The Earth, our home, is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth
June 18, 2015 9:56 AM   Subscribe

This is an extract from Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si. Here are some of the early analyses.
posted by infini (86 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 


the Pope, with a background in chemistry, is a wise man indeed. Alas, too bad he continues to tel his flock to be fruitful and moltiply...that over populated world might be in part responsible for some of the mess we have made of our earth.
posted by Postroad at 10:03 AM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


For a long while I've been hung up on the idea that any system wherein participants are incentivized to pay attention and give time to people who already have lots of people paying attention to them and already have a lot of people lavishing time on their needs necessarily tends toward a condition wherein most peoples' needs are totally ignored, while a few peoples' wants become all-consuming societal obsessions. Capitalism — a system where the chief tool needed to make money is money, and where attention and care are divvied up by market means — fits this description. Facebook and other social media sites, incidentally, also fit this description, because they are systems wherein the way to win attention is to already have a lot of people paying attention to you (and sharing your content, etc.)

The mathy (or math-fetishy) way to talk about this involves making reference to the tendency of systems that follow the "pay attention to the people who already have attention" principle to fall into a power law distribution (note the link to wealth concentration at the bottom of the power law wiki page.

The Jesusey (or Jesus-fetishy) way to say the same thing is Francis's "This vision of 'might is right' has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus."

Although we would quickly tend toward a flattened distribution of resources and care wherein each person gets about one person's worth of respect if we were to all collectively start paying attention to and lavishing care on those less powerful and connected than us, rather than on the powerful and connected, the incentives toward primarily caring for the strong instead of the weak are themselves so strong that any non-powerful person attempting to meaningfully direct their attention to the weak instead of the strong is essentially committing social suicide.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2015 [18 favorites]


I've found myself believing more and more over the last few years that the questions of environment and wealth disparity were becoming very much an 'us' and 'them' thing, where 'them' would be those who supported disparity and environmental plunder, and 'us' would be those who at least gave lip service to not supporting it.

I've occasionally been surprised at the people who have put their support in 'them,' seemingly in spite of their own interests, but never as surprised as I have been to find the head of the Catholic church on the 'us' side.

I do like this Pope, I do.
posted by Mooski at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2015 [16 favorites]




whoops, screwed up my links and missed the edit window. anyway: Wikipedia on Power law distributions, Wikipedia on wealth concentration. Also, it would be wrong of me to not note that the thing that originally got me thinking about this was Slacktivist (that old Baptist!) talking about Why Young Life (the youth ministry organization) is Evil
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:13 AM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]




Man. If this guy had been in charge back when I was a high schooler, I might not be a lapsed Catholic right now.

(Actually, yes, I would still be lapsed. But still. I like this guy.)
posted by caution live frogs at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is good stuff:

"Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals. Romano Guardini had already foreseen this: “The gadgets and technics forced upon him by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater or lesser degree mass man is convinced that his conformity is both reasonable and just”. This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume. But those really free are the minority who wield economic and financial power."
posted by Atrahasis at 10:27 AM on June 18, 2015 [21 favorites]


My sister sent me this from The American Catholic:
Top Ten Takeaways from 'Laudato Si''
1) The spiritual perspective is now part of the discussion on the environment.
2) The poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.
3) Less is more.
4) Catholic social teaching now includes teaching on the environment.
5) Discussions about ecology can be grounded in the Bible and church tradition.
6) Everything is connected—including the economy.
7) Scientific research on the environment is to be praised and used.
8) Widespread indifference and selfishness worsen environmental problems.
9) Global dialogue and solidarity are needed.
10) A change of heart is required.

My mother and some of my siblings have used the framework of the Catholic church to go out in to the world to do good works. What this does is give millions a framework to move forward on the giant problem we all face. This is important.
posted by readery at 10:28 AM on June 18, 2015 [46 favorites]




More seriously, I thought this passage was thought-provoking:

This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”. A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:31 AM on June 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


the Pope, with a background in chemistry, is a wise man indeed. Alas, too bad he continues to tel his flock to be fruitful and moltiply...that over populated world might be in part responsible for some of the mess we have made of our earth.

Most of the problems to date have been caused by traditionally Protestant countries in the global North, not by Roman Catholics in the developing countries (which use far, far... FAR fewer resources per capita than the average MeFite) in the global South.
posted by Nevin at 10:33 AM on June 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


But still. I like this guy.

