Key ideas of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on the Environment, Laudato Si
Here are 26 key quotes to give you a sense of the main ideas od Laudato Si:
1) The opening line, quoting St. Francis of Assisi
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
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. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters. (1-2)
2) Environmental destruction comes from the same evil that leads to social destruction: moral relativity
The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature”. (6)
3) The Pope’s appeal to the world: we all must work together to protect our planet
I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all. […]
Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity. […] All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents. (14)
4) Pollution hurts the poor and is linked to the “throwaway culture”
Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. […] 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. […]
These problems are closely linked to a throwaway culture which affects the excluded just as it quickly reduces things to rubbish. (20, 22)
5) The climate is a “common good”
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. (23)
6) A scientific consensus says climate change is real and is caused at least in part by human activity
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. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. (23)
7) The poor are hurt the most by climate change
Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources which can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited. […]
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. (25)
8) Access to clean drinking water is a human right
One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. […] 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. (29-30; emphasis in original)
9) Creatures are not just resources, but have value in and of themselves and give glory to God
It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. 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. (33)
10) Care for creation must stand together with care for the poor
This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, 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. (49)
11) Overpopulation is not the problem
Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. […] To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. (50)
12) Avoid extremes of thinking technology will solve everything or that humans themselves are the problem
At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited. (60)
13) The Church doesn’t mean to stifle honest scientific debate
On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. (61)
Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good. (188)
14) Science isn’t enough, we must also factor in the Gospel
Why should this document, addressed to all people of good will, include a chapter dealing with the convictions of believers? I am well aware that in the areas of politics and philosophy there are those who firmly reject the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, and consequently dismiss as irrational the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity. Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Nonetheless, science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both. […]
If we are truly concerned to develop an ecology capable of remedying the damage we have done, no branch of the sciences and no form of wisdom can be left out, and that includes religion and the language particular to it. The Catholic Church is open to dialogue with philosophical thought; this has enabled her to produce various syntheses between faith and reason. The development of the Church’s social teaching represents such a synthesis with regard to social issues; this teaching is called to be enriched by taking up new challenges. (62-63)
15) “Creation” has a broader meaning than “nature”
In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the word “creation” has a broader meaning than “nature”, for it has to do with God’s loving plan in which every creature has its own value and significance. Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of the Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by the love which calls us together into universal communion. (76)
16) Human beings cannot be fully explained by evolution
Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. (81)
17) No creature is superfluous, all of creation speaks of God’s love
Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God. (84)
18) Technological progress is not identical with human progress
There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. […] Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness. […]
Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur. (113-114)
19) Concern for nature is incompatible with abortion and human experimentation
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? […]
[I]t is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. (120, 136)
20) We must acknowledge and respect the differences between men and women
Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”. (155)
21) Care for the environment is a matter of intergenerational justice
The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity.
Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. (159)
22) The richest countries should shoulder the main burden of caring for the environment
Some strategies for lowering pollutant gas emissions call for the internationalization of environmental costs, which would risk imposing on countries with fewer resources burdensome commitments to reducing emissions comparable to those of the more industrialized countries. Imposing such measures penalizes those countries most in need of development.
A further injustice is perpetrated under the guise of protecting the environment. Here also, the poor end up paying the price. Furthermore, since the effects of climate change will be felt for a long time to come, even if stringent measures are taken now, some countries with scarce resources will require assistance in adapting to the effects already being produced, which affect their economies. In this context, there is a need for common and differentiated responsibilities. (170)
23) Market forces alone won’t protect the environment
Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.
Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor. (190)
24) When it comes to progress, sometimes less is more
Whenever these questions are raised, some react by accusing others of irrationally attempting to stand in the way of progress and human development. But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development. Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term. […] We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity. […]
Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress. (191, 193, 194)
25) Christians need an ecological conversion
It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. (217)
26) Discover God in all things
The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. Saint Bonaventure teaches us that “contemplation deepens the more we feel the working of God’s grace within our hearts, and the better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves”. (223)
Pope Francis' Encyclical on Ecology (18th June 2015)
To know more about it click on eco jesuit.
Water security discussion during the Global Earth Summit IV in Kolkata, India
Mantaro River in La Oroya, Peru. Photo credit: eliseosebastian.ning.com
Xavier Jeyaraj, SJ
Water security is an essential element of human and environmental security and extractive industries that continue to contaminate water, land, and air threaten the public health, especially that of local communities and the environment.
