IT took me the better part of Wednesday to get through Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, “Laudato Si.”
It is a very comprehensive document that talks about the dynamics between Man and the Environment in philosophical, religious, sociological, economic terms. Climate change is a major topic but there are many others from the impact of the haves and the results on the have-nots of the ongoing environmental damage that the world better address before it is too late.
I have thought it best to quote directly relevant passages with some annotations from me if called for and then make a general commentary next week.
Here are the direct quotes from Pope Francis:
On Sister Mother Earth (his exact term): “The sister 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.”
“Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in ‘lifestyles, models of production and consumption and the established structures of power which today govern societies’.” (Quoting from St. John Paul 11).
“….the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels which is 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.” (Vegetable gardening all over the Cordillera including in watersheds and steep slopes).
“One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances….Underground water sources in many places are threatened by pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities especially in countries lacking adequate regulations or controls.” (Here and Now).
“But water continues to be wasted not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an education and cultural issue since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behavior within a context of great inequality.” (Watch people washing their cars, hosing their floors, washing clothes with the faucets running).
“The loss of forests and woodlands entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses…Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see.”
“But a sober look at our world shows that 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.”
“But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained. Where certain species are destroyed or seriously harmed, the values involved are incalculable. We can be silent witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration.” (Sin of omission is as grave as that of commission).
“The replacement of virgin forest with plantations of trees, usually monocultures, is rarely adequately analyzed. Yet this can seriously compromise biodiversity which the new species being introduced does not accommodate.” (The tarsiers of Bohol are considered endangered because their forests of endemic Philippine trees have been replaced by mahogany trees, alien to them).
“Nowadays, for example we are conscious of the disproportionate and unruly growth of major cities, which have become unhealthy to live in, not only because of pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation and visual pollution and noise…Neighborhoods, even those recently built are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space. We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal and deprived of physical contact with nature.” (Metro Manila, Cebu, Baguio at iba pa).
“The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy. This makes it necessary to build more roads and parking areas which spoil the urban landscape. Many specialists agree on the need to give priority to public transportation. Yet some measures needed will not prove easily acceptable to society unless substantial improvements are made in the systems themselves, which in many cities force people to put up with undignified conditions due to crowding, inconvenience, infrequent service and lack of safety.” (Seems Pope Francis noticed our light rail transits while in the city, tsk, tsk.)
“In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty. In others, “ecological” neighborhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure artificial tranquility. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safe” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.” (Obvious in these here parts.)
“It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems of which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days they are mentioned in international and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought…Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centers of power, being located in affluent urban areas are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems.” (Maybe less true here than in the First World).
“There is also the damage caused by the export of solid waste and toxic liquids to developing countries and by the pollution produced by companies which operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home in the countries in which they raise their capital. (Close to home if not at home here indeed).
“At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as license to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self destructive vices, trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.”
Food for thought. My reaction to the Encyclical next week.