“If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”
posted by Nevin at 10:35 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Alas, too bad he continues to tel his flock to be fruitful and moltiply...that over populated world might be in part responsible for some of the mess we have made of our earth.
(50) Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health.” Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development.” To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.
posted by resurrexit at 10:37 AM on June 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


But still. I like this guy.

“If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”


Yeah, I mean, he's not perfect, but he's pretty good for a Pope.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:50 AM on June 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


Extreme consumption by rich countries is a much bigger ecological problem than is population growth.

What I have read of this seems smart and well reasoned. I hope it helps shift the discourse, especially by policy makers.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:02 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]




This morning, a TV news talking head was teasing this story going into a break, saying something about "the backlash against the Pope's controversial comments about climate change" and it got me wondering why it's never the climate change deniers' statements that are labeled 'controversial', despite the fact that they are in direct opposition to 90+% of the scientific consensus.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:12 AM on June 18, 2015 [61 favorites]


Dip Flash, I also hope it helps shift the discourse, but I strongly doubt it. I'm a Protestant and I love this Pope. But I fear this is just part of Earth's decline as told in the Bible, moving toward the second coming of Christ. I think I've grown more cynical in my middle age.
posted by harrietthespy at 11:13 AM on June 18, 2015


Atom Eyes, I wish I could favorite your comment a thousand times over.
posted by harrietthespy at 11:14 AM on June 18, 2015


a TV news talking head was teasing this story going into a break, saying something about "the backlash against the Pope's controversial comments about climate change"

Eyeballs to advertisers. These are the fucking fucks that are fucking the planet with the extreme consumerism that they make all their money from. "Controversy" draws eyeballs. Eyeballs see advertisements for products that they consume.

Giving an unslanted platform to this statement by the Pope is not in their vested interests as business people.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2015


This morning, a TV news talking head was teasing this story going into a break, saying something about "the backlash against the Pope's controversial comments about climate change" and it got me wondering why it's never the climate change deniers' statements that are labeled 'controversial', despite the fact that they are in direct opposition to 90+% of the scientific consensus.

It's not neccesarily about climate change denial. For example, the encyclical opposed "carbon credit" systems (171), which are supported by such infamous climate deniers as "President Obama, Al Gore, Former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Nobel-Prize Winner Paul Krugman, Environmental Defense Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, National Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters and National Wildlife Fund" (cite).
posted by Jahaza at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2015


Also, yeah, I like this guy, as far as popes go.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:34 AM on June 18, 2015


it got me wondering why it's never the climate change deniers' statements that are labeled 'controversial'

Every google result for "controversial comments/remarks on climate change/global warming" (with quotes) refers to people denying climate change.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 11:37 AM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mooski: "I've occasionally been surprised at the people who have put their support in 'them,' seemingly in spite of their own interests, but never as surprised as I have been to find the head of the Catholic church on the 'us' side."

To be clear, very little in this encyclical is new; the emphasis on environmentalism is new, but environmentalism itself as a moral obligation of Catholics is not, nor is the mandate to consume less and avoid being caught up in consumer capitalism, nor is the emphasis on solidarity with the poor, nor is the rebuke to rich countries that exploit and burden poor countries.

Just off the top of my head I can think of Papal statements on some of these issues going back to 1900, but a lot of them -- especially about economics -- didn't get a lot of play in the English-speaking West because COMMIES. There's a kind-of famous one from around 1900ish where the Pope maybe declares lightbulbs anathema (he's definitely anti-lightbulb, it's not totally clear whether they're anathema or not), which gets remembered because declaring lightbulbs anathema is funny, but he was actually objecting to the increased exploitation of workers that artificial lighting allowed (by keeping them in factories for 18 hours even if in the very short days of winter), and the dissolution of families and communities that followed the mindless pursuit of profit by these factories and corporations. It's right next door to straight-up Marxism.

American social-justice Catholics have been talking about these things for YEARS, challenging priests as to why there are anti-abortion sermons four times a year in parishes where the abortion rate is vanishingly low, but there is never, ever, ever an anti-SUV sermon despite SUVs being a clear violation of several moral mandates for Catholics (not securing the safety of self by putting others in danger, avoiding unnecessary pollution, avoiding conspicuous consumption and excessive consumption, etc.). Challenging Catholic politicians who are vocal about abortion issues but suddenly clam up about environmental issues (or the death penalty, for that matter). Working on agricultural policies regarding pesticides and factory farming.

