The encyclical makes no concessions in asserting the moral responsibility of men who, with their behaviors, influence the environment, pollution, global warming, and, ultimately, how we can prevent all of this. The Holy Father, the Pope, calls on everyone for an ecological conversion. It instigates us to change our route: to strive to safeguard the environment, our common home. And he says that polluting, contributing to global warming, to deforestation, is, at heart, a sin.
When the Roman Pontiff, starting from the second chapter of the encyclical, introduces the aspects of faith, he does so with a very clear preamble: “Why insert in this document, addressed to all people of goodwill, a chapter referring to the convictions of faith? I am aware that, in the field of politics and thought, some strongly refute the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, to the point of relegating to the scope of the irrational the wealth that religions can offer for an integral ecology and for the full development of mankind. Other times, they are supposed to constitute a subculture that should simply be tolerated. However, science and religion, which provide different approaches to reality, can enter into an intense and productive dialogue for both”.
There are some theological reflections and numerous acts of accusation directed at the powerful and developed nations. I have selected below those that I consider the main points: Preserving the natural world is the best legacy that we can leave for future generations:
Abandoning fossil fuels: “Waiting for better solutions (renewable energy) it is better to prefer lesser evil. In the case of energy, the worst of all is fossil coal. We know that technology based on fossil fuels, all very polluting – especially coal, followed by oil and, to a lesser extent, by combustible gases – must be replaced progressively, however, without hesitation. In the expectation of a broad development of renewable energies, which should have already started, it is legitimate to choose the lesser evil or to resort to transitory solutions”.
The failure of UN climate meetings: More than 20 years of summits have served little to control global warming. Noteworthy is the weakness of the international political reaction. The submission of politics to technology and finance is demonstrated by the failure of the world vertices on the environment. There are too many private interests and, very easily, the economic interest prevails over the common good and manipulates information.
“Emission credits” are useless negotiation: The strategy of buying and selling ‘emission credits ’can result in a new form of speculation and does not serve to reduce the global emission of polluting gases. This system seems to be a quick and easy solution, with the appearance of a certain commitment to the environment, but it does not really imply a radical change in the circumstances.
Far from it, it can become an expedient that allows sustaining the overconsumption of some countries and sectors”.
Importance of local initiatives: “In some places cooperatives are developed for the exploitation of renewable energies that enable local self-sufficiency and even the sale of surplus production. This simple example indicates that, while the existing world order is powerless to take responsibility, the local authority can make a difference. It is here that greater responsibility can be born, a strong sense of community, a special capacity for good care and more generous creativity, a deep love for the land itself, as well as thinking about what will be left for children and grandchildren. These values have very deep roots in Aboriginal populations”.
Transgenics? Neither in favor nor against: It is difficult to pass a general judgment regarding the development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), plants or animals, for medical or agricultural purposes, as they can be very different from one another and require different considerations. On the other hand, the risks should not always be attributed to the technique itself, but to its inadequate or excessive application. In reality, genetic mutations have been and continue to be produced many times by nature itself. Not even those caused by humans are a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossing of species, and other ancient and universally accepted practices can be the object of these considerations. It is worth remembering that the beginning of scientific work on transgenic cereals was the observation of bacteria that naturally and spontaneously produce changes in the genome of a vegetable. However, in nature, these processes have a slow pace, which cannot be compared to the speed imposed by current technological progress, even when such progress is based on multi-century scientific developments.
Consumption is the most serious problem for the world population: “Blaming demographic growth and not extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some is a way of not facing problems. In this way, the intention is to legitimize the current distributive model, in which a minority believes in the right to consume in a proportion that would be impossible to generalize because the planet would not even be able to absorb the waste produced by such consumption.
Cell phones and other devices are ruining our relationship with nature: “At the same time, real relationships with others, with all the challenges they imply, tend to be replaced by a type of communication mediated by the internet. This allows selecting or eliminating relationships according to our discretion and, in this way, a new type of artificial emotion is often generated, which has more to do with ele
ctronic devices and visual displays than with people and nature. The current means allow us to communicate and to share knowledge and affections. However, sometimes they prevent us from making direct contact with anguish, with fear, with the joy of others, and with the complexity of their personal experience. That is why it should not be surprising that, in addition to the oppressive supply of these products, a deep and melancholy dissatisfaction in interpersonal relationships, or harmful isolation, is growing. ”
The legacy for the new generations? The desolation: “Catastrophic predictions can no longer be considered with contempt and irony. We will be able to leave for the next generations too many ruins, deserts, and garbage. The rhythms of consumption, waste, and changes in the environment have surpassed the planet’s possibilities, in such a way that the current lifestyle, being unsustainable, can only lead to catastrophes, as in fact, it is already happening periodically in several regions”.
Polluting and extinguishing resources is a sin: The environment is a collective asset, the patrimony of all humanity and everyone’s responsibility. Whoever owns a part of it is only to manage it for the benefit of all. If we don’t, we will carry the burden of denying the existence of others in our conscience. That is why the bishops of New Zealand wondered what the command “you shall not kill” means when about 20% of the world population consumes resources in order to rob the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive.
Noise pollution is also reprehensible: “To be able to speak of authentic development, it will be necessary to have an integral improvement in the quality of human life, and that implies analyzing the space in which people’s existence is taking place. The environments in which we live influence our way of seeing life, feeling, and acting. At the same time, in our bedroom, in our home, in our workplace, and in our neighborhood, we must make use of the environment to express our identity. We strive to adapt to the environment, but when it is disordered, chaotic, or saturated with visual and noise pollution, the excess of stimuli tests our attempts to develop an integrated and happy identity”.
These are some interesting and controversial points of the encyclical that help us to reflect and take positions and that deserve studies from us to deepen. It is also a challenge for governments and technicians. A great advance in reflection and in taking positions regarding so many important situations for the world of today and tomorrow.
by Bro. Cesar. OP.