It Could Be Worse: Thoughts on Obama's Clean Power Plan

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 08 Sep 2015 18:47:00 GMT

KatrinaOriginally published at The Jacobin.

At the beginning of August, President Obama unveiled with great fanfare the “Clean Power Plan,” a “Landmark Action to Protect Public Health, Reduce Energy Bills for Households and Businesses, Create American Jobs, and Bring Clean Power to Communities across the Country.”

Stripping away the poll-tested language, the president was announcing — after epic delaysEPA regulations for carbon-dioxide pollution from existing power plants, finally fulfilling a 2000 George W. Bush campaign pledge. The proposed rule’s compliance period will begin in 2022.

From a policy perspective, the proposed rule is a perfect distillation of the Obama administration’s approach to governance: politically rational incrementalism that reinforces the existing power structures and is grossly insufficient given the scope of the problem.

The information necessary to understand the rule is impressively buried on the EPA website amid “fact sheets” that list out-of-context factoids and fail to cite references from the one-hundred-plus-page technical documents or ZIP files of modeling runs. The structure of the plan is complex (for example, states can choose to comply with “rate-based” pollution-intensity targets or “mass-based” total-pollution targets) and carefully designed to satisfy a wide range of stakeholders.

With sufficient inspection, the plan’s impact on climate pollution — its entire purpose — emerges: the rule locks in the rate of coal-plant retirement that has been ongoing since 2008, and that’s about it.

Under both the rate-based and mass-based approaches, the projected rate of change in coal-fired generation is consistent with recent historical declines in coal-fired generation. Additionally, under both of these approaches, the trends for all other types will remain consistent with what their trends would be in the absence of this rule.

Now, that’s a pretty good accomplishment in political terms. The administration is seizing on the ascendant power of the natural-gas industry to codify an existing economic trend at the expense of the presently weak coal industry. Coal-plant pollution has been protected from air-pollution regulation for generations; some of the plants in operation today were built during the Great Depression. These plants — immensely profitable for their owners — are not only climate killers, but destroyers of the lives of anyone who lives downwind of their poisonous effluvia. These rules were crafted in the face of the sociopathic opposition of the Republican Party to any climate policy, let alone one administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

From the perspective of actual reality, however, the proposed rule is so weak as to be potentially destructive. It is built around the premise that the United States will extend its commitment to fracked gas for decades to come, even as the climate targets Obama personally signed onto can only be met if the dismantling of all fossil-fuel infrastructure begins immediately.

The rule’s expectations for renewables are clear evidence of the political power of the fossil-fuel industry trumping that of clean power. Since 2009, US wind generation has tripled and solar generation has grown twentyfold. Yet the EPA expects much slower renewable electricity growth in the next fifteen years. This assumption is why the rule will deliver de minimis cuts to greenhouse pollution from the electric power sector—unless states implementing the rule voluntarily adopt stronger goals.

More than anything else, the Clean Power Plan is a triumph of messaging discipline. The Obama administration has learned some lessons from the political debacle that accompanied the death of the Waxman-Markey climate bill in the Senate. Although there was significant money put into a grassroots mobilization for climate legislation, that mobilization failed spectacularly.

The organization 1Sky — which was formed in 2007 with the sole purpose of building grassroots support for climate legislation — had support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, NRDC, Friends of the Earth, and others. But its efforts came to naught. (1Sky was absorbed by in 2011.)

The White House discouraged grassroots mobilization, and instead focused their attention on the inside game, the elite stakeholders in Washington DC. The insider strategy relied on the chimera of gaining Republican votes for transformative climate policy. As a result, climate policy elites and grassroots activists spent years in conflict, while opposition was effectively organized under the Tea Party banner. By the middle of 2009, both public and elite support for climate legislation had collapsed.

This political collapse should have come as no surprise, in particular to Obama, who won the White House using a campaign strategy built from the lessons of leftist community organizers, most notably campaign advisor Marshall Ganz. However, even before he took the oath of office, Obama abandoned the grassroots-mobilization infrastructure in favor of a fully centralized approach.

The administration’s approach was actually in part an attempt not to repeat the failures of the Clinton-Gore approach to climate. Their policy attempts — a “BTU” energy tax proposed in 1993 and the Kyoto Protocol global treaty Gore negotiated in 1997 — ran up against congressional opposition. So the Obama White House, populated by many of the veterans of the Clinton years, deliberately took their hands off the tiller and let their allies in Congress, namely Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California and Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, take the lead.

So climate policy failed yet again, in a different manner. It’s almost as if the real problem wasn’t how various policies were presented to Congress, but instead the political composition of Congress itself.

This time they have deliberately coordinated with grassroots environmental groups, including environmental justice organizations, to sell the EPA rule. The mainline environmental groups, at the behest of the administration and funded by Democratic-aligned grants, burned the midnight oil to get their members to submit eight million comments in support of the rule, an accomplishment almost unparalleled in terms of the amount of effort expended to achieve minimal political influence.

The environmental justice community — a diverse and fractious network of predominantly local, non-white environmental organizations — took a different approach in response to elite outreach. They accepted grants to engage on the Clean Power Plan, but used their seat at the table to advocate forcefully against the previous draft of the rule.

Because Obama’s first EPA administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, had previously established mechanisms to consider environmental justice in the rule-making process, the activists’ concerns about this rule were at least partly addressed.

But it’s not nearly enough. Dismantling the global fossil-fuel economy is a civilization-scale fight. Fossil-fuel industrialists have every incentive to resist democratic control to prevent their economic extinction. And that extinction is what climate policy needs to bring about, not forestall — global warming won’t stop until we stop burning fossil fuels. The Obama years have been spent in skirmishes and accommodations that have served mainly to delay the inevitable, seismic conflict between extractive capitalism and democratic society.

The modest accomplishments for climate and environmental justice in the Clean Power Plan will have little meaning unless they turn out to be the first salvos in a relentless assault on the carbon economy. In 2008, Obama envisioned that he would oversee from the White House “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

That moment has not yet come.

In Melting Alaska, President Obama Sounds Alarm on the 'Limitless Dumping of Carbon Pollution'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 01 Sep 2015 15:02:00 GMT

Obama at GLACIER ConferenceSpeaking in Alaska at a conference on the Arctic, President Barack Obama spoke with force about the urgency of addressing climate change, acknowledging the failings of his own administration’s efforts. His speech, a far-reaching address on national and international climate policy, was given at the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Anchorage before various foreign ministers grappling with the geopolitical implications of an Arctic region on “the leading edge of climate change.”

In a marked departure from previous years of silence on the link between fossil-fuel use and climate disasters on American soil, Obama tied the deaths of and catastrophic injuries to the National Forest Service firefighters tackling the Twisp fire in Washington state to global warming caused by “unlimited dumping of carbon pollution.”

“It’s not enough just to talk the talk,” Obama concluded. “We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.”

Obama’s speech came days after approving oil giant Shell’s application to commence exploration for oil in the melting Arctic Ocean.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. Thank you. It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Alaska.

I want to thank Secretary Kerry and members of my administration for your work here today. Thank you to the many Alaskans, Alaska Natives and other indigenous peoples of the Arctic who’ve traveled a long way, in many cases, to share your insights and your experiences. And to all the foreign ministers and delegations who’ve come here from around the world – welcome to the United States, and thank you all for attending this GLACIER Conference.

The actual name of the conference is much longer. It’s a mouthful, but the acronym works because it underscores the incredible changes that are taking place here in the Arctic that impact not just the nations that surround the Arctic, but have an impact for the entire world, as well.

I want to thank the people of Alaska for hosting this conference. I look forward to visiting more of Alaska over the next couple of days. The United States is, of course, an Arctic nation. And even if this isn’t an official gathering of the Arctic Council, the United States is proud to chair the Arctic Council for the next two years. And to all the foreign dignitaries who are here, I want to be very clear – we are eager to work with your nations on the unique opportunities that the Arctic presents and the unique challenges that it faces. We are not going to – any of us – be able to solve these challenges by ourselves. We can only solve them together.

Of course, we’re here today to discuss a challenge that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other – and that’s the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Our understanding of climate change advances each day. Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought. The science is stark. It is sharpening. It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.

In fact, the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change – our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces. Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average. Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States. Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record – just as it was for the rest of the world. And the impacts here are very real.

Thawing permafrost destabilizes the earth on which 100,000 Alaskans live, threatening homes, damaging transportation and energy infrastructure, which could cost billions of dollars to fix.

Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism. Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges. Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely. In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.

I recall what one Alaska Native told me at the White House a few years ago. He said, “Many of our villages are ready to slide off into the waters of Alaska, and in some cases, there will be absolutely no hope -– we will need to move many villages.”

Alaska’s fire season is now more than a month longer than it was in 1950. At one point this summer, more than 300 wildfires were burning at once. Southeast of here, in our Pacific Northwest, even the rainforest is on fire. More than 5 million acres in Alaska have already been scorched by fire this year – that’s an area about the size of Massachusetts. If you add the fires across Canada and Siberia, we’re talking 300 [30] million acres – an area about the size of New York.

This is a threat to many communities – but it’s also an immediate and ongoing threat to the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect ours. Less than two weeks ago, three highly trained firefighters lost their lives fighting a fire in Washington State. Another has been in critical condition. We are thankful to each and every firefighter for their heroism – including the Canadian firefighters who’ve helped fight the fires in this state.

But the point is that climate change is no longer some far-off problem. It is happening here. It is happening now. Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety – now. Today. And climate change is a trend that affects all trends – economic trends, security trends. Everything will be impacted. And it becomes more dramatic with each passing year.

Already it’s changing the way Alaskans live. And considering the Arctic’s unique role in influencing the global climate, it will accelerate changes to the way that we all live.

Since 1979, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has decreased by more than 40 percent – a decrease that has dramatically accelerated over the past two decades. One new study estimates that Alaska’s glaciers alone lose about 75 gigatons – that’s 75 billion tons – of ice each year.

To put that in perspective, one scientist described a gigaton of ice as a block the size of the National Mall in Washington – from Congress all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, four times as tall as the Washington Monument. Now imagine 75 of those ice blocks. That’s what Alaska’s glaciers alone lose each year. The pace of melting is only getting faster. It’s now twice what it was between 1950 and 2000 – twice as fast as it was just a little over a decade ago. And it’s one of the reasons why sea levels rose by about eight inches over the last century, and why they’re projected to rise another one to four feet this century.

Consider, as well, that many of the fires burning today are actually burning through the permafrost in the Arctic. So this permafrost stores massive amounts of carbon. When the permafrost is no longer permanent, when it thaws or burns, these gases are released into our atmosphere over time, and that could mean that the Arctic may become a new source of emissions that further accelerates global warming.

So if we do nothing, temperatures in Alaska are projected to rise between six and 12 degrees by the end of the century, triggering more melting, more fires, more thawing of the permafrost, a negative feedback loop, a cycle – warming leading to more warming – that we do not want to be a part of.

And the fact is that climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. That, ladies and gentlemen, must change. We’re not acting fast enough.

I’ve come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating this problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it. And I believe we can solve it. That’s the good news. Even if we cannot reverse the damage that we’ve already caused, we have the means – the scientific imagination and technological innovation – to avoid irreparable harm.

We know this because last year, for the first time in our history, the global economy grew and global carbon emissions stayed flat. So we’re making progress; we’re just not making it fast enough.

Here in the United States, we’re trying to do our part. Since I took office six and a half years ago, the United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from wind and 20 times as much from the sun. Alaskans now lead the world in the development of hybrid wind energy systems from remote grids, and it’s expanding its solar and biomass resources.

We’ve invested in energy efficiency in every imaginable way – in our buildings, our cars, our trucks, our homes, even the appliances inside them. We’re saving consumers billions of dollars along the way. Here in Alaska, more than 15,000 homeowners have cut their energy bills by 30 percent on average. That collectively saves Alaskans more than $50 million each year. We’ve helped communities build climate-resilient infrastructure to prepare for the impacts of climate change that we can no longer prevent.

Earlier this month, I announced the first set of nationwide standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants. It’s the single most important step America has ever taken on climate change. And over the course of the coming days, I intend to speak more about the particular challenges facing Alaska and the United States as an Arctic power, and I intend to announce new measures to address them.

So we are working hard to do our part to meet this challenge. And in doing so, we’re proving that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth. But we’re not moving fast enough. None of the nations represented here are moving fast enough.

And let’s be honest – there’s always been an argument against taking action. The notion is somehow this will curb our economic growth. And at a time when people are anxious about the economy, that’s an argument oftentimes for inaction. We don’t want our lifestyles disrupted. In countries where there remains significant poverty, including here in the United States, the notion is, can we really afford to prioritize this issue. The irony, of course, is, is that few things will disrupt our lives as profoundly as climate change. Few things can have as negative an impact on our economy as climate change.

On the other hand, technology has now advanced to the point where any economic disruption from transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient economy is shrinking by the day. Clean energy and energy efficiency aren’t just proving cost-effective, but also cost-saving. The unit costs of things like solar are coming down rapidly. But we’re still underinvesting in it.

Many of America’s biggest businesses recognize the opportunities and are seizing them. They’re choosing a new route. And a growing number of American homeowners are choosing to go solar every day. It works. All told, America’s economy has grown more than 60 percent over the last 20 years, but our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago. So we know how to use less dirty fuel and grow our economy at the same time. But we’re not moving fast enough.

