Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, is not about climate change as is sometimes suggested. It has wider concerns. Pope Francis accepts the scientific opinion that most warming is attributable to human activity and that there is an “urgent”need to reduce carbon emissions, by “substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.
So what is it about?
- It is about creation and our relation to it – about the sacredness of all life.
- It is about bio-diversity and the other species with which we share this planet. He urges us to be pro-life in the widest possible sense and stop driving other species into extinction.
- It is about ecological destruction and the urgent need to deal with it ! In No 21 he doesn’t mince his words – “the earth is beginning to look more like an immense pile of filth”!
- It is about social justice – the fact that the poor who suffer most from damage to the environment. ‘Caring for our Common Home’, is a matter of social justice.
For two thousand years we have focussed on our relationship with God and other humans. We are clear that it is wrong to steal, to kill, to commit adultery, worship false Gods. But it is also morally wrong to drain marshes, kill species, cut down rain forests. Love God, your neighbour but also nature!
Pope Francis has stated in Laudato Si that damage to the environment is sinful – pollution of the land and of water, the loss of biodiversity, destruction of forests, depletion of non-renewables, are all sins. The challenge is to recognise them as sins – to develop our moral imagination sufficiently so that we begin to see these as actions for what they are – sins. We don’t believe it yet – I find it hard to believe.