Environmentalism is also a robust thread in modern mainline Protestant thought; there are lots of English-language Bible scholars doing excellent environmentalist interpretive work in the mainline denominations. And it is a method of entry that gains traction with some American conservatives -- a message about Jesus's concern for the poor, Jesus wanting us not to consume excessively, God demanding we care for creation, that resonates with even many very politically conservative, religiously evangelical Christians.

I'm still poking my way slowly through the actual encyclical, but even the title is deliberately provocative. "Laudato si'" (Blessed Be You; or Praised Are You) is from St. Francis of Assisi's Canticle of the Sun prayer ("Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs") which not just grounds the encyclical in St. Francis's teachings (of course), but sets the stage to say that environmentalism isn't just a form of self-denial or justice, but a mandatory way of praising and worshipping God. Environmentalism is not like giving chocolate up for Lent where you can still be Catholic and maybe just not be so great at your fasting; it's like going to Mass where it is a way you MUST give praise and worship to God, and it is joyful. (And of course it's a tiny bit pagan because St. Francis is calling created things "brother" and "sister" and that locates them within a moral universe where God cares what happens to them. Still working through it. Gotta toggle over to the Latin sometimes to see what the phrases are so I get some of the coded inside-baseball references.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2015 [58 favorites]


Thanks for that - it's interesting how often my perceptions are in stark contrast to reality, and I like to think I check myself from time to time.
posted by Mooski at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2015


"Immense pile of filth"-- yep. The ability to produce vast amounts of garbage seems to be one of the key differences between us and the other great apes. We put garbage everywhere: the oceans, the atmosphere, even the moon. We are The Garbage Apes. Can we as a species overcome the "Widespread indifference and selfishness" of the worst part of our natures and move beyond The Garbage Ape phase? I sure hope so.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:09 PM on June 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Those Catholic members of the U.S. Supreme Court who declared Corporations to be People? Excommunicate 'em, Francis, now.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:26 PM on June 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "Gotta toggle over to the Latin sometimes to see what the phrases are so I get some of the coded inside-baseball references."

The Italian, rather. They haven't released the Latin yet. Which is annoying, I would like to know how to say "microorganism" and "synthetic agrotoxin" in Latin.

This is unusually long for an encyclical -- I might not have started reading it while my kids were awake if I'd realized it was going to be this long. But my initial reaction is, it's really good. The theology is excellent and comprehensive, and it carries clear lines of argumentation through very long, complex explanations of theology and science. And it's unusually readable (for an encyclical) -- and unusually direct (although maybe just in comparison to John Paul II). I think it might be really, really good, guys. I honestly think it might be something people are still reading and referencing widely in 500 years, it might be that good.

I've read quite a bit of Pope Francis (including his pre-papal work), and I've read a LOT of encyclicals, and I'm kind-of blown away. This is really good.

It's also somewhat rare in the modern world for the culture to spend a long moment actually engaging with long-form philosophical thinking, so that's kind-of exciting too. (Sort of the same reason people get excited about Bernie Sanders or Lindsay Graham, they have actually thought through their ideas and want to talk about them in depth rather than just giving pull quotes.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:50 PM on June 18, 2015 [23 favorites]


Speaking of reviews, here's the NYT:

... Amid all his soaring rhetoric, did the pope get the science right? The short answer from climate and environmental scientists is that he did, at least to the degree possible in a religious document meant for a broad audience. If anything, they say, he may have bent over backward to offer a cautious interpretation of the scientific facts.

For example, a substantial body of published science says that human emissions have caused all the global warming that has occurred over the past century. Yet in his letter, Francis does not go quite that far ... “Human activity is most likely responsible not just for ‘most global warming’ but all of it, and then some, because natural factors have been acting slightly in the other direction,” Dr. [Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University] said.

posted by RedOrGreen at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2015


I won't say anything about Santorum and filth, but NPR had these round-ups of preliminary (US) criticism:
"The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science," Santorum said in an interview with a Philadelphia radio station. "I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we're good at, which is theology and morality."
While we're at it, let's leave the science to the scientists so the politicians can get back to politicking.
"I hope I'm not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don't get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope," said Bush, who converted to Catholicism 20 years ago. "And I'd like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issues before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm."
Here's the thing: the "political" realm and "religious" realms overlap quite a lot, because there are no clear little boxes around "religion" and "politics" and "everything else." "Don't fuck up the earth" is a good thing for both region and politics to say, reminding us (first worlders) "you're not the only ones here, you greedy jerks."