More Americans every day are doing their part, though. Thanks to their efforts, America will reach the emission target that I set six years ago. We’re going to reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. And that’s why, last year, I set a new target: America is going to reduce our emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 10 years from now.

And that was part of a historic joint announcement we made last year in Beijing. The United States will double the pace at which we cut our emissions, and China committed, for the first time, to limiting its emissions. Because the world’s two largest economies and two largest emitters came together, we’re now seeing other nations stepping up aggressively as well. And I’m determined to make sure American leadership continues to drive international action – because we can’t do this alone. Even America and China together cannot do this alone. Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone. We have to do it together.

This year, in Paris, has to be the year that the world finally reaches an agreement to protect the one planet that we’ve got while we still can.

So let me sum up. We know that human activity is changing the climate. That is beyond dispute. Everything else is politics if people are denying the facts of climate change. We can have a legitimate debate about how we are going to address this problem; we cannot deny the science. We also know the devastating consequences if the current trend lines continue. That is not deniable. And we are going to have to do some adaptation, and we are going to have to help communities be resilient, because of these trend lines we are not going to be able to stop on a dime. We’re not going to be able to stop tomorrow.

But if those trend lines continue the way they are, there’s not going to be a nation on this Earth that’s not impacted negatively. People will suffer. Economies will suffer. Entire nations will find themselves under severe, severe problems. More drought; more floods; rising sea levels; greater migration; more refugees; more scarcity; more conflict.

That’s one path we can take. The other path is to embrace the human ingenuity that can do something about it. This is within our power. This is a solvable problem if we start now.

And we’re starting to see that enough consensus is being built internationally and within each of our own body politics that we may have the political will – finally – to get moving. So the time to heed the critics and the cynics and the deniers is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. Those who want to ignore the science, they are increasingly alone. They’re on their own shrinking island.

And let’s remember, even beyond the climate benefits of pursuing cleaner energy sources and more resilient, energy-efficient ways of living, the byproduct of it is, is that we also make our air cleaner and safer for our children to breathe. We’re also making our economies more resilient to energy shocks on global markets. We’re also making our countries less reliant on unstable parts of the world. We are gradually powering a planet on its way to 9 billion humans in a more sustainable way. These are good things. This is not simply a danger to be avoided; this is an opportunity to be seized. But we have to keep going. We’re making a difference, but we have to keep going. We are not moving fast enough.

If we were to abandon our course of action, if we stop trying to build a clean-energy economy and reduce carbon pollution, if we do nothing to keep the glaciers from melting faster, and oceans from rising faster, and forests from burning faster, and storms from growing stronger, we will condemn our children to a planet beyond their capacity to repair: Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.

That’s not a future of strong economic growth. That is not a future where freedom and human rights are on the move. Any leader willing to take a gamble on a future like that – any so-called leader who does not take this issue seriously or treats it like a joke – is not fit to lead.

On this issue, of all issues, there is such a thing as being too late. That moment is almost upon us. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what we have to convey to our people – tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. And that’s what we have to do when we meet in Paris later this year. It will not be easy. There are hard questions to answer. I am not trying to suggest that there are not going to be difficult transitions that we all have to make. But if we unite our highest aspirations, if we make our best efforts to protect this planet for future generations, we can solve this problem.

And when you leave this conference center, I hope you look around. I hope you have the chance to visit a glacier. Or just look out your airplane window as you depart, and take in the God-given majesty of this place. For those of you flying to other parts of the world, do it again when you’re flying over your home countries. Remind yourself that there will come a time when your grandkids – and mine, if I’m lucky enough to have some – they’ll want to see this. They’ll want to experience it, just as we’ve gotten to do in our own lives. They deserve to live lives free from fear, and want, and peril. And ask yourself, are you doing everything you can to protect it. Are we doing everything we can to make their lives safer, and more secure, and more prosperous?

Let’s prove that we care about them and their long-term futures, not just short-term political expediency.

I had a chance to meet with some Native peoples before I came in here, and they described for me villages that are slipping into the sea, and the changes that are taking place – changing migratory patterns; the changing fauna so that what used to feed the animals that they, in turn, would hunt or fish beginning to vanish. It’s urgent for them today. But that is the future for all of us if we don’t take care.

Your presence here today indicates your recognition of that. But it’s not enough just to have conferences. It’s not enough just to talk the talk. We’ve got to walk the walk. We’ve got work to do, and we’ve got to do it together.

So, thank you. And may God bless all of you, and your countries. And thank you, Alaska, for your wonderful hospitality. Thank you.

President Obama's Weekly Address: Meeting the Global Threat of Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 01 Sep 2015 03:32:00 GMT

In this week’s address, the President spoke about his upcoming trip to Alaska, during which he will view the effects of climate change firsthand. Alaskans are already living with the impact of climate change, with glaciers melting faster, and temperatures projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century. In his address, the President spoke to ways in which we can address these challenges, including the transition away from fossil fuels to more renewable energy sources like wind and solar, an effort in which America is already leading. And he stressed that while our economy still has to rely on oil and gas during that transition, we should rely more on domestic production than importing from foreign counties who do not have the same environmental or safety standards as the United States. The President looked forward to his upcoming trip, and promised that while he is in office, America will lead the world to meet the threat of climate change before it’s too late.

Hi, everybody. This Monday, I’m heading to Alaska for a three-day tour of the state.

I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Not only because Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in a country that’s full of beautiful places – but because I’ll have several opportunities to meet with everyday Alaskans about what’s going on in their lives. I’ll travel throughout the state, meeting with Alaskans who live above the Arctic Circle, with Alaska natives, and with folks who earn their livelihoods through fishing and tourism. And I expect to learn a lot.

One thing I’ve learned so far is that a lot of these conversations begin with climate change. And that’s because Alaskans are already living with its effects. More frequent and extensive wildfires. Bigger storm surges as sea ice melts faster. Some of the swiftest shoreline erosion in the world – in some places, more than three feet a year.

Alaska’s glaciers are melting faster too, threatening tourism and adding to rising seas. And if we do nothing, Alaskan temperatures are projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century, changing all sorts of industries forever.

This is all real. This is happening to our fellow Americans right now. In fact, Alaska’s governor recently told me that four villages are in “imminent danger” and have to be relocated. Already, rising sea levels are beginning to swallow one island community.

Think about that. If another country threatened to wipe out an American town, we’d do everything in our power to protect ourselves. Climate change poses the same threat, right now.

That’s why one of the things I’ll do while I’m in Alaska is to convene other nations to meet this threat. Several Arctic nations have already committed to action. Since the United States and China worked together to set ambitious climate targets last year, leading by example, many of the world’s biggest emitters have come forward with new climate plans of their own. And that’s a good sign as we approach this December’s global climate negotiations in Paris.

Now, one of the ways America is leading is by transitioning away from dirty energy sources that threaten our health and our environment, and by going all-in on clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar. And Alaska has the natural resources to be a global leader in this effort.

Now even as we accelerate this transition, our economy still has to rely on oil and gas. As long as that’s the case, I believe we should rely more on domestic production than on foreign imports, and we should demand the highest safety standards in the industry – our own. Still, I know there are Americans who are concerned about oil companies drilling in environmentally sensitive waters. Some are also concerned with my administration’s decision to approve Shell’s application to drill a well off the Alaskan coast, using leases they purchased before I took office. I share people’s concerns about offshore drilling. I remember the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico all too well.

That’s precisely why my administration has worked to make sure that our oil exploration conducted under these leases is done at the highest standards possible, with requirements specifically tailored to the risks of drilling off Alaska. We don’t rubber-stamp permits. We made it clear that Shell has to meet our high standards in how they conduct their operations – and it’s a testament to how rigorous we’ve applied those standards that Shell has delayed and limited its exploration off Alaska while trying to meet them. The bottom line is, safety has been and will continue to be my administration’s top priority when it comes to oil and gas exploration off America’s precious coasts – even as we push our economy and the world to ultimately transition off of fossil fuels.

So I’m looking forward to talking with Alaskans about how we can work together to make America the global leader on climate change around the globe. And we’re going to offer unique and engaging ways for you to join me on this trip all week at Because what’s happening in Alaska is happening to us. It’s our wakeup call. And as long as I’m President, America will lead the world to meet the threat of climate change before it’s too late.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

At Koch Retreat, Pollution Billionaires Cheer Ted Cruz's Climate Conspiracy Theories

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:56:00 GMT

Ted CruzTo resounding applause, Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the attendees of an exclusive Koch brothers retreat that man-made global warming is a scientific conspiracy. Under questioning by Politico’s Mike Allen, Cruz claimed that “power-greedy politicians” have colluded with climate scientists for decades in attempts to impose “massive government control of the economy.”

From the National Review:

Allen asked Cruz if he is concerned by a Boston Globe story published on Saturday that suggests Republicans will pay a price in 2016 for their skepticism about climate change. Cruz’s response? “Not remotely.” He went on to recall the 1970s panic over global cooling and a coming ice age. “The solution they proposed was massive government control of the economy, the energy sector, and our lives. Then the data disproved it,” he said. ”Then it became global warming. Interestingly enough, the solution was identical: massive government control over the economy, the energy sector, and our lives. Then the data didn’t support it, so they entered theory number three, climate change. Now, to any power-greedy politician, this is the perfect theory, it can never, ever, ever, be disproven, if it gets hotter, if it gets colder, if it gets wetter, if it gets drier.” The climate issue is in the news once again with the administration set to unveil sweeping new regulations on carbon emissions from power plants. President Obama earlier in the day released a video that warns of “hotter summers, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events.” Asked whether the president is exaggerating, Cruz said, ”You know, there’s a different word than exaggerating.”

Time’s Philip Elliott reports:

“If you look at satellite data for the last 18 years, there’s been zero recorded warming,” Cruz said in California’s Orange County. “The satellite says it ain’t happening.”

Instead, Cruz said, government researchers are reverse engineering data sets to falsify changes in the climate. “They’re cooking the books. They’re actually adjusting the numbers,” Cruz said. “Enron used to do their books the same way.”

Cruz said scientists four decades ago were studying “global cooling, a global ice age was coming,” and they were as wrong as those who now say the earth is warming.

“Senator, you’re not saying global warming isn’t real?” interrupted his interviewer, Politico’s Mike Allen.

“I’m saying that data and facts don’t support it,” Cruz said to applause from 450 donors to the political network organized by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch.

Charles and David Koch are the world’s wealthiest carbon-industry titans, with a combined petrochemical fortune of greater than $100 billion. The identity of other attendees at the retreat were kept secret, with the agreement of the reporters in attendance.

March for Jobs, Justice, and the Climate

Posted by Brad Johnson Sun, 05 Jul 2015 18:00:00 GMT

On July 5th thousands of people will gather in Toronto for the March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate. The march will tell the story of a new economy that works for people and the planet.

It starts with justice, creates good work, clean jobs and healthy communities, recognizes that we have solutions and shows we know who is responsible for causing the climate crisis.

The March will tell this story by being organized so that people are in four contingents:

1 It starts with justice

2 Good work, clean jobs, healthy communities

3 We have solutions

4 We know who is responsible.

Assembly Location: Queen’s Park – In front of the Ontario Legislature Building (located by Queen’s Park Crescent West & University Avenue)

Official English Version of Laudato Si', Pope Francis' Climate Encyclical

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 18 Jun 2015 14:51:00 GMT

Praised BeThe official English version of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’s ecological encyclical, is now available for download.

The encyclical concludes with these two prayers.

A prayer for our earth
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.
A Christian prayer in union with creation
Father, we praise you with all your creatures.
They came forth from your all-powerful hand;
they are yours, filled with your presence and your tender love.
Praise be to you!

Son of God, Jesus,
through you all things were made.
You were formed in the womb of Mary our Mother,
you became part of this earth,
and you gazed upon this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in every creature
in your risen glory.
Praise be to you!

Holy Spirit, by your light
you guide this world towards the Father’s love
and accompany creation as it groans in travail.
You also dwell in our hearts
and you inspire us to do what is good.
Praise be to you!

Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate you
in the beauty of the universe,
for all things speak of you.
Awaken our praise and thankfulness
for every being that you have made.
Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined
to everything that is.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

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

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 18 Jun 2015 04:09:00 GMT

The leaked draft of “Laudato Si’”, Pope Francis’ widely anticipated encyclical on the crisis of climate change and other global environmental concerns, contains 246 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


202. Many things need to reorient their route, but first of all it is humanity that needs to change. Lacking is the consciousness of a common origin, a mutual belonging and a shared future for all. This knowledge base would allow the development of new beliefs, new attitudes and lifestyles. Thus emerges a great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge involving long processes of regeneration.

I. Pointing to another way of life

203. Since the market tends to create a compulsive consumerist mechanism to place its products, people end up being overwhelmed by the vortex of purchases and unnecessary expenses. Obsessive consumerism is the subjective reflection of the techno-economic paradigm. What happens Romano Guardini already signaled: the human being “takes ordinary objects and the usual forms of life as well as are imposed by rational plans and normalized by the machines and, overall, he does so with the impression that this is reasonable and just.” [144 Das Ende der Neuzeit, 19659 Würzburg, 66-67 (ed. it. The end of the modern era, Brescia 1987, 61).] This paradigm makes everyone believe that they are free by retaining a claim to the freedom to consume, when in fact those who own freedom are those that are part of the minority who hold economic and financial power. In this confusion, post-modern humanity has not found a new understanding of itself that can direct itself, and this lack of identity is lived with anxiety. We have too many paths to limited and stunted purposes.

