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LAUDATO SI’: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME – Pope Fancis

June 21, 2015

CCClimate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

“Those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms”. The failure to respond points to the loss of a “sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded”.

It is no longer enough to speak only of the integrity of ecosystems. We have to dare to speak of the integrity of human life, of the need to promote and unify all the great values. Once we lose our humility, and become enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything, we inevitably end up harming society and the environment.

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.

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. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.

Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church.

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.

The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others.

If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.

Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

UN climate talks have failed to achieve much: It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.

carbon trading: The Earth, our home, is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth

community energy: In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency and even the sale of surplus energy. This simple example shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference.

genetically modified food: It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM) … The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application … This is a complex environmental issue

consumption is a bigger problem than population: To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.

gadgets are getting in the way of our relationship with nature: Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.

However: Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change: steam engines, railways, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, aeroplanes, chemical industries, modern medicine, information technology and, more recently, the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonderful products of God-given human creativity.”

Our gift to the next generation may be desolation: We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.

US conservatives – I thought they were supposed to follow the Pope, not criticise him, have reacted in the typical way that climate change deniers always do. Rush Limbaugh claimed that the pope is aligning himself with those on the left who want to leave “everybody … living equally in misery,” and that the encyclical suggests that rich countries “need to keep giving” money to the poor “until our rich are no longer rich.”

A column for the conservative news site Patriot Post said: “Many Catholics in the U.S. take strong exception to the pope acting as a water boy for the UN.” It further claimed the pope’s encyclical “may assist with the UN’s global climate treaty negotiations at the upcoming Paris summit — a treaty which would be more accurately called a ‘global economic control’ treaty.”

Michael Savage: Pope Sounds Like He Is “Directing Mankind To Worship The Antichrist ”  “The pope is a danger to the world.” He continued by calling the Pope a “great deceiver,” “stealth Marxist,” and “eco-wolf in pope’s clothing,” and comparing him to the false prophet in the book of Revelation “directing mankind to worship the Antichrist.” Savage concluded that “we are living in global tyranny right now”:

Greg Gutfeld brought up the pope’s supposed “Marxist background” and said: “The most dangerous person on the planet is someone who is seeking strange new respect from their adversaries, and that is what the pope is doing … He wants to be a modern pope. All he needs is dreadlocks and a dog with a bandana and he could be on Occupy Wall Street”

Lou Dobbs said that the climate change issue is “ideological,” “absolutely political” and “not the stuff of which I would expect the pope to involved in.” (the pope) is “talking about a new world order, he’s talking about a new global organization.”

Judge Andrew Napolitano criticized the pope as wanting to use the “bully pulpit of the papacy” to “shame people into distributing wealth in such a manner so as to help the poor, and one of the ways he’s trying to do that is by encouraging governments to get involved in restricting behavior that allegedly causes something allegedly called global warming.”

Breitbart editor James Delingpole criticized the encyclical for including “hackneyed language and extremely dubious science you might expect from a 16-year-old trotting out the formulaic bilge and accepted faux-wisdom required these days to pass a fairly typical exam paper in Geography or Environmental Sciences.” He went on to claim that the encyclical is wrong “scientifically,” “morally,” “theologically,” and “economically.”

Steve Milloy, who is paid by fossil fuel industry interests and runs the climate science denial blog JunkScience.com, posted a series of tweets attacking the pope’s climate encyclical. Milloy called it “adolescent” and “insipid,” compared the pope’s actions to those of the KGB, and called Pope Francis a “people-hater.”

The document can be found at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

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