Quotes from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter

Quotes from the ENCYCLICAL LETTER, LAUDATO SI’, of Pope Francis,




(ed. note: the letter is a comprehensive overview of not just climate change but of the role of humanity in acting as stewards of our environment, which includes the poor. It cites the shortcoming of our political and economic leaders and systems and the weak response by them so far to climate change. It is very strong in recognizing the right of other beings and reject the notion that man has the right to exploit and dominate nature. Solving climate change means also addressing poverty.)


“For hu­man beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human be­ings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. p. 8 (quoting Patriarch Bartholomew)


But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them. p 18


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. Its worst im­pact will probably be felt by developing coun­tries in coming decades. p. 20


Such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to de­velop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly pol­luting gases can be drastically reduced, for exam­ple, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. p. 21


In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its ef­fects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance. p. 26


The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased vio­lence and a rise in new forms of social aggres­sion, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity. p. 32


The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot ad­equately combat environmental degradation un­less we attend to causes related to human and social degradation.   p. 33


Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecolog­ical debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial im­balances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. p. 36


The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poor­er countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development.   p. 38


It is remarkable how weak internation­al political responses have been. The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests. 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.   p. 40


Economic powers con­tinue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment.   p. 41


we must forcefully reject the no­tion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. .. Each com­munity can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. … This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world, p. 49


Yet it would also be mistaken to view other living beings as mere objects subjected to arbitrary human domination. p. 60


It follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. We have only one heart, and the same wretch­edness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. p. 67-8


The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to pri­vate property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of pri­vate property. p. 69


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. p. 79


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. p. 81


There is a growing awareness that scien­tific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a grow­ing sense that the way to a better future lies else­where. p. 85


Any approach to an integral ecology, which by definition does not exclude human beings, needs to take account of the value of labour p. 92


In order to continue providing employ­ment, it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. Economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing small­holders to sell their land or to abandon their tra­ditional crops. p. 95


Nature cannot be regarded as something sepa­rate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live. We are part of nature, included in it and thus in constant interaction with it. … Given the scale of change, it is no longer possible to find a specific, discrete answer for each part of the problem. It is essential to seek comprehensive solutions which consider the in­teractions within natural systems themselves and with social systems. … Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to com­bating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. p. 104


Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest sense. More specifically, it calls for greater attention to local cultures when studying environmental problems p. 108


Many intensive forms of environmental exploitation and degradation not only exhaust the resources which provide local communities with their livelihood, but also undo the social structures which, for a long time, shaped cultural identity and their sense of the meaning of life and community…. it is essential to show spe­cial care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. p. 109


The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them. Many cars, used by one or more people, circulate in cities, causing traffic congestion, raising the level of pollution, and consuming enormous quantities of non-renewable energy. p. 114


Human ecology is inseparable from the notion of the common good, a central and uni­fying principle of social ethics. The common good is “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individu­al members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment”. p 116


Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leav­ing to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and envi­ronmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsus­tainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. p. 119


Yet the same inge­nuity which has brought about enormous tech­nological progress has so far proved incapable of finding effective ways of dealing with grave environmental and social problems worldwide. A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual coun­tries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agri­culture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water. p. 122


We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay…. Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challeng­es facing our world. p. 122


The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro … proclaimed that “human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustain­able development”…it enshrined international co­operation

to care for the ecosystem of the entire earth, the obligation of those who cause

pollution to assume its costs, and the duty to assess the environmental impact of given projects and works. It set the goal of limiting greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, in an effort to reverse the trend of global warming. It also drew up an agenda with an action plan and a conven­tion on biodiversity, and stated principles regard­ing forests. Although the summit was a real step forward, and prophetic for its time, its accords have been poorly implemented, due to the lack of suitable mechanisms for oversight, periodic review and penalties in cases of non-compliance. p. 123


Reducing greenhouse gases re­quires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most. p. 125


Some strategies for lowering pollutant gas emissions call for the internationalization of en­vironmental costs, which would risk imposing on countries with fewer resources burdensome commitments to reducing emissions comparable to those of the more industrialized countries. Imposing such measures penalizes those coun­tries most in need of development… “the countries which have ben­efited from a high degree of industrialization, at the cost of enormous emissions of greenhouse gases, have a greater responsibility for providing a solution to the problems they have caused”. p. 125


The strategy of buying and selling “car­bon credits” can lead to a new form of specula­tion which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. … in no way does it allow for the radi­cal change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which per­mits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors. p. 126


Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention. p. 127


The growing problem of marine waste and the protection of the open seas represent par­ticular challenges. What is needed, in effect, is an agreement on systems of governance for the whole range of so-called “global commons”. p. 128


The same mindset which stands in the way of making radical decisions to reverse the trend of global warming also stands in the way of achieving the goal of eliminating poverty… The twenty-first century… is witnessing a weakening of the power of nation states, chiefly because the eco­nomic and financial sectors, being transnation­al, tends to prevail over the political. Given this situation, it is essential to devise stronger and more efficiently organized international institu­tions. p. 128


In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of en­ergy which ensure local self-sufficiency and even the sale of surplus energy. This simple example shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local in­dividuals and groups can make a real difference… Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment. p. 131


Much still needs to be done, such as promoting ways of conserving energy. These would include favouring forms of indus­trial production with maximum energy efficiency and diminished use of raw materials, removing from the market products which are less energy efficient or more polluting, improving transport systems, and encouraging the construction and repair of buildings aimed at reducing their ener­gy consumption and levels of pollution. Political activity on the local level could also be directed to modifying consumption, developing an economy of waste disposal and recycling, protecting cer­tain species and planning a diversified agriculture and the rotation of crops. p 132


Environmental impact assessment should not come after the drawing up of a business proposition or the proposal of a particular poli­cy, plan or programme. It should be part of the process from the beginning, and be carried out in a way which is interdisciplinary, transparent and free of all economic or political pressure. It should be linked to a study of working con­ditions and possible effects on people’s physical and mental health, on the local economy and on public safety. p. 134


The Rio Declaration of 1992 states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a pretext for postponing cost-effective measures”132 which prevent environmental deg­radation. p. 136


Politics must not be subject to the econ­omy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of tech­nocracy. p. 138


“environmental protection cannot be as­sured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safe­guarded or promoted by market forces”. Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. p. 139


For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change “models of global develop­ment”; this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications”. It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the en­vironment with progress. Halfway measures sim­ply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. p. 141


Only when “the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resourc­es are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations”, can those ac­tions be considered ethical. p. 143


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. p. 149


O God of the poor,

help us to rescue the abandoned

and forgotten of this earth,

so precious in your eyes.

Bring healing to our lives,

that we may protect the world and not prey on it,

that we may sow beauty,

not pollution and destruction.

Touch the hearts

of those who look only for gain

at the expense of the poor and the earth.

Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,

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