Full English Translation of Pope Francis' Climate and Environmental Encyclical, 'Laudato Si': Chapter Four

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 18 Jun 2015 04:02:00 GMT

The leaked draft of “Laudato Si’”, Pope Francis’ widely anticipated encyclical on the crisis of climate change and other global environmental concerns, contains 146 numbered paragraphs contained within a preface and six chapters. The translation below from the original Italian is very rough, a Google translation amended by Brad Johnson.


Table of Contents


137. Since everything is intimately related and since the current problems require a look that takes into account all aspects of the global crisis, I propose to pause now to reflect on the different elements of an integral ecology, that clearly comprises human and social dimensions.

I. Environmental, economic and social ecology

138. Ecology studies the relationships between living organisms and the environment in which they develop. It also demands stopping and thinking and discussing the conditions of life and survival of a society, with honesty to question patterns of development, production and consumption. It is not superfluous to insist further on the fact that everything is connected. Time and space are not independent of each other, nor can atoms or subatomic particles be considered separately. How the different components of the planet – physical, chemical and biological – are related to each other, so also living species form a network that we will never complete recognizing and understanding. Much of our genetic information is shared with many living things. For this reason, fragmented and isolated knowledge can become a form of ignorance if one resists integrating it into a broader vision of reality.

139. When we speak of the “environment” we also refer to a particular relationship: that between nature and the society that inhabits it. This prevents us from considering nature as something separate from us or as a mere frame of our lives. We are included in it, we are part of it and we are imbued with it. The reasons for which a site is polluted require an analysis of the functioning of society, its economy, its behavior, its ways of understanding reality. Given the magnitude of the changes, you can not find a specific answer and independently for each individual part of the problem. It is essential to look for comprehensive solutions, which consider the interaction of natural systems with each other and with social systems. There are not two separate crises, an environmental and social one, but a single and complex socio-environmental crisis. The guidelines for the solution require a comprehensive approach to fight poverty, to restore dignity to the excluded and at the same time to take care of nature.

140. Because of the amount and variety of elements to be taken into account when determining the environmental impact of a concrete business activity it becomes imperative to give researchers a prominent role and facilitate their interaction with broad academic freedom. This ongoing research should help to recognize how different creatures are related, forming the larger units we now call “ecosystems”. We do not take them into account only in determining what their reasonable use, but because they have an intrinsic value independent of such use. As every body is good and admirable in itself for being a creature of God, the same happens with the harmonized set of organisms in a given space, which functions as a system. Even if we do not have awareness, we depend on this system for our very existence. Take the ecosystems involved in the sequestration of carbon dioxide, in water purification, in managing diseases and pests, the composition of the soil, in the decomposition of waste and many other services that we forget or ignore. When you realize this, many people take renewed awareness of the fact that we live and act from a reality that has been previously given, that is prior to our abilities and our existence. Therefore, when we speak of “sustainable use” we must always introduce a consideration of the regenerative capacity of each ecosystem in its various sectors and aspects.

141. On the other hand, economic growth tends to produce automatisms and to homogenize, in order to simplify processes and reduce costs. This requires economic ecology, capable of inducing to consider the reality in a broader way. Indeed, “environmental protection must be an integral part of the development process and can not be considered in isolation.” [114 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (14 June 1992), Principle 4.] But at the same time become the current urgent need of humanism, which appeals to different types of knowledge, even economically, for a more complete and integral. Today the analysis of environmental problems is inseparable from the analysis of individual, family, labor, urban contexts and the relationship of each person with himself, that creates a certain way of relating with others and with the environment. There is an interaction between ecosystems and between different worlds of social reference, and so it proves once again that “the whole is greater than the part.” [115 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 237: AAS 105 (2013), 1116]

142. If everything is related, even the health of the institutions of a society has consequences for the environment and for the quality of human life: “Every violation of solidarity and civic friendship harms the environment.” [116 Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 51: AAS 101 (2009), 687.] In this sense, social ecology is necessarily institutional and reaches progressively diverse sizes ranging from primary social group, the family, to the international life, going from the local community and the nation. Within each social level and between them, they develop the institutions that regulate human relationships. Anything that damages them has harmful effects, such as loss of freedom, injustice and violence. Several countries are governed by a precarious institutional system, at the cost of the suffering of the people and for the benefit of those who profit from this state of affairs. Both within the administration of the State, as in the different expressions of civil society, or in the relations of the inhabitants among them, there are too frequently illegal behavior. Laws can be written in the correct form, but often remain as a dead letter. Can we therefore hope that the legislation and regulations related to the environment are really effective? We know, for example, that countries with clear legislation for the protection of forests, continue to remain silent witnesses of its frequent violation. Also, what happens in one region, directly or indirectly, influence on other regions. So for example, the consumption of drugs in affluent societies causes a constant or increasing demand for products that come from impoverished regions, where it corrupts behavior, destroys lives and ends up degrading the environment.