204. The current situation of the world “causes a sense of precariousness and insecurity, which in turn promotes forms of collective selfishness.” [145 John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 1: AAS 82 (1990) , 147.] When people become self-referential and isolate themselves in their consciousness, they increase their greed. The more a person’s heart is empty, the more he needs items to buy, possess and consume. In this context it does not seem possible that anyone could accept that reality poses a limit. In this perspective, there is not even a true common good. If this is the type of person who tends to predominate in a society, the rules will be respected only to the extent that they do not contradict their needs. So we do not think only to the possibility of terrible weather phenomena or major natural disasters, but also to disasters derived from social crises, because the obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, especially when only a few can sustain it, will only result in violence and mutual destruction.

205. Yet, all is not lost, because human beings, capable of degradation in the extreme, they can also overcome, returning to choose the good and regenerating, beyond any social and psychological conditioning that is imposed on them. They are able to look at themselves honestly, emerging from their disgust and to new paths to true freedom. There are no systems that nullify completely the doorway to goodness, truth and beauty, nor the ability to react, that God continues to encourage from the bottom of our hearts. Every person in this world, I ask you not to forget this dignity that no one has the right to remove from you.

206. A change in lifestyle may come to exert a healthy pressure on those holding political, economic and social power. It is what happens when consumer movements can cause you to stop buying certain products and thus become effective in changing the behavior of companies, forcing them to consider the environmental impact and production patterns. It is a fact that, when social habits affect corporate profits, these forces are seen to produce in another way. This reminds us of the social responsibility of consumers. “Buying is always a moral act, as well as economic.” [146 Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 66: AAS 101 (2009), 699.] To this day, “the theme of environmental degradation due to the behavior of each of us.” [147 Id., Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, 11: AAS 102 (2010), 48.]

207. The Earth Charter was calling us all to leave behind a stage of self-destruction and to start again, but we have not yet developed a universal consciousness that makes it possible. For this I dare to propose that precious challenge again: “As never before in history, common destiny beckons us to seek a new beginning [...]. May ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life. “[148 the Earth Charter, The Hague (29 June 2000). ]

208. You can always develop a new ability to leave self-interest for others. Without it you do not recognize in other creatures their own value, do not care to take care of something for the benefit of others, lack the ability to set limits to avoid suffering or degradation of our surroundings. The fundamental attitude of self-transcendence, breaking the isolated consciousness and the self, is the root that makes possible all caring for others and the environment, and brings forth the moral reaction to consider the impact caused by any action and from any personal decision outside of oneself. When we are able to overcome individualism, it can actually produce an alternative lifestyle and can become a significant change in society.

II. Teaching the alliance between mankind and the environment

209. Awareness of the seriousness of the cultural and ecological crisis must be translated into new habits. Many know that the current progress and the accumulation of objects or simple pleasures are not enough to give meaning and joy to the human heart, but they do not feel able to give up what the market offers them. In countries that should yield the greatest changes in consumption habits, the young have a new ecological awareness and a generous spirit, and some of them are fighting admirably for environmental protection, but grew up in an environment of high consumption and of well-being that makes the maturation of other habits difficult. This is why we are faced with an educational challenge.

210. Environmental education has been expanding its targets. If at first it was very centered on scientific information and on awareness and prevention of environmental risks, now it tends to include a critique of the “myth” of modernity based on instrumental reason (individualism, indefinite progress, competition, consumerism, market without rules) and also to recover the different levels of ecological balance: with the inner self, to solidarity with others, the natural one with all living beings, the spiritual with God. Environmental education should prepare us to make that leap towards Mystery, from which ecological ethics draws its deepest meaning. On the other hand there are teachers able to reset the pedagogical itineraries of ecological ethics, so they actually help to grow in solidarity, responsibility and care based on compassion.

211. However, this education, called to create an “ecological citizenship”, sometimes merely informs and cannot cultivate habits. The existence of laws and regulations is not sufficient in the long term to restrict bad behavior, even when there is a valid control. In order for the rule of law to produce lasting significant effects it is necessary that most of the members of society accepted it with adequate motivations, and respond through personal transformation. Only starting from the solid virtues is it possible to cultivate the gift of self in an ecological commitment. If a person, although his economic conditions enables him to consume and spend more, usually blankets himself a bit instead of turning on the heating, it is supposed he has acquired beliefs and ways of feeling favorable to environmental care. It is very noble to assume the task of taking care of creation with small daily actions, and it is wonderful that education is able to motivate them to give shape to a way of life. Education for environmental responsibility can encourage various behaviors that have a direct and important effect in caring for the environment, like avoiding the use of plastic or paper, reducing water consumption, waste separation, only cooking what you can eat reasonably, handling with care other living beings, using public transport or sharing the same vehicle between several people, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, and so on. All this is part of a generous and dignified creativity, showing the best of the human being. Reusing something instead of discarding it quickly, starting from deep motivations, can be an act of love that expresses our dignity.

212. One should not think that these efforts will not change the world. These actions spread good in a society that always produces fruits beyond what we can see, because they cause within this land a benefit that tends to spread, sometimes invisibly. Moreover, the exercise of such behavior gives us a sense of our dignity, leads to greater existential depth, allows us to experience that it is worth going through this world.

213. The educational aspects are various: the school, the family, the media, catechesis, and others. A good school education in childhood and adolescence plants seeds that can produce effects throughout life. But I wish to emphasize the central importance of the family, because “it is the place in which life, the gift of God, can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. Against the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.” [149 John Paul II, Enc. Lett. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 39: AAS 83 (1991), 842.] In the family is cultivated the first habits of love and care for life, such as the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and the protection of all creatures. The family is the place of integral formation, in which the different aspects of personal maturity, intimately related to each other, unfold. In the family you learn to ask permission without arrogance, to say “thank you” as an expression of heartfelt appreciation for the things we receive, to dominate aggression or greed, and apologize when we do something wrong. These small acts of sincere kindness help build a culture of life and shared respect for our surroundings.

214. At the political and the various associations the effort to form conscience competes. Competes before the Church. All Christian communities have an important role to fulfill in this education. I also hope that in our seminaries and religious houses of instruction is education of a responsible austerity, grateful contemplation of the world, care for the fragility of the poor and the environment. Because much is at stake, as well as needing institutions with the power to penalize attacks on the environment, we also need to control ourselves and to educate each other.

215. In this context, “should not be overlooked [...] the relationship that exists between adequate aesthetic education and the maintenance of a healthy environment.” [150 Id., Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 14: AAS 82 (1990), 155.] Paying attention to the beauty and love helps us to get out of utilitarian pragmatism. When you do not learn to stop to admire and appreciate the beautiful, is not it strange that everything will turn to the subject of the use and abuse without scruples. At the same time, if you want to achieve profound changes, it must be remembered that the thought patterns actually affect behavior. Education will be ineffective and its efforts will be fruitless unless we are also concerned to promote a new model about the human being, life, society and the relationship with nature. Otherwise it will continue to run on the consumer model transmitted by the media and through efficient market mechanisms.

III. The ecological conversion

216. The great wealth of Christian spirituality, generated by twenty centuries of personal and community experiences, constitutes a magnificent contribution to offer to the effort to renew humanity. I wish to propose to Christians a few lines of ecological spirituality arising from the convictions of our faith, because what the Gospel teaches us has consequences on our way of thinking, feeling and living. It is not so much to talk about ideas, but above all of the reasons that derive from spirituality in order to feed a passion for the care of the world. In fact you will not engage in great matters only with the doctrines, without a mysticism that encourages us, without “some inner motive that drives, motivates, encourages and gives meaning to the action staff and community.” [151 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 261: AAS 105 (2013), 1124.] We must recognize that we Christians have not always collected and made to yield the riches that God has given to the Church, where the spirituality is not separate from your body, nor from the nature or reality of this world, but he lives with them and in them, in communion with all that surrounds us.

217. If “the external deserts multiply in the world, because the internal deserts have become so vast,” [152 Benedict XVI, Homily for the solemn inauguration of the Petrine Ministry (24 April 2005): AAS 97 (2005), 710.] the ecological crisis is a call to a profound inner conversion. However we must also recognize that some Christians committed and devoted to prayer, with the pretext of realism and pragmatism, often flout environmental concerns. Others are passive, deciding not to change their habits and becoming incoherent. Therefore they lack an ecological conversion, which involves letting out all the consequences of the encounter with Jesus into relations with the world around them. To live the vocation of being guardians of God’s work is an essential part of a virtuous life, it is not something optional and not a secondary aspect of the Christian experience.

218. We recall the model of St. Francis of Assisi, to propose a healthy relationship with creation as a dimension of the conversion of the whole person. This also requires recognition of ones errors, sins, faults or negligence, and repenting of the heart, changing from within. The Bishops of Australia have been able to express the conversion in terms of reconciliation with creation: “To achieve this reconciliation, we must examine our lives and recognize how we offend God’s creation with our actions and with our inability to act. We need to experience a conversion, a change of heart. ” [153 Conference of Catholic Bishops, A New Earth. The Environmental Challenge (2002).]

219. However, it is not enough that everyone is improved to resolve a situation as complex as that facing the world today. Individuals may lose the ability and the freedom to overcome the logic of instrumental reason and end up succumbing to consumerism without ethics and without social and environmental sense. Social problems are answered with community networks, not just the sum of individual goods: “The needs of this work will be so immense that the opportunities for individual initiative and cooperation of the individual, individualistic formats, will not be able to answer. It will require a combination of resources and a unit of contributions. “[154 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 72 (trans. Trans .: The end of the modern age, 66). ] The ecological conversion that is required to create a dynamic of lasting change is also a communal conversion.

220. This conversion involves various attitudes that combine to enable a cure that is generous and full of tenderness. First involves gratitude and gratuity, namely a recognition of the world as a gift received by the love of the Father, which causes as a result of the gist free provisions and generous gestures even if no one sees them or recognize them, “Do not let your left hand know what your right is doing [...] and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6.3 to 4). It also implies the loving consciousness of not being separated from other creatures, but to form with other beings in the universe a wonderful universal communion. For the believer, the world is contemplated not from without but from within, recognizing the links with which the Father has united with all beings. In addition, increasing the peculiar skills that God has given to every believer, the ecological conversion leads him to develop his creativity and enthusiasm, in order to resolve the tragedies of the world, offering himself to God “as a living, holy and acceptable sacrifice “(Rom 12,1). He does not interpret his superiority as a ground for personal glory or irresponsible dominion, but as a different ability which in turn imposes a grave responsibility that comes from his faith.

221. Several convictions of our faith, developed at the beginning of this encyclical, help to enrich the sense of such a conversion, as the awareness that all creation reflects something of God and has a message to send, or the certainty that Christ took in himself this material world and now, risen, dwelling within every being, surrounding them with his affection and penetrating them with his light. As well as the recognition that God created the world by inscribing it in an order and a dynamism that the human being does not have the right to ignore. When we read in the Gospel that Jesus speaks of the birds and says that “not one of them is forgotten before God” (Lk 12,6), will we be able to maltreat them and cause them harm? I invite all Christians to make explicit this dimension of his conversion, allowing the force and the light of grace received also to extend to their relationship with other creatures and with the world around them, and raise the sublime brotherhood with all creation that St. Francis of Assisi lived in a so luminous manner.

IV. Joy and peace

222. Christian spirituality offers an alternative way of looking at quality of life, and encourages a prophetic and contemplative lifestyle, able to rejoice deeply without being obsessed with consumption. It is important to accommodate an ancient teaching, present in different religious traditions, and even in the Bible. This is the belief that “less is more”. In fact, the constant accumulation of the ability to consume distracts the heart and prevents appreciating everything and every moment. On the contrary, being present serenely in front of every reality, however small it may be, opens up many more possibilities for understanding and fulfillment. Christian spirituality proposes an increase in sobriety and a capacity to take delight with less. It is a return to simplicity that allows us to stop and enjoy the little things, to thank the possibilities that life offers, not clinging to what we have nor grieving for what we do not possess. This requires you to avoid the dynamics of domination and the mere accumulation of pleasures.

223. Sobriety, lived freely and consciously, is liberating. Not less life, not low intensity, but quite the opposite. For those who taste more and live better each time are those who will stop pecking here and there, always trying what they have not, and experiencing what it means to appreciate every person and every thing, they learn to become familiar with the simplest realities and they know how to be delighted. In this way they can reduce unmet needs and reduce fatigue and anxiety. You may need very little and live well, especially when you are able to make room for other pleasures and satisfaction that lies in fraternal meetings, in service, in building on your personal gifts, in music and art, in contact with nature, in prayer. Happiness needs to be able to limit some of the needs that daze us, thus remaining available for the many possibilities that life offers.

224. Sobriety and humility have not enjoyed a positive consideration this last century. But when we weaken across the board the exercise of any virtue in personal and social life, it ends up causing multiple imbalances, including environmental ones. For it is no longer enough just to mention the integrity of ecosystems. We must have the courage to speak of the integrity of human life, the need to promote and to combine all the great values. The disappearance of humility, in a human being overly impressed by the ability to dominate everything with no limit, can only end up harming society and the environment. It is not easy to mature this healthy humility and a happy sobriety if we become autonomous, if we exclude God from our lives and our ego occupies his place, if we believe it is our subjectivity to determine what is good and what is bad.

