Pope Francis has written the first papal encyclical to be focused solely on the environment. The Pope has just elevated the global warming peril as the transcendent moral issue of our time. His 184 page urgent call to action has reframed protection of the earth’s ecosystems as a moral and spiritual concern, and not just a matter for politics, science, and economics.
Even before the ecological justice encyclical was officially published, climate change skeptics were already all over leaked excerpts, desperately trying to pick loopholes. But the Pope has a science degree – a Chemistry Masters - and was born in Argentina in the 1930s so can speak on behalf of the Global South.
By invoking Pope Saint John XXIII’s “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”), one of the most famous encyclicals ever issued to the world at a time of nuclear brinkmanship and nuclear war threats, the current Pope Francis is making it clear he wants his document to be a historic watershed. He has stood up amid the hypocrisy and apathy of climate change scapegoating and published the unutterable. Good on him.
Pope Francis alludes to cyclical economics, share economies, improved resource-efficiency, and embracing renewable energies at meaningful, and carbon-reducing, scale. “We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.”
Stood up on the pope soapbox over the Vatican he has boldly cried out this Inconvenient Truth. Today's pope is dope, giving humanity hope.
Using Churchillian language, the Pope’s encyclical statement cries: “The catastrophic predictions now can no longer be looked on with contempt and irony. We can leave to future generations too many ruins, deserts and filth.”
Francis — who took his name from Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology — is the first Latin American pope and the first from the “global south”, where concern over climate change is much more urgently felt than in Europe and the United States. While Francis’s emphasis on internal church reforms in the wake of sex abuse and financial scandals, as well as his overriding focus on the poor, has already marked his papacy as historic, the choice of ecology and justice for his first encyclical is the first major step toward shifting the church’s balance of power toward the developing world.