In a presentation on extractive industries and water conflict at the Saint Xavier’s Global Earth Summit IV-International Conference on Global Climate Change and Water Disasters in Kolkata, India last month, Dr Fernando Serrano took the example of his research in La Oroya, Peru and stressed the importance of building partnership between local communities, faith organizations and universities in education and advocacy for water security.
The current globalization process is increasing the demand for minerals and the expansion of exploration and exploitation of mineral resources to all corners of the world. This is resulting in the degradation of natural resources especially water, and public health as well.
Dr Serrano is assistant professor of environmental and public health at the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University in the US and is also a core group member of theGlobal Ignatian Advocacy Network-Governance of Natural and Mineral Resources (GIAN-GNMR).
He also highlighted how the scientific research study helped the local communities to fight for their rights and demand for change in policy and programs for accessing safe water and protect the health of everyone and the environment. He previously wrote on this topic for Ecojesuit.
Fernando Serrano, Xavier Jeyaraj, Pedro Walpole, and Tony Herbert take a break during the conference.
Other major speakers during the conference included Dr Pedro Walpole SJ from Philippines, Dr Atiq Rehman, climate research scientist from Bangladesh, Dr Francoise Orban-Ferauge, geographer from Belgium, Dr Sugata Hazra, coastal management scientist from Kolkata, Dr Xavier Savarimuthu SJ, environmental scientist from Kolkata, and Dr Rajendra Singh from Rajastan, India and best known as the Water Man of India and who shared his deep insight about the struggle for and the democratization of water. Dr Singh was named the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate last 20 March in Stockholm, Sweden for his innovative water restoration efforts and improvement of water security in rural India.
GIAN-Ecology South Asia, the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat) in Rome, and Saint Xavier’s College, Kolkatawere the joint organizers of the three-day international conference and drew around 45 Jesuits from all over India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Students, professors, and alumni of Saint Xavier’s College-Kolkata also participated in the summit and reflected on the theme of global climate change and water disasters. Field visits to the wetland development in Eastern Kolkata, the Sundarbans-Biosphere reserve, and areas affected by the 2004 tsunami and Cyclone Aila in May 2009 were also undertaken.
Networks for a more just and sustainable planet
Some people may wonder why the Jesuits and our collaborators work through NGOs and other civil society organizations. The answer can be found in our belief that the future of our planet and of society in general depends on establishing and nurturing strong alliances that go far beyond our work through traditional, more isolated organizations.
Jorge Serrano, Director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations at Fundación Entreculturas shares his insights as to why we need stronger networks and political coalitions to more effectively fight against poverty and inequality.
History may well be seen as a succession of excesses of power whose liberation always demanded a tough battle of ideas.
We should wonder now who owns an excess of power today. There is no doubt that banks and financial institutions hold an excess of power that is very difficult to compete with. Today, power is not in papal bulls, or the crown, or guild privileges, or the means of production. Today, power lies in money more than ever before.
And if money is power, economic inequality is a dictatorship. So if we really want a democracy, we must fight against economic inequality or reduce the power of money or perhaps both at the same time.
How is it possible that the idea of inequality that is obviously against the natural idea of brotherhood won the battle of ideas?
During the last three centuries, inequality has been justified as follows: "The rich, by their natural selfishness and rapacity, only following their vain and insatiable desires, employ thousands of people, dividing with the poor (through their salaries) the fruit of work. Thus the rich are led by an invisible hand to advance the interests of society". These words of Adam Smith (1759), the father of liberal economics, though perhaps judging the rich too harshly; perfectly describe how the system works: immoral greed is the economic engine that finally benefits society as a whole. All the state has to do is prevent that greed does not lead to agreements between employers to reduce wages and raise prices, which would go against the general interests of society. The problem is that using greed as an economic engine has its risks. It is as dangerous as trying to use a dragon as a means of transport.
NGOs are organizations that work to create fairer structures. They are, therefore, political organizations.
Certainly it was the ambition to possess and consume that helped the industrial revolution to take place with its constant technological improvements, resulting in amazing increases in the productivity of our work. The fruits are undeniable. If we measure extreme poverty with current standards we can say that we have moved from a situation in 1700 in which the whole world's population lived in extreme poverty to a situation today in which "only" one sixth of humanity lives in extreme poverty. Another example of the undeniable progress of the industrial revolution has been the dramatic increase in life expectancy for a large portion of the world population going from 35 years in 1700 to almost 80 years now (in some countries like Sierra Leone life expectancy remains at the same levels as in 1700).
Leaving aside the obvious immorality and injustice inherent to any greedy attitude, we must acknowledge the audacity of Adam Smith and admit that during these three centuries the system has not only generated exorbitant material benefits for the rich but has also led to significant benefits for society as a whole.
