Lauado Si : Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home

Holy See

[Vox] 1) On the bare facts of climate change, Francis’s letter isn’t saying anything climate researchers haven’t been saying for decades: “Scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … released mainly as a result of human activity.” He notes that global warming will lead to ugly consequences like rising sea levels and we should avoid those consequences by phasing out fossil-fuel use. Nothing new there!

2) What’s different is that Francis frames environmental protection as a profound moral and theological issue. He addresses the biblical idea, found in Genesis, that God gave humanity “dominion” over the Earth. That passage, Francis says, does not mean we have the right to deplete the environment endlessly: “Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations,” he argues.

3) As Jack Jenkins and Emily Atkin explain at Climate Progress, this section of Francis’s encyclical speaks to a long-simmering debate among Christians around “dominion.” Some conservatives have justified the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels on the grounds that God gave them to us — so we ought to exploit them fully. Francis is basically saying, nope, that’s an incorrect reading of the Bible.

4) Francis’s economic and political vision is undeniably radical — lying outside the bounds of current US political discussion. He questions the notion that “infinite or unlimited” economic growth is compatible with environmental protection. He says our “throwaway culture,” in which we’re constantly buying new gadgets and chucking older ones, is fouling the planet. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

5) Francis also repeats previous papal calls for a “world political authority” that would aim “to manage the global economy; to revive economies hit by the crisis, to prevent deterioration of the present and subsequent imbalances; to achieve integral and timely disarmament, food security and peace; to ensure environmental protection and pursuant to the regulations for migratory flows.”

6) But this isn’t a liberal document, either. Take this bit, which is getting overlooked by a lot of secular greens: “Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.” Francis also doesn’t think environmental problems should be tackled by expanding access to birth control and slowing population growth…


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