Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ is a beautifully written 86-page, wide-ranging call to action to save our ‘common home,’ planet Earth. The document is insightful and radical in its analysis and proposed ways forward. It calls for a new lifestyle, based on respect, love and wonder of each other and nature and proposes throwing off the shackles of ever-increasing consumption and impossible but relentless economic growth on a finite planet.
The Pope explains the problems in stark terms: “the earth is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” He challenges the “throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubble,” stating there is an ecological debt between North and South that should be repaid: “The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned.” Developed countries must help repay the debt by “significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy.” We must, he says, understand and develop intergenerational solidarity.
Importantly, the Pope clearly decries false solutions such as carbon trading (para. 171), putting a price on nature and business leading scientific and technological developments. Progress requires “a true ecological approach, which always becomes a social approach as 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.” The Pope calls also for “institutions empowered to impose penalties for damage inflicted on the environment.”
The sweeping document was launched three days after the 14th Dalai Lama issued a Twitter message stating: “Since climate change and the global economy now affect us all, we have to develop a sense of the oneness of humanity”; two days after the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a “green declaration” (also signed by the Methodist Conference, representatives of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and the British Muslim, Sikh and Jewish communities) urging a transition to a low-carbon economy and fasting and prayer for success at the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.
Religious leaders are bravely calling for the radical change required. One can only pray that political leaders truly hear it.