225. On the other hand, no person may mature into a happy sobriety if not at peace with himself. And part of a proper understanding of spirituality is to broaden our understanding of peace, which is far more than the absence of war. The inner peace of the people is closely linked to the ecology and care for the common good, because, authentically lived, it is reflected in a balanced lifestyle coupled with an ability to surprise leading to the depth of life. Nature is full of words of love, but can we hear in the middle of constant noise, of permanent and anxious distraction, or of the cult of appearances? Many people experience a profound imbalance that drives them to do things at full speed to be occupied, in a constant hurry, which in turn leads them to overwhelm everything they have around them. This affects the way we treat the environment. An integral ecology requires spending some time to recover the serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our way of life and our ideals, contemplating the Creator, who lives among us and in our surroundings, and whose presence “is not to be built, but is discovered and revealed.” [155 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 71: AAS 105 (2013), 1050.]

226. We are talking about an attitude of the heart, which lives throughout with serene attention, which knows how to remain fully present in front of someone without stopping to think about what comes next, which is delivered at all times as a divine gift to be lived in fullness. Jesus taught us this attitude when he invited us to look at the lilies of the field and the birds of the sky, or when in the presence of a disciple, “he fixed his gaze on him” and “loved him” (Mk 10:21) . Yes, he knew how to stay fully present before every human being and before every creature, and so showed us a way to overcome the sick anxiety that makes us superficial, aggressive and recklessly consumerist.

227. An expression of this attitude is to stop and thank God before and after meals. I propose to believers that they take this valuable habit and live with depth. This time of blessing, although very short, reminds us our dependence on God for life, strengthens our sense of gratitude for the gifts of creation, is grateful to those who by their work provide these goods, and strengthening solidarity with the most needy.

V. Civil and political love

228. Caring for nature is part of a lifestyle that involves the ability to live together and communally. Jesus reminded us that we have God as our common Father and that this makes us brothers. Brotherly love can only be free, can never be compensated for what another produces, nor an advance for what we hope to do. Therefore it is possible to love our enemies. This same gratuity leads us to love and accept the wind, the sun or the clouds, although they submit to our control. This is why we can speak of a universal brotherhood.

229. We need to hear again that we need each other, that we have a responsibility to others and to the world, that it is worth it to be good and honest. Already for too long we have been in moral degradation, by taking as a game ethics, goodness, faith, honesty, and the time has come to recognize that this cheerful superficiality serves us little. Such destruction of any foundation of society ends up setting us off against each other to defend our interests; it causes the rise of new forms of violence and cruelty; and it prevents the development of a true culture of environmental care.

230. The example of Saint Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss the opportunity of a kind word, a smile, any small gesture that sows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is also made of simple everyday actions in which we break the logic of violence, exploitation, selfishness. Conversely, the world consumption is exasperated at the same time the world’s mistreatment of life in all its forms.

231. Love, filled with small gestures of caring for each other, is also civil and political, and manifests itself in all actions that seek to build a better world. The love for society and commitment to the common good is an eminent form of charity, which concerns not only the relations between individuals, but also “macro-relations, social, economic, political relations.” [156 Benedict XVI , Lett. enc. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 2: AAS 101 (2009), 642.] For this reason the Church has proposed to the world the ideal of a “civilization of love”. [157 Paul VI, Message for the World Day Peace 1977: AAS 68 (1976), 709.] Social love is the key to genuine development: “To make the company more human, more worthy of the person, should be reassessed love in social life – wide, political, economic, cultural – making it the constant and supreme norm of action. “[158 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine Church, 582.] In this framework, together with the importance of small everyday gestures, social love urges us to think about grand strategies to halt environmental degradation effectively and encourage a culture of care that permeate all of society. When someone recognizes the call of God to act together with others in these social dynamics, he must remember that this is part of his spirituality, which is the practice of charity, and which in this way matures and sanctifies.

232. Not all are called to work directly in politics but in society there flourishes an innumerable variety of associations intervening in favor of the common good, protecting the natural and urban environment. For example, they care for a public place (a building, a fountain, a neglected monument, a landscape, a square), protecting, restoring, enhancing or beautifying something that belongs to everyone. Around them develop or regain ties and is a new local social fabric. So a community frees itself from consumerist indifference. This also means cultivating a common identity, a history that is preserved and transmitted. In this way we take care of the world and the quality of life of the poorest, with a sense of solidarity that is at the same time awareness of living in a common house that God has entrusted to us. These community actions, when they express a love that gives itself, can turn into intense spiritual experiences.

VI. The sacramental signs and the celebratory repose

233. The universe grows in God, who fills everything. So there is a mystery to be contemplated in a leaf, in a path, in the dew, in the face of the poor. [159 A spiritual master, Ali Al-Khawas, from his experience, stressed the need to not separate too much the creatures of the world from the experience of God within. He said: “There is no need to criticize a priori those seeking the ecstasy in music or poetry. There is a subtle secret in each of the movements and sounds of this world. Initiates come to pick up what they say the wind blowing, the trees bend, flowing water, the flies that buzz, the creaking doors, the birds singing, the sound of the strings and flute, the sigh the sick, the cry of the afflicted … “(Eva De Vitray Meyerovitch [ed.], Anthologie du soufisme, Paris 1978, 200; trans. it.: The mystics of Islam, Parma 1991, 199). ] The ideal is not just going from externality to interiority to discover the action of God in the soul, but also get to meet him in all things, as taught by St. Bonaventure: “Contemplation is much higher as man feels in himself the effect of divine grace or the more God can be recognized in other creatures.” [160 In II Sent., 23, 2, 3]

234. St. John of the Cross taught that all that is good in things and experiences of the world “is eminently in God in an infinite manner or, to say it better, he is each of these sizes you preach.” [161 Cántico Espiritual, XIV, 5.] It is not because the limited things of the world are truly divine, but that the mystic experiences the intimate bond that exists between God and all beings, and so “feels that God is for him all things.” [162 Ibid.] If he admires the greatness of a mountain, he cannot separate this from God, and feels that this inner admiration that he lives must rest in the Lord: “The mountains have peaks, are high, impressive, beautiful, pretty, flowery and fragrant. As those mountains is the Beloved to me. The secluded valleys are quiet, pleasant, cool, shady, full of sweet water. For the variety of their trees and the gentle birdsong and recreate the sense and delight greatly in their solitude and silence their offer refreshment and rest: this valley is my Beloved to me.” [163 Ibid., XIV, 6-7.]

235. The Sacraments are a privileged way in which nature is taken up by God and transformed in mediation of the supernatural life. Through worship, we are invited to embrace the world in a different plane. Water, oil, fire and colors are taken with all their symbolic power and are incorporated in praise. The hand is the instrument of God’s blessing and reflected the closeness of Christ who came to join us in the journey of life. The water that is poured on the body of the child who is baptized is a sign of new life. Not fleeing from the world nor denying the nature when we meet with God. This can be felt especially in the spirituality of Eastern Christianity: “Beauty, which in the East is one of the words most frequently used, is usually expressing the divine harmony and the model transfigured humanity, appears everywhere: in the shape of the church, in the sounds, colors, lights and scents.” [164 John Paul II, Lett. Ap. Orientale Lumen (2 May 1995), 11: AAS 87 (1995), 757.] For the Christian experience, all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning in the Incarnate Word, because the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material universe, where he introduced a seed of ultimate transformation: “Christianity does not reject matter, corporeality; on the contrary, it rejoices in the liturgical act, in which the human body shows its intimate nature of the temple of the Spirit and comes to join the Lord Jesus, He also made the body for the world’s salvation.” [165 Ibid.]

236. In the Eucharist, creation finds its higher elevation. Grace, which tends to appear to an appreciable extent, reaching a wonderful expression when God himself became man, gets to be eaten by his creature. The Lord, at the height of the mystery of the Incarnation, could reach our intimacy through a piece of matter. Not from above but from within, so in our own world could we meet him. In the Eucharist this fullness has already been realized, and is the vital center of the universe, the heart overflowing with love and inexhaustible life. Joined with the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. In fact, the Eucharist is in itself an act of cosmic love, “Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some sense, on the altar of the world.” [166 Id., Lett. Enc. Ecclesia de Eucharistia (17 April 2003), 8: AAS 95 (2003), 438.] The Eucharist unites heaven and earth, embraces and penetrates all creation. The world, that come from the hands of God, returns to Him in worship and joyful: in the Eucharistic Bread “creation is projected towards divinization, toward the holy wedding feast, toward unification with the Creator himself.” [167 Benedict XVI, Homily at the Mass of Corpus Christi (June 15, 2006): AAS 98 (2006), 513.] Thus the Eucharist is a source of light and gives reasons for our concerns for the environment, and gives direction to be custodians of all creation.

237. On Sunday, the participation in the Eucharist is particularly important. This day, just like the Jewish Sabbath, offers a day of restoration of the relations of human beings with God, with themselves, with others and with the world. Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, the “first day” of the new creation, the first fruits of which is the humanity of the risen Lord, guaranteeing the final transfiguration of all created reality. In addition, this day announces “man’s eternal rest in God.” [168 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2175.] In this way, Christian spirituality integrates the value of rest and celebration. Human beings tend to reduce contemplative repose to the scope of the useless and sterile, forgetting that one takes off work so that its most important attribute is found: its meaning. We are called to include in our work a receptive and free dimension, which is different from a simple inactivity. This is another way of acting which is part of our essence. In this way human action is preserved not only from an empty activism, but also from the unbridled greed and isolation of consciousness that leads to chase exclusive personal benefit. The law of the weekly rest requires you to abstain from work on the seventh day, “so that you can enjoy quiet your ox and your donkey may rest and the son of thy handmaid and the stranger” (Exodus 23:12). This rest is an extension of the gaze that allows you to return to acknowledging the rights of others. So, the day of rest, whose center is the Eucharist, spreads its light over the entire week, and encourages us to take care of our nature and the poor.

VII. The Trinity and the relationship between creatures

238. The Father is the ultimate source of all, a loving and communicative foundation of what exists. The Son, who reflects, and through whom all things were made, joined this land when he took shape in the womb of Mary. The Spirit, infinite bond of love, is intimately present in the heart of the universe and animating and sustaining new paths. The world was created by the three persons as a single divine principle, but each of them carries this common work according to his own personal identity. Therefore, “when we contemplate with admiration the universe in its grandeur and beauty, we must praise the whole Trinity.” [169 John Paul II, Catechesis (August 2, 2000), 4: L’Osservatore 23/2 (2000), 112.]

239. For Christians, believing in one God who is a Trinitarian communion leads us to believe that all reality contains a properly Trinitarian imprint. St. Bonaventure came to say that the human being, before the fall, he could find out how each creature “testifies that God is triune.” The reflection of the Trinity could be recognized in nature “even when that book was obscure for the man, nor the man’s eye was fouled.” [170 Quaest. disp. de Myst. Trinitatis, 1, 2, concl.] The Franciscan saint teaches us that every creature carries a properly Trinitarian structure, so real that it could be spontaneously contemplated if the gaze of the human being is not limited, dark and fragile. In this way he shows us the challenge of trying to read reality in a Trinitarian key.

240. The divine Persons are subsistent relations, and the world, created after the divine model, it is a web of relationships. Creatures tend towards God, and in turn belongs to every living thing tending towards something else, so that within the universe we can see countless ongoing relationship that secretly weave together [171 Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica I, q. 11, art. 3; q. 21, art. 1 to 3; q. 47, art. 3.]. This not only invites us to admire the many links that exist between the creatures, but also leads us to discover a key to our own realization. Indeed the human person especially grows, matures and sanctifies as he enters into a relationship, when he leave himself to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. So he assumes in his life that triune dynamism God has imprinted in him ever since his creation. Everything is connected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of global solidarity that flows from the mystery of the Trinity.

VIII. The queen of all creation

241. Mary, the mother who took care of Jesus, now takes care of this wounded world with maternal affection and grief. As she wept with her heart pierced Jesus’ death, now she has compassion for the suffering of the crucified poor and of the creatures of this world exterminated by human power. She lives with Jesus completely transformed, and all creatures sing her beauty. She is the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Rev 12,1). High in the sky, she is Mother and Queen of all creation. In her glorified body, along with the risen Christ, the creation has reached the fullness of her beauty. She not only keeps in her heart all the days of Jesus, who she “kept” carefully (cf. Lk 2,19.51), but now also includes the meaning of all things. So we ask you to help us look at the world with wiser eyes.

242. Together with her, in the holy family of Nazareth, stands the figure of St Joseph. He took care of and defended Mary and Jesus with his work and his generous presence, and rescued them from the violence of the unjust by taking them to Egypt. In the Gospel he looks like a good man, hardworking, strong. But in his figure also emerges a great tenderness, that is not of one who is weak but who is truly strong, caring in reality to love and serve humbly. For this he was declared guardian of the universal Church. He, too, can teach us to care, can motivate us to work with generosity and tenderness to protect this world that God has entrusted to us.

IX. Beyond the sun

243. In the end we will meet face to face with the infinite beauty of God (cf. 1 Cor 13:12) and we read with admiration the joyful mystery of the universe, who will participate with us in the endless fullness. Yes, we are traveling towards eternity on Saturday, toward the new Jerusalem, towards the common house of the sky. Jesus tells us: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21,5). Eternal life is a marvel shared, where every creature, luminously transformed, will take its place and will have something to offer to the finally freed poor.

