A summary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the Environment, compiled by British Catholic layperson David Weight in September 2015:
The encyclical was written in conjunction with the Head of the Orthodox church, Patriach Bartholomew, to (somewhat unusually) address every person living on this planet.
It is based on Catholic social teaching, comprehensively referenced back to biblical texts, many other encyclicals and other sources, including scientific papers. The numbers in superscript correspond to the paragraph numbers in the original document. See: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html
The act of creation was a decision and an act of love by God. 77
To harm the environment is a sin.
We have a duty to minimise the harm we do to the environment.
We should love nature.
Climate change is a very major threat, and is caused mainly by burning fossil fuels. 23 – 26
We need a change in our greedy life-styles to reduce consumption, although the harm can be mitigated through efficiency, re-use and recycling. 22 However, governments and corporations need to develop circular resource models which retain resources and eliminate waste. 22 & 192 Pressure is needed from voters, consumers and investors.
The damage to land and animals is leading to migration and conflict. 25
Evacuees from climate change and associated resource depletion are not legally recognised as refugees. 25
Generally, the rich have an ecological debt to the poor. 52
Resource depletion leads to wars. 57
There have been beneficial projects, albeit rather isolated. 26
Problems include: Greed; 59 Self-delusion and evasiveness; 53 Lack of effective leadership and legal framework; 14 Problems of denial, indifference, and resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. 14
A Sabbath day or day of rest important, and should apply to animals also. 68
We should value all God’s creatures. God is present in all of them and all nature. Animals should be valued for themselves, not merely for their use to humanity, and we should treat them humanely. 10-16 & 92
There is now, massive unprecedented power in the hands of a relative few, 102 – 105 along with a transfer of power from nation states to transnational organisations and financial sectors. 175
The notion of perpetual economic growth is a myth, as is “trickle down”, as the planet is squeezed dry. 106
The use of GM crops could bring dangers of dominance by seed providers, especially if seeds are infertile. 135
Drug use in rich countries causes massive problems in supplying countries. 142
Intensive development can destroy cultures and social structures. 145
Indigenous peoples (who protect land) are threatened by agricultural or mining projects. 146
Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good. 157
The notion of the “common good” extends to future generations. 159
We must consider what is the purpose of our life? What will be our legacy? 160
Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. 161
Many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification and rampant individualism. 162
We need to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, perhaps using subsidies needed in an energy transition period. 165
The richer countries should pay most of the cost of cleaning up the environment and countering global warming. 170
It is important to have continuity of policies, so we need to have policies that are carried through a number of government terms. 181
The 2007-08 international banking crisis should have led to new ethical banking. That hasn’t happened. 189
We should boycott certain products. “Purchasing is always a moral – and not simply economic – act”. 206
Happiness means knowing how to limit some needs which only diminish us, and being open to the many different possibilities which life can offer. 223
There is need for greater humility and sobriety. 224
We should return to saying grace before and after meals. 227
The values discussed above should be taught in families, churches and schools. 213 & 214
There is a need for Christians to convert to the environmental cause. 217
The above has, for the sake of brevity, excluded much good work. Such exclusions are because they are aimed more at governments and corporations rather than individuals, or are somewhat remote from most British readers, such as: pollution, water scarcity or deforestation.
David Weight. 7 September 2015.