A Summary of the #Encyclical (Part 1)

The earth is our sister, and she “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” The earth is “among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor,” the victim of “violence present in our hearts” (2).
With this stark and agonizing image, Pope Francis begins Laudato Si, a letter addressed to “every person living on this planet … about our common home.” When I began reading an advanced copy the other night, my heart literally pounded in my chest. I felt, and feel, that it is the most important public document written in my lifetime.
I am not Roman Catholic. But never in my life have I felt that a religious leader has better used his position of influence for a more important purpose.
The question, of course, will be how we respond. And the answer to that question depends not just on the Pope, but on you and me. Here is a brief summary, although I hope all will read the whole document.
After providing some historical background (paragraphs 3 – 12), the Pope makes his appeal “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet … a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (14). He expresses thanks for all those “striving in countless ways to guarantee the protection of the home which we share” (13).
Then he names the obstruction: “Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions. We require a new and universal solidarity” (14).
A description of “what is happening to our common home” follows:

Pollution (20-21), fueled by a wasteful throwaway culture that has not adopted a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them” (22).
Climate change, the result of “a model of development based on the inte

nsive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes” (23-25).
Obstruction and denial by “many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power” (26).
Potential and threatened shortages of fresh drinking water, a special need for many of the world’s most vulnerable poor (27-29)
Further dangers for the poor through privatized drinking water: “Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” (30-31).
Loss of plant and animal species due to habitat destruction, toxins, careless development, habitat segmentation, commercial overharvesting, monoculture farming: “the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly” (32-42)
Loss of quality of life through loss of contact with nature’s beauty and wisdom, loss of health through pollution and overcrowding, loss of contact with creation through oversaturation with mass media (43-47).
Gross inequality, where the rich live in luxury and have little contact with or awareness of the poor who live in privation and risk (48).
A failure to realize how ecology is integrated with economics, politics, religion, and other dimensions of life: “… the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together) (48) so that “… a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49).
A situation of imbalance where developed countries, with a minority of population, consume a majority of resources and produce the majority of pollution; meanwhile, the multinational corporations based in developed countries exploit resources in developing countries and then “leave behind great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers and a handful of social works which are no longer sustainable” (50-52).
Total failure of political leadership to respond appropriately (52-55).
The deification of the market, so that economics rules without ethics (56)
Complacency, superficiality, recklessness, denial, and endless argument, which leave people “trying not to see [the realities], trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen” (57-61).
Part 2 to follow …