With his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home (available online as a long-form letter) Pope Francis has entered the fray not just on the environment and its future but also more broadly on the ethics and impact of dominant models of economic development and ‘extreme’ consumption. His encyclical highlights the fact that our fossil-fuel based, ‘throwaway culture’ coupled with our ‘irrational confidence in progress and human abilities’ and a ‘blind confidence in technical solutions, is ‘actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, even more limited and grey’.
In keeping with the vast bulk of scientific research and evidence, Francis argues that climate change is not just a ‘global problem with serious implications’ for people and planet, but is also based on substantial and growing international inequality whose impact is felt disproportionately by the world’s poorest people. It is also rooted in a perverse logic that insists on short-term gain for some at the cost of long-term loss for all.
Contrary to much of western popular perception and (ill-informed) debate, he highlights the reality that the resources and wealth of poorer countries continue to fuel the development of richer countries at huge present and future cost. He calls on the rich of the world to recognise the impact of their wealth and way of life and begin paying their ‘grave social debt’ to the poor by taking concrete steps on climate change and sustainable ways of living.