244. In the meantime, we unite to take care of this home that was entrusted to us, knowing that whatever good there is in it will be taken on the feast of heaven. Together with all creatures, we walk on this earth seeking God, because “if the world has a beginning and was created, who created it look, look who gave beginning, the one who is his Creator.” [172 Basilio Great, Hom. in Hexaemeron, 1, 2, 6: PG 29, 8.] We walk singing! Amid our struggles and our concern for this planet we take away the joy of hope.

245. God, who calls us to generous dedication and to give everything, gives us the strength and the light we need to move forward. In the heart of this world is always present the Lord of life who loves us so much. He does not abandon us, do not leave us alone, why he joined us permanently with our land, and his love leads us always to find new ways. To Him be praise! * * *

246. After this prolonged reflection, joyful and dramatic collection, I propose two prayers, one that we can share all of us who believe in God the creator and father, and another that we Christians know assume commitments for creation that the Gospel of Jesus It offers us.

Prayer for our Earth

Almighty Lord,
that you are present throughout the universe
and in the smallest of your creatures,
You who surround with your tenderness
all that exists,
pour into us the strength of your love
so that we take care
of life and beauty.
Flood us with peace,
so that we live as brothers and sisters
without harming anyone.
Father of the poor,
help us to redeem the abandoned
and forgotten in this land
that are so worthy in your eyes.
Heal our lives,
so that we protect the world
and not plunder it,
so that we sow beauty
and not destruction and pollution.
Touch the hearts
of those who seek only benefits
at the expense of the poor and of the earth.
Teach us to discover the value of everything,
to contemplate with amazement,
to recognize that we are deeply united
with all creatures
on our way to your infinite light.
Thank you because you are with us every day.
Support us, please, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

Christian prayer, with creation

Praise You, Father, with all your creatures,
which are emanences from your mighty hand.
They are yours, and are full of your presence
and your tenderness.
Praised be!

Son of God, Jesus,
you were all things created.
You have taken shape in the womb of Mary,
you’ve been part of this land,
and you looked at this world with human eyes.
Today you are alive in all creation
with your glory of the risen.
Praised be!

Holy Spirit, that with your light
directs this world to the Father’s love
and accompanies the groaning of creation,
you also live in our hearts
lead us to good.
Praised be!

Lord God, One and Three,
beautiful community of infinite love,
teach us to contemplate
the beauty of the universe,
where everything is about you.
Awaken our praise and our gratitude
for all that you have created.
Give us the grace to feel intimately united
with all that exists.
God of love, show us our place
in this world
as instruments of your love
for all beings of this earth,
because not one of them is forgotten by you.
Illumine the masters of power and money
so that they do not fall into sin of indifference,
love the common good, promote the weak,
and take care of the world we inhabit.
The poor and the earth are crying:
Lord, take us with your power and your light,
to protect all life,
for a better future,
so that comes your kingdom
of justice, of peace, of love and beauty.
Praised be!


Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on May 24, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2015, the third of my Pontificate.

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

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 18 Jun 2015 04:06:00 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


163. I tried to examine the current situation of humanity, both in the corners of the planet we inhabit, as well in the more deeply human causes of environmental degradation. Although this contemplation of reality in itself already shows us the need for a change of course and suggests some actions, let us now outline the major paths of dialogue that will help us to escape the spiral of self-destruction into which we are sinking.

I. The dialogue on the environment in international politics

164. Since the middle of last century, overcoming many difficulties, we have been affirming a tendency to conceive of the world as a fatherland and humanity as a people inhabiting a common home. An interdependent world means not only understanding that the harmful consequences of lifestyles, of production, and of consumption affect everyone, but, primarily, to ensure that solutions are proposals from a global perspective and not only in defense of the interests of some countries. Interdependence forces us to think of one world, a common project. But the same intelligence used for a huge technological development, cannot find effective forms of international governance in order to overcome the serious environmental and social problems. To address the underlying problems, which cannot be solved by actions of individual countries, it is essential that a global consensus will lead, for example, to planning sustainable and diversified agriculture, to developing renewable, nonpolluting forms of energy, to encouraging greater energy efficiency, to promoting better management of forest resources and marine, to ensuring that everyone has access to clean water.

165. We know that the technology based on fossil fuels, highly polluting – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser extent, natural gas – must be replaced progressively and without delay. Pending a wide development of renewable energy, which should already be started, it is legitimate to opt for the lesser evil or to resort to temporary solutions. However, the international community does not reach appropriate agreements about the responsibility of those who have to bear the higher costs of energy transition. In recent decades, environmental issues have given rise to a broad public debate, which has grown into civil society spaces of considerable commitment and generous dedication. Politics and industry are slow to respond, far from being up to the global challenges. In this sense we can say that, while the humanity of the post-industrial period will probably be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, there is hope that the humanity of the early twenty-first century will be remembered for having assumed with generosity their grave responsibilities.

166. The ecological movement worldwide has already come a long way, enriched by the effort of many civil society organizations. It would be impossible to mention them all here, or to trace the history of their contributions. But thanks to a lot of effort, environmental issues have been increasingly present on the public agenda and have become a standing invitation to think in the long term. Nevertheless, the world summits on the environment in recent years have not met expectations because, for lack of political decision, they did not achieve really significant and effective global environmental agreements.

167. The Earth Summit held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro should be remembered. In that meeting, it was stated that “human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development.” [126 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (14 June 1992), Principle 1.] Taking some contents of the Stockholm Declaration (1972), it established, among other things, international cooperation for the care of the ecosystem of the whole earth, the obligation on the part of polluters to take responsibility economically, the duty to assess the environmental impact of each work or project. It proposed the objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to reverse the trend of global warming. It also prepared an agenda with a program of action and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and declared principles relating to forestry. Although the summit was truly innovative and prophetic for his time, the agreements have had a low level of implementation because they have not established adequate control mechanisms, periodic verification or sanctions for non-compliance. The principles continue to require agile and effective ways of practical realization.

168. Among the positive experiences can be mentioned, for example, the Basel Convention on hazardous waste, with a notification system, to set levels and controls; as well as the binding Convention on international trade in species of wild fauna and flora threatened with extinction, which provides verification missions of effective implementation. Thanks to the Vienna Convention for the protection of the ozone layer and its implementation by the Montreal Protocol and its amendments, the problem of thinning of this layer seems to have entered a phase of solution.

169. With regard to care for biological diversity and desertification, progress has been much less significant. With regard to climate change, progress is woefully sketchy. The reduction of greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, especially by the most powerful countries and the most polluting. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio + 20 (Rio de Janeiro 2012), issued a broad but ineffective Final Declaration. International negotiations may not advance significantly because of the positions of the countries that favor their national interests over the global common good. How many will suffer the consequences that we try to cover up, remembering this lack of awareness and responsibility. As I was elaborating this encyclical, the debate has taken on a special intensity. We believe we can only pray to God for the positive developments of the current discussions, so that future generations do not suffer the consequences of imprudent delay.

170. Some of the strategies for low emission of polluting gases point to the internalization of environmental costs, with the danger of imposing on countries with less heavy commitments on emission reductions, similar to those of most industrialized countries. The imposition of these measures penalize countries in need of development. In this way it adds a new injustice under the cover of the care for the environment. Also in this case, it always rains on the soaked. Since the effects of climate change will be felt for a long time, although now it would take strict measures, some countries with limited resources will need help to adapt to the effects that are already producing and affect their economies. It remains certain that there are common but differentiated responsibilities, simply because, as the bishops said in Bolivia, “the countries that have benefited from a high level of industrialization, at the cost of enormous greenhouse gas emissions, have greater responsibility contribute to solving the problems that have caused. “[127 Bolivian Episcopal Conference, Pastoral Letter on the environment and human development in Bolivia El Universo, Don de Dios para la Vida (2012), 86.]

171. The strategy for the sale of “carbon credits” can give rise to a new form of speculation and would not help to reduce the global emission of polluting gases. This system seems to be quick and easy, with the appearance of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way implies a radical change to the occasion. Indeed, it may be a device that permits support for the super-consumption of some countries and sectors.

172. For poor countries the priority should be the eradication of poverty and social development of their inhabitants; at the same time they should consider the outrageous level of consumption of certain privileged sectors of their population and better counter corruption. Of course, also they need to develop less-polluting forms of energy production, but for this they need to count on the help of the countries that have grown at the expense of much current pollution of the planet. The direct exploitation of the abundant solar energy requires the establishment of mechanisms and subsidies so that developing countries can have access to technology transfer, for technical assistance and financial resources, while always paying attention to the concrete conditions, since “it is not always properly assessed the compatibility of the systems with the context for which they are designed. “[128 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Energy, Justice and Peace, IV, 1, Vatican City (2013), 56.] Costs would be low when compared to the risk of climate change. In any case, it is first of all an ethical choice, based on the solidarity of all peoples.

173. Urgent international agreements that will be realized, considering the limited capacity of local bodies to intervene effectively. Relations between States must safeguard the sovereignty of each, but also agree to establish paths to avoid local disasters that would end up hurting everyone. Global regulatory frameworks are needed imposing obligations and excluding unacceptable actions, such as the fact that powerful countries and highly polluting industries discharge waste into other countries.

174. We also mention the system of governance of the oceans. In fact, although there have been several international and regional conventions, the fragmentation and the lack of strict regulatory mechanisms, control and sanction end up undermining all efforts. The growing problem of marine refuse and the protection of marine areas beyond national borders continues to represent a special challenge. Ultimately, we need an agreement on the governance arrangements for the full range of so-called global commons.

175. The same logic that makes it difficult to take drastic action to reverse the trend of global warming is the one that does not allow us to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty. We need a more responsible global reaction, which involves tackling simultaneously reduction of pollution and development of the countries and poor regions. The twenty-first century, while keeping its governance of past eras, is witnessing a loss of power of the United States, especially because the economic and financial dimension, with transnational character, tends to dominate policy. In this context, it becomes essential to the development of stronger and efficiently organized international institutions, with authorities designated in an impartial manner through agreements between national governments, and with the power to sanction. As Benedict XVI said in the line already developed by the social doctrine of the Church, “to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis, to prevent deterioration of the present and the greater imbalances; to achieve integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to guarantee the protection of the environment and to regulate migration, there is urgent need of a true world political authority, which has already been outlined by my predecessor, [St.] John XXIII. “[129 Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 67: AAS 101 (2009), 700. 177. 136] In this perspective, diplomacy acquires a new importance, in order to promote international strategies to prevent the most serious problems that end up affecting us all.

II. Dialogue on new national and local policies

176. Not only are there winners and losers among the countries, but also within poor countries, where one has to identify different responsibilities. Therefore, environmental issues and economic development can no longer be set only from the differences between the countries, but demand paying attention to national and local policies.

177. Faced with the possibility of an irresponsible use of human capacities, they are functions of the imperative requirement of each state to plan, coordinate, monitor and punish within their territories. How does society order and maintain its development in a context of constant technological innovations? One factor that acts as the moderator is the actual law, laying down the rules for the conduct permitted in the light of the common good. The limits that must impose a healthy society, mature and sovereign are related to prediction and precaution, appropriate regulations, monitoring the application of rules, dealing with corruption, actions of operational control on the emergence of undesirable effects of production processes, and intervention appropriate in the face of uncertain risks or potential. There is a growing case law geared at reducing the polluting effects of the business activities. But the political and institutional structure does not exist only to avoid the bad practices, but to encourage good practice, to stimulate creativity that seeks new ways to facilitate personal and collective initiatives.

178. The predicament of a policy focused on immediate results, supported also by consumerist populations, is necessary to produce short-term growth. Responding to electoral interests, governments do not dare to easily irritate the population with measures that may affect the level of consumption or jeopardize foreign investment. The short-sighted construction of power constrains the insertion of a forward-looking environmental agenda within the public agenda of governments. We forget that “the time is greater than the space” [130 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 222: AAS 105 (2013), 1111], that we are more and more fruitful if we care to generate processes, rather than to dominate spaces of power. Political greatness shows itself when, in difficult times, it operates on the basis of great principles and thinking about the common good in the long term. Political power makes it hard to accept this duty in a project of the Nation.

179. In some places, they are developing cooperatives for the exploitation of renewable energy that enable local self-sufficiency and even the sale of excess production. This simple example shows that, while the existing world order shows itself powerless to assume responsibility, the local instance can make a difference. It is fact that there can arise a greater responsibility, a strong sense of community, a special ability to care and a more generous creativity, a deep love for their land, as well as thinking about what you leave for our children and grandchildren. These values have very deep roots in aboriginal populations. Since the law at times, proves inadequate because of corruption, it requires a political decision under the pressure of the population. Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediary associations, must require governments to develop policies, procedures and stricter controls. If citizens do not control political power – national, regional and municipal – it is not possible to contain environmental damage. On the other hand, the municipal laws may be more effective if there are agreements between neighboring populations to support the same environmental policies.

180. One cannot think of uniform prescriptions, because there are issues and limitations specific to each country and region. It is also true that political realism can involve transitional measures and technologies, provided they are accompanied by the design and gradual acceptance of binding commitments. At the same time, however, at national and local level there is always plenty to do, such as promoting energy saving systems. This implies facilitating industrial production modes with maximum energy efficiency and reduced use of raw materials, removing from the market products that not very effective from the point of view of energy or greater pollution. We can also mention good transportation management or technologies of construction and renovation of buildings that reduce energy consumption and pollution levels. In addition, local political action can orient itself to the change in consumption, the development from an economy of waste to recycling, the protection of certain species and the planning of diversified agriculture with crop rotation. One can help improve poor agricultural regions through investments in rural infrastructure, the organization of local or national markets, in irrigation systems, in the development of sustainable agricultural techniques. You can facilitate forms of cooperation or community organization that promote the interests of small producers and preserve local ecosystems from depredation. There is very much that one can do!