Anyway, I was looking for something I heard on NPR, which I thought was from a religious-type person who said something along the lines of "religion is great at getting people to make sacrifices." We'll see what happens.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:53 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's been really bizarre to see Republicans proclaiming that religion needs to stay out of politics.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:14 PM on June 18, 2015 [26 favorites]


I have seen quite a few supposedly Catholic US politicians criticising the pope over this. How does that work, is he not infallible in the States? Or are those guys not quite as religious as they make themselves out to be, when it starts to get in the way of making money?
posted by tinkletown at 1:17 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Infallibility doesn't work like that.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 1:24 PM on June 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Infallibility doesn't work like that, but also, they're totally not as religious as they pretend to be. Just ask them where they stand on the death penalty, which the Catholic Church is as consistent in its opposition to as it is to abortion, and for basically the same reasons, and it's part of the same teaching.

But the Pope does say in the document that this is part of Catholic teaching now so eff you deniers: "15. It is my hope that this Encyclical Letter, which is now added to the body of the Church’s social teaching," ... Encyclicals do have enormous weight of authority, basically right behind the Bible and then Conciliar documents (like those from Vatican II), but coming out and making the point that the letter is part of the magisterium (teaching authority) now is definitely driving the point home that this isn't "adiaphora" (which is theologianese for "the bits that don't matter a lot").
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:33 PM on June 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


Encyclical encyclical encyclical
I want to ride my encyclical encyclical encyclical
I want to ride my encyclical
I want to ride my eike
I want to ride my encyclical
I want to ride it where I like
posted by chavenet at 1:41 PM on June 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


which use far, far... FAR fewer resources per capita than the average MeFite: Source
posted by infini at 11:09 AM on June 18 [1 favorite +] [!]


No such thing. We're all above average.
posted by chavenet at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2015


Nthing the "infallibility plus US Catholic politicians don't always follow." And adding that "Some U.S. Catholics seem to sometimes act like special snowflakes"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


And then, there's the rest of the planet.

Eyebrows McGee, so glad you're part of Metafilter and in this thread. Loving the ease of your knowledge flowing through the comments.
posted by infini at 2:15 PM on June 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


"I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we're good at, which is theology and morality."

Wow, so many directions to go with this. How about these two for a start:

"I remember when we used to torture scientists, not listen to them."

"A Pope who protects child rapists within the highest echelons of the church? Moral. One who protects God's creation? Not so much."
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:20 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Infallibility doesn't work like that, but also, they're totally not as religious as they pretend to be.

There's also the weird pope denialists who think X pope or another is not the Legitimate True Pope.
posted by corb at 2:39 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


33. It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves. Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right.

34. It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. But the good functioning of ecosystems also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. But nowadays, such intervention in nature has become more and more frequent. As a consequence, serious problems arise, leading to further interventions; human activity becomes ubiquitous, with all the risks which this entails. Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. For example, many birds and insects which disappear due to synthetic agrotoxins are helpful for agriculture: their disappearance will have to be compensated for by yet other techniques which may well prove harmful. We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. 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. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

(emphasis added)
posted by junco at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2015 [14 favorites]


Some U.S. Catholics seem to sometimes act like special snowflakes

Wow. That's some industrial-strength stupid.
“For example, are we God’s stewards? Are we supposed to take care of the Earth? Of course, that’s out of the Old Testament, it’s out of the New Testament, it’s totally unobjectionable.”
But then
“No one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil,” Donohue added. “So, people need to get up to speed on this.”
This is very nearly like saying that, although the Bible condemns murder, it does not specifically condemn guns, and therefore that the Pope would be out of bounds to say that shooting someone was contrary to Catholic teaching.
posted by gauche at 2:57 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Pope would be out of bounds to say that, given that the Catholics created and still stand by Just War doctrine.
it sometimes becomes necessary to use force to obtain the end of justice. This is the right, and the duty, of those who have responsibilities for others, such as civil leaders and police forces. While individuals may renounce all violence those who must preserve justice may not do so, though it should be the last resort, "once all peace efforts have failed." [Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 79, 4]
posted by corb at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2015


II, 30:
Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. 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 educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.
Good stuff.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:10 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Finally something worthwhile out of the Old White Guy's Club.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:11 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, Just War doctrine is an acceptable position for Catholics on the use of force (Pacifism being the other that I can think of).

