​Pope Frances, image from Aleteia Image Department \ CC BY-SA 2.0

On June 18, Pope Francis released a 180-page encyclical letter on the environment, addressed to every person on the planet. He covers a lot of ground: pollution, our throwaway culture, the breakdown of society. Here are the passages that particularly resonate with A\J.

[Saint] Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology. … The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled. …

The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. … 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 … even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves. …

A true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice … so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. …

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. Economic interests easily end up trumping the common good.

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. … Economic interests easily end up trumping the common good. … Consequently the most one can expect is superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of concern for the environment, whereas any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.…

What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?

In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement. … 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. … 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. …

The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. …

To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power. To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practise a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute.

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