II. Cultural ecology

143. Along with the natural heritage, there is a historical, artistic and cultural heritage, equally threatened. It is part of the common identity of a place and the basis for building a livable city. Do not destroy and create new, hypothetically greener cities, where it is not always desirable to live. We must integrate the history, culture and architecture of a given place, safeguarding its original identity. So ecology also requires care of the cultural riches of humanity in their broadest sense. More directly, one should pay attention to local cultures when analyzing issues related to the environment, facilitating the dialogue between scientific-technical jargon and popular language. It is culture, not only understood as the monuments of the past, but especially in its alive, dynamic and participatory sense which can not be excluded when one rethinks the relationship between human beings and the environment.

144. The consumerist view of the human being, favored by the gears of the current globalized economy, tends to homogenize cultures and weaken the immense cultural diversity, which is a treasure of humanity. Therefore, to expect to solve all the problems with uniform standards or technical interventions, is to lead to neglecting the complexity of local issues, which require the active participation of the inhabitants. New jobs in gestation cannot always be integrated within established patterns from the outside but from within the same culture. As well as life and the world are dynamic, the care of the world must be flexible and dynamic. Purely technical solutions run the risk of addressing symptoms that do not correspond to the deeper problems. You need to take the perspective of the rights of peoples and cultures, and thus understand that the development of a social group supposes a historical process within a cultural context and requires constant eagerness of local social actors from their own culture. Even the notion of quality of life can be imposed, but must be understood in the world of symbols and customs belonging to each human group.

145. Many forms of intensive exploitation and environmental degradation can deplete not only local livelihoods, but also the social resources that enabled a way of life that has long claimed a cultural identity and a sense of existence and of living together. The disappearance of a culture can be as serious as or more than the death of an animal or plant species. The imposition of a hegemonic style of life tied to a mode of production can be as harmful as the alteration of ecosystems.

146. In this sense, it is essential to pay special attention to Aboriginal communities with their cultural traditions. They are not a simple minority among others, but rather should be the main stakeholders, especially when we proceed with major projects that affect their areas. For them, in fact, the earth is not a commodity but a gift from God and ancestors who rest in it, a sacred space in which they need to interact to fuel their identity and their values. They who remain in their territories, are the ones that best care for them. However, in various parts of the world they are under pressure to abandon their lands and leave open for mining, agricultural or farming projects that do not pay attention to the degradation of nature and culture.

III. Ecology of everyday life

147. In order to speak of authentic development, it needs to be checked that it produces an improvement in the integral quality of human life, and this involves analyzing the space in which it takes place the existence of the people. The environments in which we live affect our outlook on life, our way of feeling and being. At the same time, in our room, in our home, in our workplace and in our neighborhood we use the environment to express our identity. We strive to adapt to the environment, and when it is messy, chaotic and full of visual pollution and noise, excessive stimuli challenge our attempts to develop an integrated and happy identity.

148. It is admirable, the creativity and generosity of people and groups who are able to overturn the limits of the environment, changing the adverse effects of conditioning, and learning to orient their lives in the midst of disorder and insecurity. For example, in some places, where the facades of the buildings are very deteriorated, there are people who treat with dignity the inside of their homes, or feel comfortable in the warmth and friendship of the people. The positive and beneficial social life of inhabitants spreads light in a room that is at first glance uninhabitable. The human ecology that the poor sometimes can develop in the midst of so many limitations is praiseworthy. The feeling of suffocation produced by conurbations and residential spaces with high population density, is counteracted if you develop human relations of closeness and warmth, if you create communities, if environmental constraints are offset in the interior of each person who feels included in a network of community and belonging. Thus, any such place stops being hell and becomes the setting of a dignified life.