I meant "someone" in the sense of a specific event: Just War does not imply that all shootings are in accordance with Catholic teaching. The Pope could condemn any number of shootings on moral grounds without implicating the Church's stance on the theory of Just War.
posted by gauche at 3:11 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh gotcha yeah, you are right on those grounds. Sorry, I took it much more broadly.
posted by corb at 3:13 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


also to be honest, let's face it, it's not like most of our leaders, even Catholic ones, are making sure all peace efforts failed before going to war either.
posted by corb at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.[86]

107. It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”.[87] As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”.[88] Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.[89] At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”,[90] while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. 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, which then becomes irrelevant. 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. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas”.[91]

posted by infini at 3:14 PM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


infini, from 47: " Furthermore, 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. ... Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise."
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


man, I just went through a moment of WE HAVE TO INVITE THE POPE TO METAFILTER TO SHOW HIM COMMUNITY followed by the sheer, pants-shitting terror that I would have of such an overture, much less if he actually showed up.
posted by corb at 3:21 PM on June 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


MonkeyToes, I've been thinking on that. Yes, many have been observing the socially alienating aspects of social media and smartphones, however one can also consider its impact on isolated introverted societies like Finland's... context also matters. Even their diplomats say the Finns learnt to communicate due to text, and that's why they invented SMS ;p
posted by infini at 3:24 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wasn't bringing up infallibility from a position of zero knowledge - my family are Catholic and I went to a convent school, in a staunchly Catholic country (Malta).

It would be unthinkable for a politician over there to criticise the Pope so openly (political suicide, for one thing), and I was honestly quite shocked.
posted by tinkletown at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


> “No one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil,” Donohue added.
Except for the Pope just now, duder. Keep up.
posted by boo_radley at 3:27 PM on June 18, 2015 [5 favorites]



It would be unthinkable for a politician over there to criticise the Pope so openly (political suicide, for one thing), and I was honestly quite shocked.

The inherent sense of exceptionalism also leads to such thinking, that nothing else in the world matters, nor anyone else's opinion. The actions in this thread and the thinking are not unrelated the thinking behind what leads to the actions and the responses in public by politicians in other threads, such as that on Charleston. Seems like there's nobody home listening.
posted by infini at 3:31 PM on June 18, 2015


“No one has ever said that air pollution is intrinsically evil,” Donohue added.

"Not all pollution!"
posted by srboisvert at 3:51 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


but no," he said, instead casting a vote for "responsible parenthood."

Does this translate as 'Whip it out and go on her tits, like in the films!'. Or is he hinting that he knows the official line on contraception is bollocks (and can be left to one side by responsible people) but he can't do anything about it?
posted by biffa at 3:54 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity what is the current Catholic thinking on the morality penal labour?
posted by srboisvert at 4:09 PM on June 18, 2015


This Pope is still theologically conservative. It's just that he's read the gospels and sees Jesus' concern for the poor. This Pope makes me want to be a high-church Anglican.

Jeb! today: (roughly) I don't get my economic policy or science from religion. Religion is about being a good person. Wow! He sounds like a liberal Protestant after Schliermacher's heart.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:34 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity what is the current Catholic thinking on the morality penal labour?

Not a derail because it illustrates the principles at play in how we should read an encyclical on Catholic social teaching. There's stuff out there you can find googling around (especially on related topics: see Aquinas and Bonaventure on [non-racial] slavery, or the justice of imprisonment, for example--or the discussion of the intrinsic value of work in secs. 98 or 128 this encyclical we're discussing), but nothing official on prison labor.

"Official" discussion of that topic would be, like much of this encyclical, a particular application of the general norms or principles governing Catholic social teaching (e.g., the sanctity of human life, the universal destination of goods, solidarity, subsidiarity, the dignity of labor, etc.). The general principles are all that can properly be considered "official." The specific applications of those principles are often matters of prudential judgment--which is why Catholics in good faith can, do, and will disagree about the application of the norms of Catholic social teaching in ways that they cannot in good faith argue about the Resurrection, murder, or the norms of Catholic social teaching (though their number and precise formulation are not agreed upon).

Here's an article discussing this subject in the context of this encyclical if you're interested.
posted by resurrexit at 4:39 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jeb! today: (roughly) I don't get my economic policy or science from religion. Religion is about being a good person. Wow! He sounds like a liberal Protestant after Schliermacher's heart.

