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Friday, June 19, 2015

...he’s no tree-worshipping pagan

"But the heart of the encyclical is less an account of environmental or social destruction than a remarkable attack on the way our world runs: on the “rapidification” of modern life, on the way that economic growth and technology trump all other concerns, on a culture that can waste billions of people. These are neither liberal nor conservative themes, and they are not new for popes: what is new is that the ecological crisis makes them inescapable. Continual economic and technological development may have long been isolating, deadening, spiritually unfulfilling—but it has swept all before it anyway, despite theological protest, because it has delivered the goods. But now, the rapidly rising temperature (and new data this morning showed we’ve just lived through the hottest May since record-keeping began) gives the criticism bite. Our way of life literally doesn’t work. It’s breaking the planet. Given the severity of the situation, Francis writes, “we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.”

Neither liberal nor conservative—but definitely radical. Francis calls for nothing less than the demotion of individualism and a renewed concern for what we hold in common as humans (the encyclical is explicitly directed to all of us, Catholic or not, since the environmental crisis is more universal than any challenge before it). “The rejection of every form of self-centeredness and self-absorption [is] essential if we truly wish to care for our brothers and sisters and for the natural environment,” he writes. Get your nose out of your iPhone (“When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously”) and join in the fight for a livable world.

Because a fight it is. The pope may have combined the orders of science and spirituality, but he knows they must battle a third magisteria: money, which so far has usually won. He’s caustic about the failures of international conclaves and national politicians, rightly isolating the cause as the ongoing triumph of those for whom accumulation is the only god. “Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market,” he has written, adding knowingly today that, “consequently the most one can expect [from our leaders] is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy, and perfunctory expressions of concern.” Indeed, an hour or two after the release of his encyclical, the House voted to give the president “fast-track” authority to negotiate a free trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations, over the protests of advocates for both environmentalists and workers that it would only worsen the problems the encyclical describes."

...well, said Bill McKibben