149. It is also proved that the extreme scarcity in which one lives in certain environments without harmony, breadth and possibilities for integration, facilitates the emergence of inhuman behavior and the manipulation of people by criminal organizations. For the inhabitants of very precarious suburbs, the daily experience of pasing through crowds in social anonymity that one lives in large cities, can cause a feeling of rootlessness that promotes anti-social behavior and violence. However I would like to reiterate that love is stronger. So many people, in these conditions, they are able to establish bonds of belonging and living together that transform the crowding in a community experience where you break the walls of the ego and overcome barriers of selfishness. This experience of communitarian salvation is what often elicits creative reactions to improve a building or a neighborhood. [117 Some authors have shown the values that often exist, for example, in villas, chabolas or favelas of Latin America: Juan Carlos cf. Scannone, SJ, “The irrupción pobre y of the logic of the Gratitud” en Juan Carlos Scannone y Marcelo Perine (edd.), Irrupción del pobre y quehacer philosophical. Hacia una nueva racionalidad, Buenos Aires 1993, 225-230.]

150. Given the interrelationship between urban spaces and human behavior, those who design buildings, neighborhoods, public spaces and cities, need the contribution of different disciplines that make it possible to understand the processes, the symbolism and the behavior of people. Not just the pursuit of beauty in the project, because it has even more value serving another kind of beauty: the quality of life of people, their harmony with the environment, the encounter and mutual aid. This is also why it is so important that the views of local people contribute more to the analysis of urban planning.

151. It is necessary to look after the public spaces, the paintings and prospective urban landmarks that enhance our sense belonging, the feeling of our roots, our “feeling at home” in the city that contains us and unites us. It is important that the different parts of a city are well integrated and that the people can have an overall view rather than retreat into a neighborhood, giving up living in the whole city as its own space shared with others. Any intervention in urban or rural landscape should consider how the different elements of the site form a whole that is perceived by the people as a framework consistent with its wealth of meanings. Thus others cease to be strangers and they can be perceived as part of a “we” that we build together. For this same reason, both in the urban and in the rural setting, we should preserve some spaces in which we avoid human intervention that will continuously modify them.

152. The housing shortage is severe in many parts of the world, both in rural areas and in big cities, because state budgets typically cover only a small part of the demand. Not only the poor, but a large part of society encounters serious difficulties in having a home. Home ownership has great importance for the dignity of persons and for the development of families. This is a central question of human ecology. If in a particular place chaotic shanty towns have already developed, it is of primary concern to urbanize these areas, not to eradicate and expel its inhabitants. When poor people live in polluted suburbs or dangerous conurbations, “if we should proceed to the transfer and not to heap suffering upon suffering, you must provide an adequate and having informed, offer choices of decent housing and the people directly involved”. [118 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 482.] At the same time, creativity should lead to integrating disadvantaged neighborhoods within a welcoming city. “How beautiful are the cities that exceed unhealthy mistrust and integrate the different and that make this integration a new factor in the development! How beautiful the city, also in its architectural design, is full of spaces that connect, relate, promote the recognition of the other.” [119 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 210: AAS 105 (2013), 1107.]

153. The quality of life in cities is due in large part to transport, which are often the cause of great suffering for the people. Many cars circulating in the city are used by one or two people, so the traffic gets heavy, raising the level of pollution, consuming huge amounts of non-renewable energy, and it becomes necessary to build more roads and parking lots, which damage the urban fabric. Many experts agree on the need to give priority to public transport. However some necessary measures are unlikely to be accepted peacefully by society without a substantial improvement of these operations, which in many cities involves an unworthy treatment of the people because of crowding, the inconvenience or low frequency and insecurity of services.

154. The recognition of the unique dignity of the human being often contrasts with the chaotic life that people in our cities must lead . But this should not make us forget the state of abandonment and neglect that some residents of rural areas also suffer from, where there’s no essential services, and workers are reduced to slavery, with no rights or expectations of a more dignified life.

155. Human ecology also implies something very profound: the necessary relationship of human life with the moral law inscribed in its own nature, an essential relationship for creating a more dignified environment. Benedict XVI affirmed that there is a “ecology of man” because “the man has a nature that he must respect and that he can not manipulate at will.” [120 Address to the Deutscher Bundestag, Berlin (September 22, 2011): AAS 103 (2011), 668.] In this line, we must recognize that our body puts us in a direct relationship with the environment and with other living beings. The acceptance of one’s body as a gift of God is necessary to accommodate and accept the world as a gift of the Father and common home; instead a logic of domination over his own body it becomes a logic of sometimes subtle dominion over creation. Learning to accept your body, to care and to respect its messages is essential for a true human ecology. Also appreciating your own body in its masculinity or femininity is necessary to being able to recognize oneself in the encounter with the other than itself. In this way you can accept with joy the specific gift of one or the other, the work of God the Creator, and enrich each other. Therefore, it is not a healthy attitude that claims to “delete the sexual difference because he can not deal with it.” [121 Catechesis (15 April 2015): L’Osservatore Romano, April 16, 2015, p. 8.]