Precisely. For Catholics especially, the principles raised and discussed in the encyclical are ignored at one's peril. He can disagree about how to realize the solution to the problems raised in it, but just to write it off entirely is intellectually (and spiritually) lazy--and horrible coming from a Catholic politician. Was probably going for the JFK soundbite.
posted by resurrexit at 4:44 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists"

Good news for Santorum: The Pope has a science titulo!

tinkletown: "It would be unthinkable for a politician over there to criticise the Pope so openly (political suicide, for one thing), and I was honestly quite shocked."

Oh, yes, definitely in Malta! In the US, however, it's practically a requirement for a Catholic politician. Until World War II (when they enthusiastically signed up to fight and die against the Axis Powers, including Italy), Catholics in the US were viewed as a dangerously subversive element by the Protestant majority/elite, who were interested in drinking and dissipation ("rum, Romanism, and rebellion!"), and who held a dangerous loyalty to the Pope that could subvert their loyalty to the United States. When he ran for president, John F. Kennedy faced questions about whether he would take orders from Rome on US public policy, and famously said, "I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me." It was crucial for his election that the American people viewed him as compartmentalizing religion (it's crucial for most US presidential candidates -- it's best if they HAVE a religion and take it seriously, but that they keep it to Sundays where it's not threatening). Mario Cuomo (Catholic governor of New York at the time) gave a moving and rather lovely speech on what it means to be a Catholic official in America. John Kerry had a similar problem. (Republican Catholics haven't faced quite the same pressure since 1960, but I think the worm is turning on that and Republican Catholics will have to thread this needle more often.) So Catholic politicians in the US have to affirm they are GOOD and MORAL Catholics by saying they respect and mostly agree with the Pope, but they have to also signal they are freethinking Americans who don't take orders from Rome, by finding a graceful way to disagree with the Pope on some issue. Even in fiction, American Catholic candidates and politicians have to wrestle with this issue.

Jeb's statement makes me nuts because on the one hand it's pretty good American politics that hopefully prevents us from spending the next year listening to who's the best Christian and I'm sure he ran it past all his advisers and it was totally PR vetted for soundbiting ... but on the other hand it is BASICALLY THE WORST THEOLOGY. "I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm."????? OH YES POLITICS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH MORALITY, WE JUST DECIDE THOSE THINGS TECHNOCRATICALLY IN A VACUUM. (Also the whole Terry Schiavo thing is going to bite him in the ass super hardcore for saying that.) The part where religious belief shouldn't inform economics ("I don't go to Mass for economic policy") is even better because if there's one thing Jesus didn't care about, it was definitely the poor. /sarcasm

infini: "The inherent sense of exceptionalism also leads to such thinking, that nothing else in the world matters, nor anyone else's opinion."

Is there any other First World country where climate change denial is quite so mainstream? While not at the bottom of the list, Americans are pretty low on the scale for advanced nations for understanding it's caused by human activity and perceiving it as a threat. I wholly support Portugal's activism on the issue, but the 11 million people of Portugal have significantly less weight in the climate change debate than the 320 million Americans who are currently listening to Republican candidates insist there's no such thing as climate change or, if there is, it's DEFINITELY NOT OUR FAULT. (But I am delighted to go into other countries' receptions of the encyclical, although I would be spitballing more and comprehensively analyzing less.)

infini: "Eyebrows McGee, so glad you're part of Metafilter and in this thread."

Awww, thanks!

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:03 PM on June 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Does this translate as 'Whip it out and go on her tits, like in the films!'. Or is he hinting that he knows the official line on contraception is bollocks (and can be left to one side by responsible people) but he can't do anything about it?

You know, properly done, the rhythm method has a 3% failure rate. Condoms have a 2% failure rate. The Catholic suggestion for the rhythm method is not some bullshit made-up thing that has no chance of working. Like, maybe you don't like it, but it's not like there are no opportunities for contraception.
posted by corb at 5:08 PM on June 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


It would seem there's still one responsible adult leader on the planet's surface.
posted by Twang at 5:44 PM on June 18, 2015


I believe the Rythym Method is outdated. Natural Family Planning is the new method, and it has a typical failure rate of 24%.
posted by Biblio at 5:50 PM on June 18, 2015


It's interesting to consider that Jeb Bush could be the first Roman Catholic president since JFK.
posted by Nevin at 6:05 PM on June 18, 2015


It's nice when religious leaders say the right things, but I think the world would be better off just ignoring all of them all the time. On the whole, I think that would improve conditions on Earth far more than praising them when they occasionally stumble over the truth.
posted by Beholder at 7:16 PM on June 18, 2015


I'm not surprised to see such a strong encyclical on ecology from him, but the way that he ties the human degradation of the world into the increasingly constrictive way that our artificial technological ecosystem is limiting the range of our emotional responses and of ideas we think are possible is really insightful.