181. Continuity is essential, because you can not change the policies related to climate change and environmental protection every time a government changes. The results are time consuming and involve immediate costs with effects that cannot be produced during the life of a government. Therefore, without the pressure of population and institutions, there will always be resistance to intervention, especially when there are urgent needs to solve. A politician that takes these responsibilities with the costs that imply, not responding to efficiency-oriented logic and “immediatist” economics and current politics, but if one has the courage to do so, will again recognize the dignity that God has given him as a person and leave, after his passage in history, a testimony of generous responsibility. It should give more space for a sound policy, able to reform the institutions, to coordinate and provide them with good practices, that can overcome pressures and vicious inertia. However, we must add that the best devices end up succumbing when missing the great goals, the values, a humanistic and meaningful understanding, capable of giving each society a noble and generous orientation.

III. Dialogue and transparency in decision-making

182. The forecast of the environmental impact of business initiatives and projects requires political processes transparent and subjected to dialogue, while corruption that hides the true environmental impact of a project in exchange for favors often leads to ambiguous agreements beyond the duty to inform and in-depth debate.

183. A study of environmental impact should not be following the development of a productive project or any policy, plan or program. It should be added from the start and should be developed in an interdisciplinary way, transparent and independent of any political or economic pressure. It must be connected with the analysis of working conditions and the possible effects on the physical and mental health of the people, the local economy, safety. It will be able to predict more realistically the economic results, taking into account the possible scenarios and possibly anticipating the need for greater investment to solve side effects that can be corrected. One always needs to gain consensus among the various social actors who can bring different perspectives, solutions and alternatives. But the debate must hold pride of place for the locals, who are wondering what they want for themselves and their children, and may take into account the purposes that go beyond the immediate economic interest. We must abandon the idea of environmental “interventions”, to give rise to policies designed and debated by all parties concerned. Participation requires that everyone is well informed about the different aspects and the various risks and opportunities, and can not be reduced to the initial decision on a project, but also involves actions to control or monitoring. There is need for sincerity and truth in scientific discussions and policies, is not limited to considering what is allowed or not by legislation.

184. When any environmental risks are displayed that affect the common good of present and future, the situation requires “that decisions are based on a comparison of risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives,” [131 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 469.]. This is especially true if a project may cause an increase in the exploitation of natural resources, emissions and waste, production waste, or a significant change in the landscape, the habitat of endangered species or in a public space. Some projects, not supported by a careful analysis, can profoundly affect the quality of life of a place for very different issues between them such as, for example, a noise is not expected, a reduction in visibility, the loss of cultural values, the effects of the use of nuclear energy. The consumer culture that gives priority to short-term and private interest, can promote practices that are too rapid or can allow the concealment of information.

185. In any discussion of a business venture you should ask a series of questions, in order to discern if it brings a real integral development: For what purpose? Why? Where? When? In what way? Who is it for? What are the risks? At what cost? Who pays and how will they? In this test there are issues that need to be prioritized. For example, we know that water is a scarce and essential resource, and also a fundamental right that affects the exercise of other human rights. This is unquestionable and beyond any environmental impact analysis of a region.

186. In the Rio Declaration of 1992, it is declared that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason to delay the adoption of effective measures” [132 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (14 June 1992), Principle 15] that prevent the degradation of the environment. This precautionary principle allows the protection of the weak, who have few means to defend themselves and to provide irrefutable evidence. If the objective information leads us to foresee a serious and irreversible damage, even without an indisputable demonstration, any project should be stopped or changed. This will reverse the burden of proof, given that these will need to provide an objective demonstration and decisive that the proposed activity is not going to bring serious harm to the environment or to those who inhabit it.

187. This does not mean opposing any technological innovation that allows to improve the quality of life of a population. But in any case it must remain firm that profitability can not be the only criterion to take into account, and that, when new elements of judgment appear with the development of information, there should be a re-evaluation with the participation of all stakeholders. The result of the discussion may be the decision not to pursue a project, but it could also be its modification or development of alternative proposals.

188. There are discussions on issues relating to the environment for which it is difficult to reach a consensus. Once again I repeat that the Church does not claim to settle the scientific questions, nor to present a substitute for policy, but calls for an honest and transparent debate, because special needs or ideologies must not adversely affect the common good.

IV. Politics and economics in dialogue for human fullness

189. Policy does not have to submit to the economy, and should not submit to the dictates and the efficiency paradigm of technocracy. Today, thinking of the common good, we inescapably need that politics and the economy, in dialogue, place themselves resolutely to the service of life, especially human life. The bailout of the banks at all costs, by charging the price to the population, without the firm decision to review and reform the entire system, reaffirms an absolute domination of finance that has no future and that can only generate new crises after a long, expensive and apparent cure. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was an opportunity to develop a new economy more attentive to ethical principles, and to a new regulation of financial speculation and virtual wealth. But there has been a reaction that has led us to rethink the outdated criteria that continue to rule the world. Production is not always rational, and is often linked to economic variables which give the product a value that does not correspond to its real value. This causes often an overproduction of certain goods, with an unnecessary environmental impact, at the same time harming many regional economies. [133 See Mexican Episcopal Conference. Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral, Jesucristo, vida y esperanza de los indígenas y campesinos (14 January 2008). ] The financial bubble is usually also a bubble of production. Ultimately, what is not addressed decisively is the problem of the real economy, which makes it possible for one to diversify and improve production, which companies are working properly, that small and medium-sized enterprises to develop and create employment, and so on.

190. In this context, we must always remember that “environmental protection can not be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that market mechanisms are not able to defend or promote adequately. “[134 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 470.] Again, we should avoid a magical concept of the market, which tends to think that the problems will be resolved only by growth in corporate and individual profits. Is it unrealistic to expect that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits stop to think about the environmental effects that they will leave to future generations? Within the scheme of annuity there is no place to think about the rhythms of nature, in this time of degradation and regeneration, and the complexity of ecosystems that may be seriously altered by human intervention. Moreover, when it comes to biodiversity, at the most it is thought as a reserveof financial resources that could be exploited, but not considered seriously is the real value of things, their meaning for people and cultures, for the interests and needs of th poor.

191. When you raise these issues, some react by accusing you of irrationally demanding to stop progress and human development. But we must convince ourselves that slowing down to a certain pattern of production and consumption can lead to another mode of progress and development. Efforts for the sustainable use of natural resources are not an unnecessary expense, but an investment that will provide other economic benefits in the medium term. If we do not have constraints against different views, we find that the diversification of production, more innovative and with lower environmental impact, can be very profitable. It is to open the way for different opportunities, which do not imply stopping human creativity and its dream of progress, but rather channelling this energy in a new way.

192. For example, a process of more creative and better targeted productive development could correct the disparity between the excessive investment in technology for the consumer and the poor to solve the urgent problems of mankind; it could generate intelligent and profitable forms of re-use, functional recovery and recycling; it could improve urban energy efficiency; and so on. Diversification of production offers very wide possibilities for human intelligence to create and innovate, while protecting the environment and creating more job opportunities. This creativity would let the nobility of the human being to flower again, because it is more dignified to use intelligence, with courage and responsibility, to find forms of sustainable and equitable development, as part of a broader concept of quality of life. Conversely, it is less dignified and creative and more superficial to insist on creating forms of looting of nature only to offer new possibilities for consumption and immediate returns.

193. However, if in some cases sustainable development will involve new ways to grow, in other cases, in front of the greedy and irresponsible growth that has taken place over many decades, we must think well about slowing down the pace a bit, putting in some reasonable limits and also turning back before it is too late. We know it is unsustainable behavior of those who consume and destroy more and more, while others fail to live in accordance with their human dignity. Because of this, it’s time to accept a certain decrease in some parts of the world procuring resources so that we can grow in a healthy way elsewhere. Benedict XVI said that “it is necessary that technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage conduct characterized by sobriety, while reducing their energy consumption and improving the conditions of its use.” [135 Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, 9: AAS 102 (2010), 46.]

194. In order that new models of progress arise we need to “change the pattern of global development”, [136 Ibid. ] which implies reflecting responsibly “on the meaning of the economy and its purposes, to correct its dysfunctions and distortions”. [137 Ibid., 5: p. 43.] It is not enough to reconcile, in a middle ground, caring for nature with the financial revenue, or the preservation of the environment with the progress. On this issue the middle ground is only a small delay in disaster. It is merely redefining progress. A technological and economic development that does not leave a better world and a higher quality of life in its entirety, can not be considered progress. On the other hand, many times the actual quality of life of people decreases – the deterioration of the environment, the low quality of the food or the depletion of some resources – in the context of a growing economy. In this framework, the discourse of sustainable growth often becomes a diversion and a means of justification absorbing values of the ecologist discourse within the logic of finance and technocracy, and the social and environmental responsibility of businesses is reduced mostly to a series of marketing and image.

195. The principle of profit maximization, which tends to isolate itself from any other consideration, is a conceptual distortion of the economy: it increases production, caring little what is produced at the expense of future resources or the health of the environment; if the cutting down of a forest increases production, no measure in this calculation includes the loss of desertifying a territory, destroying biodiversity or increasing pollution. Namely that companies obtain profits by calculating and paying a tiny fraction of the cost. One might consider behavior ethical only when “the economic and social costs resulting from the use of common environmental resources are recognized with transparency and are fully supported by those who benefit from it and not by other peoples or future generations.” [138 Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 50: AAS 101 (2009), 686.] Instrumental rationality, which brings only a static analysis of reality according to the needs of the moment, is present both when the market allocates resources, as when does a state planner.

196. What then is the place of politics? We recall the principle of subsidiarity, which gives freedom for the development of the capacity that exists at all levels, but at the same time calls for more responsibility to the common good on the part of those who hold the most power. It is true that today some economic sectors exert more power of the states themselves. But you can not justify an economy without politics, that would be incapable of bringing about another logic capable of governing the various aspects of the current crisis. The logic that leaves no room for a genuine concern for the environment is the same that has no place concerning the integration of the more fragile, because “in the current model ‘successful’ and ‘private’, does not seem to make sense to invest those who are left behind, the weak or less gifted can make their way in life.” [139 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 209: AAS 105 (2013), 1107.]

197. We need a policy that thinks with a broad view, and carries forward a new integrated approach, including an interdisciplinary dialogue in the different aspects of the crisis. Many times the same policy is responsible for its own discredit, because of corruption and the lack of good public policy. If the state does not fulfill its role in a region, some business groups may appear as benefactors and hold the real power, feeling permitted not to observe certain standards, giving rise to different forms of organized crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking and violence that is very difficult to eradicate. If politics is not capable of breaking a perverse logic, and is also incorporated in inconsistent speeches, it will continue to not address the major problems of humanity. A strategy of real change requires us to rethink the whole process—it is not enough to insincerely consider superficial ecological considerations while no one questions the logic underlying the present culture. A sound policy should be able to take on this challenge.

198. The political and the economic spheres tend to blame each other in terms of poverty and environmental degradation. But what is expected is that they recognize their mistakes and find forms of interaction oriented to the common good. While some are scrambling only for economic benefit and others are obsessed only by maintaining or increasing power, we’re left with wars or ambiguous arrangements where the two parties are barely interested in preserving the environment and taking care of weaker. Here too, the principle that “unity is superior to the conflict.” [140 Ibid., 228: AAS 105 (2013), 1113.]

V. Religions in dialogue with the sciences

199. One can not argue that the empirical sciences explain fully life, the essence of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would mean unduly overcoming their limited methodological boundaries. If you reflect on this restricted framework, aesthetic sensitivity, poetry, and even the capacity of reason to grasp the meaning and purpose of things disappear. [141 Cf. Lett. Enc. Lumen Fidei (29 June 2013), 34: AAS 105 (2013), 577: “The light of faith, together with the truth of love, is not alien to the material world, because love will live forever in the body and soul; the light of faith is light incarnate, who proceeds from the luminous life of Jesus. It also illuminates the matter, trust in your order, knows that it opens a path of harmony and understanding wider. The gaze of science thus receives a benefit by faith: this invites the scientist to remain open to reality, in all its inexhaustible richness. Faith awakens a critical sense, as it prevents the search to be satisfied in its formulas and helps you to understand that nature is getting bigger. Inviting to wonder at the mystery of creation, faith broadens the horizons of reason to illuminate more of the world that opens to the study of science. ” ] I want to remember that “the classical religious texts can provide a meaning for all ages, have a motivating force that opens new horizons [...]. Is it reasonable and intelligent to relegate them to darkness only because they were born in the context of a religious belief?”. [142 Apostolic. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 256: AAS 105 (2013), 1123.] In fact, it is simplistic to think that ethical principles can arise in a purely abstract manner, detached from any context, and the fact that they appear within a religious language does not detract from their value in any public debate. The ethical principles that reason is capable of perceiving can always reappear under different clothes, and be expressed in different, even religious languages.

200. On the other hand, any technological solution that science will claim to make will be powerless to solve the serious problems of the world if humanity loses its course, if we forget the big reasons that make it possible to live together, the sacrifice, the goodness. In any case, it will be necessary to appeal to the believers so that they are consistent with their faith and do not contradict with their actions, we must insist that they open again to the grace of God and they draw from their deep convictions about love, justice and peace. If a poor understanding of our principles led us at times to justify the abuse of nature or the despotic rule of human beings over creation, or wars, injustice and violence, as believers we can recognize that in this way we are been unfaithful to the treasure of wisdom that we should cherish. Many times the levels of different cultural epochs have influenced the awareness of one’s ethical and spiritual, but it is precisely the return to their respective sources which allows religions to better respond to current needs.

