-making
IV. Politics and economy in dialogue for human fulfillment
V. Religions in dialogue with science


Chapter Six: Ecological Education and Spirituality
I. Towards a new lifestyle
II. Educating for the covenant between humanity and the environment
III. Ecological conversion
IV. Joy and peace
V. Civic and political love
VI. Sacramental signs and the celebration of rest
VII. The Trinity and the relationship between creatures
VIII. Queen of all creation
IX. Beyond the sun
 

Some excerpts are below:


On pollution:

People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water,  fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and antitoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others. (20)

On waste accumulation:

 The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth . . . But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. (21)

On the human impact of environmental degradation:

There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the
growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded . . . Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. (25)


On exhaustion of resources:

Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. (30)

On the pervasiveness of psychological denial:
As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen. (59)

On economic inequality:

Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all.                   
 *
Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights. (Id at 27) Conclusion: “All is not lost,” he writes. “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”




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