Art. 23 lists sundry forms of pollution. Art 25 states:
25. Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.
There will of course be well informed people who take issue with this or that statement, even with the general thrust of some specific concern of Pope Francis, such as that articulated here: Climate change as one of the worst (environmental) problems facing us. It goes without saying, in theological hermeneutics of magisterial texts, that the Pope has no competence to teach bindingly on what environmental problem is worst. Nor is he claiming to do so. The practical diagnoses and prognoses offered by the Holy Father are not binding magisterial teachings; to consider them such is to cheapen ecclesial currency and to falsify it!
That said, who could possibly be so insane as not to recognize that we are ruining our own home, trashing the bedroom that is our earth? It is as though we are urinating in a corner, amassing unusable debris in a corner, which grows daily, slowly allowing darker water to come through the tap, darker and less wholesome, allowing the air in the home to become sooty, in both obvious ways (think back to London back in the coal days) and less obvious ways (chemical trails in the air, anti-life and anti-male Estrogen in the water, tyrannical pesticides from Big Agri giants that don’t care about the future but only profits, tyrannical crop-reproduction from Big Agri giants who have arrogated to themselves the right to sell annually crop seed that will yield only non-seed-bearing fruit (thus enslaving whole populations to their greed and American hegemony), darker and obscurer waters in the state parks, even Yellowstone is much less magnificent now than it was when I was a child – significantly, etc.). Who could be so insane as not to realize that the bio-hazard trash from medical waste is mounting without any plan in sight for a cure?
It is one thing to look at a recent magisterial text, or non-magisterial word of a pope or bishop, that is ambiguous (or worse) on some doctrine, and to go back to Tradition with the clarifying light of previously laid out dogmas so as to un-confuse those who are being confused. To do that is to join in the effort to baptize all nations, to teach the One Truth Jesus handed to his One Church. But to go on the defensive against basic sanity of the pope on the problem of pollution – and for what reason? Why do we do this? Because our dad is in Big Oil and we resent that our inheritance is being overshadowed? Because we are in Big Oil and are fracking the hell out of the earth? Because we think America should kick ass in the Middle East, drop bombs on Russia, and then drink a Piña Colada on one of the remaining fine beaches in Hawaii (sorry, Maui; sorry, Lanai – maybe one of the only really clean ones left)? Because we think no one should do any planning to get smaller cars and simpler lives going, while the third world starves? Because we are on vacation and why should we have to wash dishes at all, when in fact they are right there in the cupboard? We have the right to use paper and plastic. And what of paper diapers – not just here and there but everywhere, all the time. Heck! Why not use paper and plastic every day of the week? Life is tiring, after all!
Such would be a low motivation! Our god is your belly (Gal 5-6). I am just as challenged as any on these questions. We all need to be challenged. And yes these challenges issue from the Gospel Itself! For all these systems have effects, leaving the wake upon the poor:
Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded. (art. 25)
But you will object: Technology has fed billions. We would not have been able to grow the population unless we could feed it through Big Agri chemicals and massive machines, and highly technological farms, and the destruction of small farmers and farmlands.
Ah! That is an interesting objection. There is some truth to it. But it is caught up in a lifestyle of accumulation and therein its logic works. In short, the alternative of a more natural, hobbit-like way of life, each with a small farm, or gathered together in a village with the set of farms on the outskirts (old style Romania!), or something analogical, that is not an option for the world – in your mind. So, we need our SUVs to keep plowing ahead, and meanwhile, we can suck the marrow out of the soil with Big Agri methods and supplies, leaving it bereft of nutrients for the future, so as to feed the billions, most of which live in an increasingly less self-sufficient manner, while we pilot our yachts.
I have long been a Romantic. And that is why I am weak. Because it is in the mind, in dreams. But nothing great ever comes without a thought. And some thoughts start only with dreams of those too lame to execute any plan and too imprudent to lay any out.
But we know from our own intelligent eyes that the world is going to hell in the social and moral realms. Gay Marriage, Abortion, Masturbatory Porn, Bored Teens Shooting up Churches (they sense no meaning in life; they needed real love, not a sugar-daddy reading of a God who really doesn’t care; they really wanted, and needed, firm – though always just – discipline at home, not pills that shut them up and enabled others to get them to get off their backs), etc etc. The Geo-Political story is just as terrifying. Anyone who investigates just a little under the hood of the sundry “terror attacks” in the past couple of decades is up for a rude awakening into the co-conspiracies that are evidently operative (the usual narrative is so paper-thin as to be a complete joke, like the Penguin throwing money at the parade of mindless idiots in the first attempt at Batman), even if not evidently identifiable (who, what, why?).
Have I gotten off track? Perhaps. In short, we can see the rot if we look at the moral realm. But it is just as easy to look at the realm of nature and see the rot. These two stenches, these two fetid ulcers are related, states the pope:
The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. (art. 2)
Indeed, the groundwork on social teaching has been laid for some 1.5 centuries. JPII rightly laid down a firm and irremovable foundation: The social / systemic ills are rooted in human sin, in the individual sinful choices of the individual human person. One cannot hope to cure systemic problems except on the cure of the foundation of the root. Without that, all systemic efforts to combat systemic problems will be driven by sin (greed, lust, and the libido dominandi!).
When I visit a state park and remark at how clean the lake is, but still find it rather dirty, I know something is wrong. We all know something is wrong with the human heart. But modern philosophy yielded the new methods in world-view and in technology by which the sickness in our hearts is now projected into the world. Now we see that sickness written large. The environmental catastrophe is a “sacrament” of sin. If you cannot see it, you have no eyes to see; you have no ears to hear; you are a blind guide. Chances are high that those who dispute that the world is being polluted and destroyed have got something in the game:
26. Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.
Again, I am not talking about details. I have no idea what’s doing what. But we all know something’s doing something. So-and-so is sick all the time; allergic reactions right and left. So-and-so has cancer. O and this person. And that. See how many retired US soldiers are suffering from sundry ailments. When sickness is rampant, we know that something is doing something. This encyclical, for whatever its weaknesses, is a call to something so obviously needed it would be idiocy or malice to ignore it.