201. Most of the inhabitants of the planet declare themselves believers, and this should push religions to enter into a dialogue with each other oriented to the care of nature, to the defense of the poor, to build a network of respect and brotherhood. It is also essential to have dialogue between the sciences themselves, since each is usually closed within the limits of its own language, and specialization tends to become isolation and absolutization of knowledge. This prevents it from adequately addressing environmental problems. Equally it is necessary to have an open and respectful dialogue between the different ecological movements, among which there are ideological struggles. The severity of the ecological crisis requires us all to think about the common good and to move forward on the path of dialogue that requires patience, asceticism and generosity, always remembering that “the reality is superior to the idea.” [143 Ibid., 231: p. 1114.]

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.]

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

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 18 Jun 2015 04:01:00 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


101. Nothing will serve to describe the symptoms, if we do not recognize the human root of the ecological crisis. There is a way of understanding life and human action that strays and that contradicts the reality to the point of ruin. Why cannot we stop and think about this? I propose therefore to focus on the technocratic paradigm dominant in place that deals with the human being and his action in the world.

I. Technology: creativity and power

102. Humanity has entered a new era in which the power of technology puts us at a crossroads. We are the heirs of two centuries of huge waves of change: the steam engine, the railroad, the telegraph, electricity, the automobile, the airplane, the chemical industry, modern medicine, computer science and more recently the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnology and nanotechnology. It is right to rejoice for these advances and be excited before the wide possibilities that we open with these novelties, because “science and technology are a wonderful product of human creativity that is a gift of God.” [81 John Paul II, Address to representatives of science, culture and of Higher Studies of the United Nations University, Hiroshima (25 February 1981), 3: AAS 73 (1981), 422.] The transformation of nature for purposes of utility is a feature of the human race since its beginnings, and thus technology “expresses the inner tension that impels him gradually to overcome to the material limitations.” [82 Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 69: AAS 101 (2009), 702.] Technology has remedied many ills that plagued and limited human beings. It is not possible not to appreciate and give thanks for the progress achieved, especially in medicine, engineering and communications. And how can we recognize all the efforts of many scientists and engineers who have developed alternatives for sustainable development?

103. Techno-science, well-oriented, is able not only to produce really valuable things for improving the quality of life of the human being, from objects of domestic use to great means of transport, to bridges, to buildings, to public spaces. It is also able to produce beauty and to achieve for the human being, in the material world, the “leap” in the field of beauty. You cannot deny the beauty of an airplane, or some skyscrapers, can you? There are precious paintings and music obtained through the use of new technical tools. Thus, the desire for beauty and the craftsman who contemplates that beauty takes the leap to a certain, properly human fullness.

104. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our own DNA and other potentiality that we have acquired offers a tremendous power. Indeed, they give those who hold the knowledge and especially the economic power to exploit a impressive domain of the whole human race and the whole world. Mankind has never had so much power over itself and no guarantee that it will use well, especially considering the way in which it is availing itself. Just remember the atomic bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, as the largest deployment of technology flaunted by Nazism, communism and other totalitarian regimes at the service of the extermination of millions of people, not to mention that now war has more and more deadly tools. In whose hands and in whose reach is so much power? It’s terribly risky that it resides in a small part of humanity.

105. There is a tendency to believe that “every purchase of power is simply progress, increasing safety, utility, well-being, vitality, fullness of values”, [83 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 19659 Würzburg, 87 (ed. trans .: The End of the Modern, Brescia 1987, 80).] as if reality, the beneficial, and the truth effloresces spontaneously from the very power of technology and the economy. The fact is that “modern man was not brought up in the right use of power,” [84 Ibid. (Ed. Trans .: 81).] because the immense technological growth has not been accompanied by the development of the human being with regard to responsibility, values and conscience. Every age tends to develop poor self-awareness of its own limitations. It is therefore possible that today humanity does not feel the seriousness of the challenges it faces, and “man’s ability to use its power of evil is growing” when “there are no rules of freedom, but only the claimed necessity of utility and security. “[85 Ibid., 87-88 (ed. trans .: 81).] The human being is not fully autonomous. His freedom is sick when he surrenders to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, selfishness, brutal violence. In this sense, he is naked and exposed before his own power that continues to grow, without having the tools to control it. He may have superficial mechanisms, but we can say that he lacks adequate solid ethics, a culture and a spirituality that really give a limit and contain it within a lucid self-control.

II. The globalization of the technocratic paradigm

106. The fundamental problem is another, even more profound: the matter-of-fact way humanity has taken technology and its development together with a uniform and one-dimensional paradigm. In this paradigm stands a conception of the subject that gradually, in the logico-rational process, understands and thereby owns the object that is outside. This subject is expressed in the establishment of the scientific method with its experimentation, which is already explicitly a technique of possession, dominion and transformation. It is as if the subject were facing the formless reality completely open to manipulation. The intervention of human being in nature has always been the case, but for a long time has had the accompanying feature, of favoring the possibilities of things themselves. It was to receive what the natural reality itself allows, as a reaching out. Conversely, what matters now is to extract everything possible from things through the imposition of the human hand, which tends to ignore or forget the very image of what he had before. In this way human beings and things have ceased to give each other a friendly hand, instead becoming contenders. From here you can go easily to the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which has so impressed economists, theorists of finance and of technology. This presupposes the lie about the infinite availability of goods on the planet, leading to “squeeze” to the limit and beyond the limit. This is the false assumption that “there is an unlimited amount of energy and usable resources, that their immediate regeneration is possible and that the negative effects of the manipulation of nature can be easily absorbed.” [86 Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 462.]

107. We can therefore say that the cause of many problems in the world today there is first a tendency, not always conscious, to set the methodology and the objectives of science and technology according to a paradigm of understanding that affects people’s lives and the functioning of society . The effects of the application of this model to all of reality, human and social, are found in degradation of the environment, but this is just a sign of reductionism that affects human life and society in all their dimensions. It must be recognized that the products of technology are not neutral, because they create a story that ends up influencing lifestyles and guides the social possibilities in the direction of the interests of certain powerful groups. Certain choices that seem purely instrumental, are actually choices relevant to the type of social life intended to be developed.

108. You can not think of supporting another cultural paradigm and use of technology as a mere tool, because today the technocratic paradigm has become so dominant that it is very difficult regardless of one’s resources, and even more difficult is to use one’s resources without being dominated by its logic. It has become counter-cultural to choose a lifestyle with objectives that can be at least partially independent of technology, its costs and its globalizing power and overpowering. In fact, technology has a tendency to let anything remain outside its iron logic, and “the man who is the protagonist knows that, ultimately, it is neither utility nor welfare, but dominion; dominion in the extreme sense of the word.” [87 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63-64 (ed. trans .: The end of the modern age, 58).] Thus,”trying to grasp the elements of nature and together those of human existence.” [88 Ibid., 64 (ed. trans .: 58).] This reduces the ability of decision, the more authentic freedom and the space for alternative creativity from individuals.

109. The technocratic paradigm tends to exert its dominance also on the economy and politics. The economy takes every technological development in function of profit, without paying attention to possible negative consequences for human beings. Finance stifles the real economy. We have not learned the lessons of the global financial crisis and very slowly one learns that about environmental deterioration. In some circles it is argued that the current economy and technology will solve all environmental problems, the same way one says, with a non-academic language, that the problems of hunger and poverty in the world will be solved simply with market growth. It is not a matter of economic theory, that perhaps no one today dares to defend, but their settlement in the factual development of the economy. Those who do not argue with the words support it with deeds, when one does not seem to worry about the right level of production, a better distribution of wealth, a responsible care for the environment or the rights of future generations. The behavior says that the goal of maximizing profits is sufficient. The market alone does not ensure integral human development and social inclusion. [89 Cf. Benedict XVI, Enc. Lett. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 35: AAS 101 (2009), 671.] In the meantime, we have a “sort of a wasteful and consumerist overdevelopment which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation” [90 Ibid., 22: p. 657.] while we are not developing fast enough the economic institutions and social programs that enable the poor to access resources on a regular basis. There is not enough awareness of what are the deeper roots of the current imbalances, which have to do with the orientation, purpose, meaning and social context of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization due to technology implies considerable difficulty in having an overview. The fragmentation of knowledge performs its task in time to obtain concrete applications, but often leads one to lose the sense of wholeness, of the relations that exist between things, the broad horizon, meaning that becomes irrelevant. This same fact prevents one from identifying appropriate ways of solving the most complex problems of today’s world, especially those of the environment and the poor, who cannot be addressed from a single point of view or from one type of interest. A science that claims to offer solutions to the big issues, should necessarily take account of all that knowledge produced in other areas of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics. But this is a way of acting tough to carry on today. So you may not even recognize the true horizons of ethical reference. Life becomes a surrender to circumstances influenced by technology, seen as the main resource for interpreting existence. In the concrete reality that challenges us, different symptoms appear showing the error, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, loss of sense of life and of living together. This demonstrates once again that “the reality is superior to the idea.” [91 Apost. ap. Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013), 231: AAS 105 (2013), 1114.]

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial answers to the problems that arise with respect to environmental degradation, depletion of natural reserves and pollution. It should be a different look, a thought, a policy, an educational program, a lifestyle and a spirituality that give shape to a resistance against the advance of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological efforts may end up locked in the same globalized logic. To search only for a technical remedy for any environmental problem that is presented, purports it as an isolated thing that is in fact connected, hiding the true and most profound problems of the global system.

112. One can, however, extend one’s gaze again, and human freedom is capable of limiting technology, to direct it, and put it at the service of another kind of progress, healthier, more humane, more social and more integral. Liberation from the prevailing technocratic paradigm in fact happens in some occasions. For example, when the community of small producers opts for cleaner production systems, supporting a way of life, of happiness and of conviviality not consumerism. Or when technology is geared primarily to solve the concrete problems of others, with a commitment to help them live with more dignity and less suffering. And even when the creative search of beauty and its contemplation are able to overcome the objectifying power in a kind of salvation that takes place in beauty and the person who contemplates it. The authentic humanity, which calls for a new synthesis, seems to live in the midst of technological civilization, almost imperceptibly, like fog seeping under a closed door. It will be a permanent promise, despite everything, that blossoms as stubborn resistance for what is authentic?

113. On the other hand, people no longer seems to believe in a happy future, do not trust blindly in a better tomorrow starting from the current state of the world and technological capacity. One becomes aware that the progress of science and technology is not equivalent to the progress of humanity and history, and sees that other roads are essential to a happy future. Nevertheless, neither does one imagine giving up the possibilities offered by technology. Humanity has changed profoundly and the accumulation of novelties consecrates a transience that draws us to the surface in one direction. It becomes difficult to stop to recover the depth of life. If the architecture reflects the spirit of an era, the mega-structures and tract houses express the spirit of globalized technology, where the permanent newness of products merges with a heavy ennui. Not resign ourselves to this and not give up on us questions about the meaning and purpose of all things. Otherwise, only we legitimize the status quo and we will need more surrogates to tolerate the void.

114. What is happening makes us face the urgent need to proceed in a courageous cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral, but may involve beginning at the end of a process different intentions and possibilities, and can be configured in various ways. Nobody wants to go back to the cave, but it is essential to slow the march to see reality in another way, collect the positive and sustainable developments, and at the same time recover the values and great purposes destroyed by a megalomaniac licentiousness.

III. Crisis and consequences of modern anthropocentrism

115. Modern anthropocentrism, paradoxically, ended up placing the technical reason above the reality, because the human being “no longer feels the nature neither as valid norm nor as living shelter. He sees without assumptions, objectively, as space and matter in which to create a work in which to throw everything, and no matter what it will be.” [92 Romano Guardini, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 63 (ed. Trans .: The End of the Modern, 57-58).] In this way, it diminishes the intrinsic value of the world. But if the human being does not rediscover his true place, he does not include adequately himself and ends up contradicting his own reality. “Not only the land was given by God to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose, according to which it was given; but the man has given himself to God and must therefore respect the natural and moral structure, which has been endowed.” [93 John Paul II, Enc. Lett. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 38: AAS 83 (1991), 841.]

116. In modern times there has been a considerable anthropocentric excess that, in another capacity, today continues to undermine any reference to something common and any attempt to strengthen social ties. So it is time to pay attention to reality again with the limits it sets, which in turn constitute the possibility of more healthy and fruitful human and social development. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology has come to promote a misconception of the relationship between human beings and the world. Many times was aired a Promethean dream of dominating the world that caused the impression that the care of nature is something for the weak. Instead the correct interpretation of the concept of the human being as the lord of the universe is to understand him as a responsible administrator. [94 See Statement Love for Creation. An Asian Response to the Ecological Crisis, Interview promoted by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (Tagaytay, 31 January to 5 February 1993), 3.3.2. ]

117. The lack of concern for measuring the damage to nature and the environmental impact of decisions, is only the reflection of an evident lack of interest in acknowledging the message that nature carries inscribed in its own structure. When you do not recognize the reality itself of the importance of a poor person, of a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to name but a few – hardly you will hear the cries of nature itself. Everything is connected. If the human being is declared independent from reality and absolute ruler, the very basis of its existence crumbles, because “Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man replaces God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion of nature.” [95 John Paul II, Enc. Lett. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.]

