Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for our Common Home
Pope Francis, 2015
Introduction by Naomi Oreskes Melville House 151 pages
For this proud Unitarian and passionate environmentalist, Pope Francis' plea is beautiful. Brave and brilliant, it illumines the path we are on and where we must go with loving eloquence. He sees the truth and dares to tell it, with never a touch of either condescension or doubt.
In her introduction, Harvard Professor of the History of Science Naomi Oreskes, best known for Merchants of Doubt, her scathing book equating the tobacco and oil industries, compares this Encyclical to Uncle Tom's Cabin and Silent Spring, similar "calls to action," She summarizes his "two lines of thought" as mutual responsibility and denunciation of market fundamentalism.
In his Preface, Pope Francis calls for "a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet." Mother Earth "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."
In the subsequent six chapters, he covers pollution (our "throwaway culture"), destruction of forests and oceans, the rupture of social cohesion, unlimited growth ("based on the lie that Earth's goods are infinite"), our technical paradigm ("cult of unlimited human power"), and "a consumerist view of human beings," all while denouncing our "spiral of self-destruction." Throughout, he equates care of creation with care and respect for the poor, who are exploited by the same consumerist mindset.
Admittedly, he slips in a few references to embryos, which will annoy some people. But this is a call to action addressed to the entire human race, and as such avoids a Catholic focus. This wonderful Pope, both hard-hitting and gentle, is the visionary leader many of us have hungered for.