“The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.”
No one could mistake the pope’s June 18 encyclical letter Laudato Sí (Praise be to you) for anything other than a religious statement. Its title comes from Saint Francis of Assisi: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.” It returns again and again to Christian scripture and faith to justify its call for a “bold cultural revolution” to save the Earth.
And yet this lifelong atheist and Marxist finds more to agree with in Pope Francis’s statement than in just about anything I’ve seen from greenish NGOs and politicians. I have many profound disagreements with the Catholic church, but we are allies in fighting the number one crisis facing humanity today.
I’ve posted the full text of Laudato Sí in English. The quotes below show why I recommend it.
PS: No surprise: The president of the anti-green Breakthrough Institute, Michael Shellenberger, spent a lot of time on Twitter this week, telling his faithful followers that the Pope is wrong, wrong, wrong. His many tweets fully confirm what I wrote about them in Hijacking the Anthropocene
Some excerpts from Laudato Sí
- We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. (p 35)
- A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. (p 36-7)
- The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse. (p 38)
- The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests. Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented. (p 40)
- Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment. Here we see how environmental deterioration and human and ethical degradation are closely linked.(p.41)
- Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. (p 81-2)
Ian — not even a mention of the reactionary anti-abortion politics included “seamlessly” and “integrally” in this very encyclical that you are lauding? That’s not an insignificant detail. It reveals something fundamentally wrong with the approach. We should not overlook the fact that this encyclical and this pope, though widely lauded as progressive, play a counterrevolutionary role because they ultimately justify patriarchy and capitalism.