It's nice when religious leaders say the right things, but I think the world would be better off just ignoring all of them all the time.

I'm pretty comfortable that I can hear Francis out on this one without catching theist-cooties.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:45 PM on June 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


"Or is he hinting that he knows the official line on contraception is bollocks (and can be left to one side by responsible people) but he can't do anything about it?"

It's really hard to say. I feel pretty confident (having read his pre-papal works, and about his pre-papal work) that if I were a parishioner visiting the bishop of Buenos Aires, he'd be all, "Look, condoms, pills, it's all fine as long as you treat one another with respect and intend the marriage to be fertile at some point."

But I also know he's clearly not a dumbass and wouldn't be preaching that in public due to the existing teaching on birth control, so I wouldn't get all wound up about hearing it from the pulpit.

"I think the world would be better off just ignoring all of them all the time."

Who would you rather hear from on the ethics of environmentalism? I assume you have someone in mind.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:24 PM on June 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


just catching up with with bartholomew I, the greek orthodox 'green pope' :P "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has preached that caring for the environment is a religious imperative, a stance he has taken far enough to be considered revolutionary by some theologians."

Patriarch Bartholomew on Pope Francis’ Climate Encyclical!
posted by kliuless at 9:54 PM on June 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Who would you rather hear from on the ethics of environmentalism? I assume you have someone in mind.

David Suzuki.
posted by Nevin at 10:54 PM on June 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's nice when religious leaders say the right things, but I think the world would be better off just ignoring all of them all the time. On the whole, I think that would improve conditions on Earth far more than praising them when they occasionally stumble over the truth.

I dunno, I'm an atheist and I'm pretty damn excited about this. Also, I'm a realist, and I would say the chance of the majority of the world's population becoming atheist (ignoring religious leaders) in the next 100 years is exactly zippo. Not. Going. To. Happen. So I'd much rather hear this sort of thing. Also, you can easily read it and take away the empathy-compassion messages without the religious bits, in the same way you can not believe in Jesus and think that many of his teachings are pretty worth following.

The bigger issue is that in the developed world, religious people on the whole tend to just blow off whatever their religion tells them do to, unless it's easy and feel-good. Otherwise there'd be zero Christians in the US Army, and zero rich Christians, for example. So I doubt that Mr. Catholic CEO of MegaChem is going to be all "Shit! The pope! I'd better invest in a bunch of pollution control tech far beyond what the EPA mandates!"
posted by freecellwizard at 7:22 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


David Suzuki.

Suzuki recognizes his own limitations:

Our fundamental needs are defined by our biological nature, by our social nature, and by our spiritual nature. Now, I don’t have any expertise in terms of the spiritual aspects, except for my long experience with First Nations in Canada.
Suzuki claims in fact that the current paradigm for environmentalism is a failure, apparently because of widespread spiritual atrophy.

Without a spiritual foundation the environmental movement cannot succeed. But what is the precise nature of the required spiritual foundation? Some maintain that the foundation must be built on the idea that consciousness is omnipresent:
This position, that all nature contemplates, is also known as panpsychism. This is basically the philosophical ground that Deep Ecologists say is required in order to found a biocentric ecological ethic. Panpsychism can be arrived at through reason and through the aesthetical disclosures of feeling, but much more fundamentally it is a revelation of gnosis or contemplation.--Revisioning Environmental Ethics / Daniel A. Kealey, p. 90.
It is unclear whether mainstream Christian religion would ever accept this idea. It is quite clear that mainstream science rejects it.
posted by No Robots at 8:08 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just got through my first reading of Laudato Si last night. My first impression is that it might be one of the most important encyclicals in a long time. I'm still chewing on large parts of it, and will probably be re-reading it for awhile.

