The pope goes green
Pope Francis is breaking all sorts of molds with his increasingly progressive views in what had been traditionally one of the most conservative seats of power in the world. His latest is an encyclical – entitled “Laudato Si,” or “Praise be to You” – that forcefully places blame for climate change on humans, putting him squarely on the side of mainstream science and environmental activists.
Though much of the focus has been on the pontiff’s call for action on climate change in the much-anticipated encyclical, which is subtitled “On Care for our Common home,” he also takes the opportunity to smack around 21st century technology and the pursuit at all costs of profits for their deleterious effects on the environment. He says those actions harm the world’s poorest the most as farming areas are redeveloped or grow fallow and drinking water sources dry up, some of it an offshoot of global warming.
“The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming,” he writes.
It’s a foray into politics and policy that is rarely seen from the Holy See. But it also is causing the church’s traditional supporters on the right to question Francis’s expertise and motives, while those on the left embrace his call to environmental arms.
“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” said Bush. “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”
Francis frames the debate not only for “every person living on this planet,” but for all the people of the world to come. He says to ignore the impact of global ecological changes is short-sighted.
“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 forever,” he writes.
But Francis’s 192-page report, which combines his chemistry background with his abiding fealty to Catholic doctrine on respect for the world’s most needy, is certain to change the conversation about climate change. The pope adopts some of the language of those who champion the theory that man caused climate change in calling those who dismiss the evidence “deniers.”
The encyclical comes as the world’s leaders ready for a summit on climate change at the end of the year. Francis’s call to immediately cease the reliance on fossil fuels is sure to have an impact on policy presentations on sustainable energy in any international accord.
In his opening pages, Francis minces few words in outlining where we’ve been and where we’re headed, placing the blame on all industrialized nations. He invokes Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and environmentalists, who called the planet “our sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us.”
“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” the pope writes. “Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behavior, which at times appears self-destructive. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
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