Published 8 years ago.
About a 22 minute read.
Yesterday, I posted a piece about the Pope's "encyclical" on the environment, released last month. I summarized what I saw as the key themes and takeaways. I also provided the first half of my list of the best quotes from the essay. Yesterday's excerpts covered climate science (and denial), environmental ills in general, and the Pope's critique of modern technological society.
Today is the moral and social side of the argument. The Pope provides a moving and profound view on the deep connection between environmental and social issues, between humans and animals, and between spiritual and practical. He also hits head on the contentious issue of man's "dominion" over Nature - many have interpreted the Bible to indicate that man should conquer nature. The Pope explains how wrong that reading is.
The most powerful call for me is the discussion of the common good. We have seen a pendulum swing in the U.S. in particular toward a "you're on your own" philosophy that underinvests in our common "infrastructure" (from roads to schools) and in each other.
Again, I hope to provide the best, pithy moments from the piece so the most people can access it. It's an important essay of near book-length, which could preclude many from engaging. The numbers for each quote indicate the paragraph from the encyclical. Enjoy my take on the best of...
A. THE MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CASE
Environmental protection and Christianity
62-3. …science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both… Given the complexity of the ecological crisis and its multiple causes, we need to realize that the solutions will not emerge from just one way of interpreting and transforming reality.
“Dominion” Over Nature
68-9. Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures…we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in God’s eyes:
B. COMMON GOOD AND "INTEGRAL ECOLOGY"
Connections/Systems Thinking and “Integral Ecology”
109-110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture…often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon…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...
Value of natural capital
AW Comment: The Pope doesn’t specifically talk about valuing natural capital, but that’s what he’s really talking about as a main theme in his integral ecology thesis.
Urgent call for action
International responses and policies; Local/Citizen-led policies
AW Comment: Here’s another area that will make some camps uncomfortable. The Pope clearly calls for international agreements with teeth.
Circular and Clean Economy
191-2. Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term. If we look at the larger picture, we can see that more diversified and innovative forms of production which impact less on the environment can prove very profitable…. generate intelligent and profitable ways of reusing, revamping and recycling…
Rethinking growth/Broader view of progress
AW Comment: This is clearly a really complicated issue. Can we ‘grow’ in normal terms? Probably not. But what if our economy is based on renewable energy and circular models? Then perhaps we can provide a good quality of life for 9 billion people in 2050, which would include some growth.
Limits of Markets
AW Comment: Again, I don’t share the same level of discomfort with market solutions. I believe that if we get the prices right (as in value the intangibles, indirect value, and natural capital), markets are a wonderful tool. But the Pope does make a good case for injecting the nearly impossible to value – ethics and ‘objective truths’ – into our markets. Fair point.
Citizen/Consumer-Level Change – Look Within
AW Comment: This is a call to personal behavior change. Of course this is necessary, but it’s a bit dated to suggest that “little daily actions” will tackle issues as big as climate change. But the larger point that business and politics alone won’t get us there without a change in our ethics and behavior is right.
This post first appeared on Andrew Winston’s blog on July 9, 2015.
Published Jul 10, 2015 6pm EDT / 3pm PDT / 11pm BST / 12am CEST
Andrew Winston, founder of Winston Eco-Strategies, is a globally recognized expert on how companies can profit from solving the world’s biggest challenges.