IV. The principle of the common good

156. Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a principle that is central and unifying to social ethics. It is “the sum total of social conditions which allow both groups as well as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”. [122 Conc. Vatican Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Past. Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World, 26.]

157. The common good presupposes respect for the human person as such, with fundamental and inalienable rights ordered for his overall development. It also requires the devices of welfare and social security and the development of various intermediary groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Among them stands out especially the family as the basic unit of society. Finally, the common good requires the social peace, namely the stability and security of a certain order, which can not be achieved without special attention to distributive justice, the violation of which always generates violence. The whole society – and in it especially the state – has an obligation to defend and promote the common good.

158. In the present conditions of the world society, where you encounter many inequities and are an increasing number of people who are rejected, deprived of basic human rights, the principle of the common good is immediately transformed, as a logical and inevitable consequence, into an appeal to solidarity and a preferential option for the poor. This option requires you to draw the consequences of the common destination of earthly goods, but, as I tried to show in the Apostolic Evangelii Gaudium, [123 Cf. nn. 186-201: AAS 105 (2013), 1098-1105. ] requires you to contemplate above all the immense dignity of the poor in the light of the most profound convictions of faith. Just look at the reality to understand that today this choice is a fundamental ethical need for the effective realization of the common good.

V. Intergenerational justice

159. The notion of common good also involves future generations. The international economic crisis crudely showed harmful effects that carry with them the denial of a common destiny, which can not be excluded from those who come after us. Now we can not talk about sustainable development without solidarity between generations. When we think of the situation when you leave the planet for future generations, we enter into another logic, that of the free gift we receive and pass on. If the land is given to us, we can no longer think only from a utilitarian criterion of efficiency and productivity for individual profit. We’re not talking about an optional attitude, but a fundamental question of justice, since the earth we have received also belongs to those who come. The Bishops of Portugal urged to take on this duty of justice: “The environment is located in the logic of receiving. It is a loan that each generation has to receive and transmit to the next generation. “[124 Portuguese Episcopal Conference, Pastoral Letter Responsabilidade Solidária hair bem comum (15 September 2003), 20.] An integral ecology has such a broad view.

160. What kind of world we want to pass on to those who come after us, to children who are growing up? This question is not just about the environment in isolation, because you can not put the issue in a partial way. When we ask ourselves about the world we want to leave we are referring mainly to its general orientation, its sense, its values. If this basic question does not pulsate in them, I do not think that our ecological concerns can obtain important results. But if this question is asked with courage, it leads us inexorably to other very direct questions: For what purpose do we pass from this world? To which end we have come in this life? For what purpose do we work and struggle? Why does this earth need us? Therefore, it is no longer enough to say that we have to worry about future generations. It should be realized that what is at stake is the dignity of ourselves. We are the first interested parties to transmit a habitable planet for humanity to come after us. It is a drama for ourselves, because it calls into question the meaning of our passage on earth.

161. Catastrophic predictions now can no longer be looked at with contempt and irony. We could leave the next generations too many ruins, deserts and foulness. The rate of consumption, of waste, and environmental changes has exceeded the means of the planet, so that the current lifestyle, being unsustainable, may result only in disaster, as in fact is already happening periodically in different regions. The attenuation of the effects of the current imbalance depends on what we do now, especially if we think about the responsibility that we ascribe those who will have to bear the worst consequences.

162. The difficulty in taking the challenge seriously is related to an ethical and cultural deterioration accompanying the ecological one. Man and woman of the postmodern world are in danger of becoming permanently, deeply individualistic, and many current social problems are considered in conjunction with the selfish pursuit of immediate gratification, with the crisis of the family and social ties, with difficulty recognizing the other. Many times we are faced with excessive consumption and myopic parents hurting children, who find it increasingly difficult to buy a home and start a family. Moreover, this inability to think seriously about future generations is linked to our inability to broaden the horizon of our concerns and think about how many remain excluded from development. And as we imagine the poor of the future, just remember that the poor of today, who have a few years to live on this earth and can not keep waiting. Therefore, “in addition to fair intergenerational solidarity, we must reiterate the urgent moral need for renewed solidarity between generations.” [125 Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, 8: AAS 102 (2010), 45.]