118. This situation leads us to a permanent schizophrenia, ranging from technocratic exaltation hat does not recognize in other beings their own value, up to the reaction to deny any special value to the human being. But one can not prescind humanity. There will not be a new relationship with nature without a new human being. There is no adequate ecological anthropology. When the human person is only considered to be one among others, who results from a game of chance or by a physical determinism, “you run the risk that the attenuation in people an awareness of responsibility.” [96 Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, 2: AAS 102 (2010), 41.] A deviated anthropocentrism does not have to give way to a “bio-centrism” because that would imply introducing a new imbalance, which not only will not solve the problems, but will add another. It cannot be required on the part of the human commitment to the world, if you do not recognize and do not enhance at the same time our peculiar capacity for knowledge, desire, freedom and responsibility.

119. The criticism of deviated anthropocentrism should also be placed in the background of the value of relationships between people. If the ecological crisis is an emergence or an external manifestation of the ethical crisis, spiritual and cultural modernity, we cannot pretend to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without restoring all fundamental human relations. When Christian thought claims for the human being a unique value on top of the other creatures, it gives space to the development of every human person, and thus stimulates the recognition of the other. The opening to a “you” who can know, love and dialogue continues to be the nobility of the human person. Therefore, in order to ensure an adequate relationship with creation, there is no need to downplay the social dimension of the human being and even its transcendent dimension, its openness to the “You” of God. In fact, one cannot propose a relationship with the environment ignoring that with other people and with God. It would be a romantic individualism disguised as ecological beauty and a suffocating self-seclusion in immanence.

120. Since everything is related, neither is justification of abortion compatible with the defense of nature. It does not appear viable an educative path for the reception of weak beings that surround us, that are sometimes troublesome or importunate, when you do not give protection to human embryos although his arrival is due to hardships and difficulties: “If you lose the personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of a new life, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.” [[97 Id., Lett. Enc. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 28: AAS 101 (2009), 663.]

121. The development of a new synthesis that overcomes the false dialectic of the last centuries is still waiting. Christianity itself, remaining faithful to its identity and treasure of truth which he received from Jesus Christ, always thinks back to express again in dialogue with the new historical situations, letting bloom its perennial newness. [98 See Vincent of Lérins, Commonitorium primum, chap. 23: PL 50, 668: “Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur Aetate.”]

The practical relativism

122. A deviated anthropocentrism results in a deviated lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium I referred to the practical relativism that characterizes our era, and that is “even more dangerous than doctrinal.” [99 N. 80: AAS 105 (2013), 1053.] When the human being puts himself in the center, he ends up giving top priority to his contingent interests, and all the rest becomes relative. So it should not surprise that, together with omnipresence of the technocratic paradigm and the adoration of human power without limits, this relativism develops in people, in which everything becomes irrelevant if it serves their immediate interests. There is in this logic that allows us to understand how to nurture simultaneously different attitudes that cause at the same time environmental degradation and social degradation.

123. The culture of relativism is the same disease that drives a person to take advantage of another and to treat him as a mere object, forcing him to forced labor, or reducing him to slavery due to a debt. It is the same logic that leads to sexually exploiting children, or abandoning the elderly who do not serve one’s interests. It is also the internal logic of those who say: let the invisible forces of the market govern the economy, because their effects on society and nature are unavoidable damage. If there are no objective truths or stable principles, outside of meeting the aspirations and immediate needs, what limits trafficking in human beings, organized crime, drug trafficking, the trade in blood diamonds and endangered animal skins? Is it not the same relativist logic that justifies the purchase of organs from poor people in order to sell them or use them for testing, or the discarding of children because they do not respond to the desire of their parents? It is the same logic as “disposable” that produces a lot of refuse only for the inordinate desire to consume more than what one really needs. So we cannot think that the political agendas or the force of the law will be enough to avoid the behaviors that affect the environment, because when it is the culture which is corrupt and no longer recognizes any objective truth or universally valid principles, laws are seen just as arbitrary impositions and obstacles to avoid.

The need to defend labor

124. In any setting of integral ecology, which does not exclude the human being, it is essential to integrate the value of work, so expertly developed by St. John Paul II in his encyclical Laborem exercens. Recall that, according to the biblical account of creation, God placed the human being in the just created garden (cf. Gen 2:15), not just to take care of the existing (to guard), but to work there in order to produce fruit (to cultivate). So the workmen and artisans “ensure the eternal creation” (Sir 38,34). In reality, human intervention that promotes the prudent development of creation is the most appropriate way to take care, because it involves providing an instrument of God to help bring out the potential that he himself has inscribed in things, “The Lord has created medicines from the earth, the sensible man will not despise them” (Sir 38,4).

125. If we try to think about what the appropriate relationship is between the human being and the world around him, a need emerges for a correct conception of labor, because if we talk about the relationship between human beings and things, there is the question about the meaning and purpose of human reality. We do not speak only of manual labor or work on the land, but any activity that involves some transformation of existence, from the development of a social study to the design of a technological development. Any form of work requires an idea about the relationship that man can or must establish with the other self. Christian spirituality, along with contemplative wonder for creatures that we find in St. Francis of Assisi, has also developed a rich and healthy understanding of labor, as we can find, for example, in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and his disciples.

126. We also collect something from the long monastic tradition. At first it favored a certain way to escape from the world, trying to get away from urban decay. For this, the monks sought the desert, convinced that it was the right place to recognize the presence of God. Then, St. Benedict wanted his monks to live in community, combining prayer and study with manual work (Ora et labora). This introduction of manual work steeped in the spiritual sense proved revolutionary. One learned to look for the maturation and sanctification interweaving between recollection and work. In this manner of living work makes us more able to care and respect for the environment, impregnates our relationship with the world with healthy sobriety.

127. We affirm that “man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life.” [100 Conc. Vatican Ecumenical Council. Vat. II, Const. Past. Gaudium et Spes on the Church in the Modern World, 63.] Nevertheless, in the human being when you lose the ability to contemplate and respect, it creates the conditions so that the meaning of work is distorted. [101 Cf. John Paul II, Lett. enc. Centesimus Annus (May 1, 1991), 37: AAS 83 (1991), 840.] It should always remember that the human being is at the same time “capable of becoming an actor himself responsible for his material improvement of his moral progress, the full arc of his spiritual destiny. ” [102 Paul VI, Enc. Lett. Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 34: AAS 59 (1967), 274.] Labor should be the scope of this multifaceted personal development, where we bring into play many dimensions of life: creativity, projecting into the future, development of capabilities, the pursuit of values, communication with others, an attitude of adoration. Therefore, the social reality of today’s world, beyond the narrow interests of business and a questionable economic rationality, demands that “we continue to prioritize the goal of access to work [...] for all.” [103 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter. Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666.]

128. We are called to work since our creation. You should not try to replace more and more human labor with technological progress: doing so would damage humanity itself. Work is a necessity, is the meaning of life on this earth, maturation, human development and fulfillment. In this way, helping the poor with money should always be a temporary remedy to cope with emergencies. The real goal should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. However, the orientation of the economy has encouraged a kind of technological progress aimed at reducing production costs due to the decrease in jobs, which are being replaced by machines. It is another way in which the action of the human being can turn against itself. The reduction in jobs “also has a negative impact on the economic level, through the progressive erosion of ‘social capital’: the network of relationships of trust, reliability and respect of the rules, which are essential to any civil coexistence”. [104 Ibid.] In short, “the human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.” [105 Ibid.] To give up investing in people to get more immediate profit is a bad deal for society.

129. In order to continue to be possible to offer employment, it is essential to promote an economy that encourages product diversification and entrepreneurial creativity. For example, there is a wide variety of agricultural and food systems of small scale that continues to feed most of the world population, using a small portion of the land and water and producing less waste, either in small agricultural plots and gardens, or in hunting and collection of forest products, or in the artisanal fisheries. The economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing small farmers to sell their land or to abandon their traditional crops. The attempts of some of them to develop other forms of more diversified production are useless because of the difficulty of access to regional and global markets or because the sales infrastructure and transport is at the service of big business. The authorities have the right and responsibility to take measures to clearly and firmly support small producers and diversification of production. For there to be an economic freedom in which all actually benefit, sometimes it may be necessary to put limits to those who hold the greatest resources and financial power. The announcement of economic freedom is simple, but when the actual conditions that prevent many can access it in reality, and when you reduce access to employment, it becomes a contradictory phrase that dishonors policy. Entrepreneurial activity, which is a noble vocation oriented to create wealth and improve the world for everyone, can be a very fruitful to promote the region where it places its activities, especially if that includes the creation of jobs, is an essential part of one’s service to the common good.

Innovation from biological research

130. In the philosophical and theological vision of the human being and creation, which I tried to suggest, it is clear that the human person, with the peculiarity of his reason and of his science, is not an external factor that should be removed completely. However, while the human being can intervene in the world of plants and animals and use them when necessary to his life, the Catechism teaches that animal testing is legitimate only if it “remains within reasonable limits and contributes to caring for or saving human lives” . [106 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2417.] Remember firmly that human power has limits and that “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer needlessly and have indiscriminately of their lives.” [107 Ibid., 2418.] Any such use and experimentation “requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.” [108 Ibid., 2415.]

131. I want to acknowledge here the balanced position of St. John Paul II, who emphasized the benefits of scientific and technological advances, which “demonstrate the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in the creative action of God” but at the same time remembered “interfering in one area of the ecosystem can not be separated from considering its consequences in other areas.” [109 Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 6: AAS 82 (1990), 150.] He proclaimed that the Church appreciates the contribution “of the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics and its technological application in agriculture and industry.” [110 Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 3, 1981), 3: L’Osservatore 4/2 (1981), 333.] Although he said also that this must not lead to an “indiscriminate genetic manipulation” [111 Message for the World Day of Peace 1990, 7: AAS 82 (1990), 151.] ignoring the negative effects of these interventions. You can not curb human creativity. If you can not forbid an artist to express his creative ability, you can neither hinder those who possess special gifts for the development of science and technology, whose capabilities have been given by God for the service of others. At the same time, one can not help but reconsider the objectives, the effects, the context and the ethical limits of the human activity that is a form of power with great risks.

132. In this context should be located any reflection about the human intervention on the plant and animal world, which today involves genetic mutations produced by biotechnology in order to tap the opportunities present in the material reality. Respect for faith towards reason demands paying attention to what the same biological science, developed independently over economic interests, can teach about the biological structures and their possibilities and mutations. In any case, it is legitimate intervention that affects the nature “to help it develop according to its essence, that of creation, that willed by God.” [112 John Paul II, Address to the thirty-fifth General Assembly of the World Medical Association (29 October 1983), 6: AAS 76 (1984), 394.]

133. It is difficult to give an overall judgment on the development of genetically modified organisms (GMO), plant or animal, for medical purposes or in agriculture, since they can be very different and require different considerations. Instead, the risks are not always attributed to the same technique, but its inadequate or excessive application. In fact, genetic mutations have happened many times and are produced by nature itself. Even those caused by humans are not a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossing of species and other universally accepted traditional practice can fit into these considerations. It should be remembered that the beginning of scientific developments on transgenic cereals has been the observation of bacteria that naturally and spontaneously produced a change in the genome of a plant. However in nature these processes have a slow pace, which is not comparable to the speed set by current technological advances, even when such advances are based on a scientific development of centuries.

134. Although we have no definitive evidence about the damage that transgenic grains could cause to humans, and in some regions, their use has produced economic growth that has helped solve some problems, there are significant problems that should not be minimized. In many areas, following the introduction of these crops, there has been a concentration of productive land in the hands of a few, due to the “gradual disappearance of small producers, who, in consequence of the loss of cultivated land, have been forced to retreat from direct production.” [113 Episcopal Commission for Social Pastoral of Argentina, A tierra para todos (June 2005), 19.] The most vulnerable among them become temporary workers and many farm workers migrate end up in miserable urban settlements. The spread of these crops destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present or the future of regional economies. In several countries there is a trend in the development of oligopolies in the production of seeds and other products needed for cultivation, and the dependence deepens when you consider the production of sterile seeds, which would end up forcing farmers to buy from producers.

135. No doubt there is need of constant attention, which leads to consider all ethical aspects involved. To this end it is necessary to ensure a scientific and social debate that is responsible and large, able to consider all the information available and to call things by their name. Sometimes one do not put on the table the full information, but it is selected according to one’s interests, be they political, economic or ideological. This makes it difficult to develop a balanced and prudent judgment on the various issues, taking into account all the variables involved. We must have places of debate in which all those who somehow could be directly or indirectly involved (farmers, consumers, authorities, scientists, seed producers, people close to the treated field and others) set out their problems with access to extensive and reliable information to make decisions oriented to the common present and future good. The issue of GMOs is one that is complex, that must be approached with a sympathetic look in all its aspects, and this would require at least one more effort to finance several lines of independent and interdisciplinary research that they can bring new light.

136. On the other hand, it is worrying that some environmental movements defend the integrity of the environment, and with reason reclaim limits to scientific research, and sometimes do not apply these same principles to the human life. Often it justifies that go beyond all limits when experimenting with human embryos alive. It forgets that the inalienable value of a human being goes far beyond the degree of its development. Equally, when technology does not recognize the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice legitimate. As we have seen in this chapter, technology separated from ethics is unlikely to be able to self-limit its own power.

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