The language is approachable and not at all the dense, academic style of his predecessors. Framed in the language of stewardship, charity...fantastic stuff.
posted by jquinby at 8:17 AM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


filthy light thief: Here's the thing: the "political" realm and "religious" realms overlap quite a lot--

--and NEITHER of the are actually science! So shut up and let the scientists talk about the science, oh you politicians.

(My hometown bishop resigned this week, but my Pope is definitely getting the job done.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:17 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


...who are currently listening to Republican candidates insist there's no such thing as climate change or, if there is, it's DEFINITELY NOT OUR FAULT.

Which is pretty funny, as it was anticipated within the same encyclical (emphasis mine):
59. 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 that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence 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.
posted by jquinby at 9:36 AM on June 19, 2015 [13 favorites]


corb: man, I just went through a moment of WE HAVE TO INVITE THE POPE TO METAFILTER TO SHOW HIM COMMUNITY followed by the sheer, pants-shitting terror that I would have of such an overture, much less if he actually showed up.

We could have a meetup in Rome and fly Eyebrows McGee over to act as our MC! Don't worry corb, everything seems to indicate that he is the sweetest, prototypical grandpa-like man ever.

It would be epic. I would totally come too. We would have to get him to read some Latin to us out loud, because he speaks it with the most adorable Argentinean accent I have ever heard.

(I think I need to head out to the Catholic bookstore and buy myself an encyclical!)
posted by ipsative at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2015 [4 favorites]




You know, properly done, the rhythm method has a 3% failure rate.

Mayo clinic says 13% women using rhythm method get pregnant in the first year of use.

In many ways this is oddly reassuring, the ethical implications of the church recommending the rhythm method and banning condoms if they had very similar success rates as contraceptive methods would be pretty unpleasant.
posted by biffa at 3:00 PM on June 19, 2015


Motherboard/Vice has chimed into the commentary with The Pope's Dystopia. And, a little later, with We Are 100%, For Sure, in the Middle of a Major Extinction Event describing a paper by researchers from Mexico, Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, and Florida.

I haven't seen a single example of a concerted public discussion which envisions what kind of civilization we need to move to for a sustainable future for 9 billion people. With the clock ticking, the options grow slimmer in number each year. Plenty of talk about what may happen and the consequences. It'd be great if the drumbeat of gloom-and-doom were counterbalanced by a positive and realistic set of options. It's always easier to complain or spread FUD than to think up solutions
posted by Twang at 4:44 PM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen a single example of a concerted public discussion which envisions what kind of civilization we need to move to for a sustainable future for 9 billion people.

not sure about concerted -- as in a global, say, WWII-level effort to face an implacable threat to civilization as we know it -- but here's some discussion at least :P

-Surviving Progress (viz. A Short History of Progress, cf. previously)
-Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (previously)
-The Cleantech Future (vpro backlight; Money for free! ;)
-Where Are We Headed? (previously)
-The Third Industrial Revolution (previously)
-Power to the People: Towards an empathic civilisation [1,2] (previously)
-The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet [1,2,3]
-Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies (previously)
-Green Party Policy (previously)

with the pope sounding a bit like jon stewart on gun control i guess you kind of have to wonder whether we'll ever get our collective shit together (against inertia, short-termism and relentless opposition in the form of focused, organized groups that benefit from the status quo ancien régime!) like does bernie sanders really have a chance? i dunno. all i can say is that when you have popes, and patriarchs and lamas speaking out for maybe two billion people (with china and india making concerted efforts to stem the tide), people like robert rubin saying things like: "I have come to believe that climate change is the existential issue of our age. I don't believe that we have a focus or an action in relation to it that is remotely commensurate with the risks that we face..." or like elon musk being held up as some kind of poster child for human achievement, with a stated mission of ending big oil, and obama worried about bees maybe there's some hope? i'll take it where i can get it :P cheers!
posted by kliuless at 1:30 AM on June 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm a heathen in good standing, but was moved to print out the encyclical so I can spend some time with it. Thank you to all here who helped illuminate various aspects of this document. I hope you will all keep posting good analyses and responses as you find them.

My childhood was spent in a strict parish, overseen by scary Father F., and I wrestled with that legacy for years. It is a wonderful sort of reconnection (at a great distance) to be able to read the Pope's well-written and compelling words on subjects of interest to me, and to see at least a few of my own thoughts on stewardship represented and held dear.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:54 PM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]




The Pope, the Saint, and the Climate - "Francis Keeps Teaching Consistent with Tradition"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:09 PM on June 25, 2015




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