But is it possible to indefinitely sustain this growth? Mathematics denies it. A tiny economic growth of 1% a year would lead to a world´s average income per capita as big as 1.000.000.000 euro per year which would require a few hundred planets. Therefore it is obvious that economic growth cannot be sustained forever and that at some point growth will stagnate.
At this time, the content of the new development agenda that should replace the Millennium Development Goals is being discussed among the governments of all countries around the world. How can we influence this new global agenda to fight effectively against poverty and inequality?
It can be argued that the political power of citizens is not yet globalized as only our votes can influence at national and local level, but this is not quite accurate. The political power of citizens is not only their vote. Citizens exercise their political power through many other ways. A key way is through civil society organizations. We have the advantage of having a civil society that is increasingly global and coordinated through a huge tangle of local, national, regional and global networks.
NGOs are not systems to send money to excluded and impoverished people. NGOs are much more than that. NGOs are organizations that work to create fairer structures. They are, therefore, political organizations. And as political organizations, they should be equipped with a variety of opportunities for political participation for their citizens. This is the way forward. A huge coalition of environmental, social and human rights civil society organizations that channel the political participation of citizens all around the world to push for a logic of distribution in a world that has stopped growing. Because in a world where the size of the cake has stopped growing due to environmental limits, fighting inequality is the same as fighting poverty.
The full version of this post can be found here.
Jorge Serrano is the Director of Advocacy and Institutional Relations at Fundación Entreculturas in Madrid, Spain.
We must not waste this opportunity: A plea for networking help
We have an extremely rare opportunity to encourage and help Jesuit and Catholic Higher Education globally respond to Pope Francis’s upcoming encyclical with a timely commitment to address climate change, ecological destruction, and poverty in their educational programming, institutional structures, policies and practices, and political and social involvements in the months and years ahead.
Achieving that will require a great deal of international networking. I’m turning to Jesuit Networking to ask your help.
I will describe the opportunity I see in this posting and then lay out some of the questions and activities requiring globally networked collaboration to help the institutions involved seize the opportunity. That’s where I am hoping we can work together.
By the best information I can get, Pope Francis will issue his encyclical on integral human ecology at the end of June this year, probably on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29th. It will surely be a strong call to all of us individuals, networks and institutions for global action inspired by our faith values.
Within days of that release, there will be 4 consecutive meetings of Catholic Higher Education leaders in Melbourne, Australia at the Australian Catholic University:
- July 6-7 General Assembly of the Association of Universities Entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin America [AUSJAL]
- July 7-10 “Expanding the Jesuit Higher Education Network: Collaborations for Social Justice.” Presidents of Jesuit Higher Education institutions and the Directors of other Jesuit institutions from around the world.
- July 11-12 “Presidents’ Roundtable” as part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Australian Catholic University featuring themed discussions of international models of collaboration in curricula and research, networking opportunities with Australian and international universities, and opportunities for presentation of international mission related initiatives.
- July 13-17 25th General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities [IFCU]
Other notes of interest suggesting the extraordinary potential for this unusual set of gatherings:
- The host of the July 7-10th meeting is Rev. Michael Garanzini, SJ, Secretary for Higher Education for the Society of Jesus, is also the keynote speaker for the July 13-17th IFCU meeting.
- Garanzini’s cohost is Patxi Alvarez, Secretary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat for the Society of Jesus.
- The July 7-10th meeting will feature an address by Fr. General Nicolás entitled “Social Justice and the Jesuit University” and have several workshops on ecology and justice.
- The General Secretary of the IFCU is also a Jesuit, Fr. Pedro Rubens Ferreira Oliveira.
This unique convergence of meetings, people, circumstances, and planetary crises makes possible a rare if not unique international commitment of Catholic Higher Education to respond forcefully and globally to take up these challenges precisely as institutions of higher education, leaders in global education. [St. Ignacio Ellacuría, inspire and guide us!]
But that commitment won’t happen unless advance preparations and networking spread awareness of the opportunity and suggest possible materials or means for seizing it.
How can we contribute to that? I will post another blog in a couple days trying to address that question. In the meantime, please think it through yourself. Who are the people we need to inform of this opportunity? How can we do that? What materials might they need? What kind of commitment[s] would we like to see or suggest?
For another, somewhat longer description of the opportunity described here, you can find other blog pieces at http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/australia-july-could-be-scene-jesuit-led-climate-action and at http://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2015/05/01/climate-change-jesuit-higher-education-reportback-from-loyola-chicago-7-final/.