This is the fourth in a series of articles where Adrian Statham summarizes Pope Francis’ papal encyclical Laudato Si’
Note: numbers in brackets refer to the paragraph numbers of the papal encyclical “Laudato Si”
Chapter Four: Integral Ecology
“We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” (139) “We need only recall how ecosystems interact in dispersing carbon dioxide, purifying water, controlling illnesses and epidemics, forming soil, breaking down waste” (140) to see that ecosystems, created by God before mankind became dominant, must be preserved and allowed to regenerate. “Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts…” (141) We need a humanism which integrates various fields of knowledge, including economics plus how people relate to each other and to the environment.
Cultural ecology. “Attempts to resolve all problems through uniform regulations or technical interventions can lead to overlooking the complexities of local problems which demand the active participation of all members of the community.” (144) We must avoid imposing “a dominant lifestyle linked to a single form of production.” (145) Indigenous people have a special link to their lands and should not be removed for the agriculture or mining which will degrade it.
Ecology of daily life. Overcrowding and anonymity in large cities can lead to anti-social behaviour and violence. “Nonetheless, I wish to insist that love always proves more powerful. Many people in these conditions are able to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness which convert overcrowding into an experience of community in which the walls of the ego are torn down and the barriers of selfishness overcome.” (149) Urban planning should facilitate people meeting together and helping each other. It should take account of the views of local people. Pope Francis wants to see the common areas, landmarks and urban landscapes that make people feel at home in a city protected. If people feel a sense of belonging; “others will no longer be seen as strangers, but as part of the “we” which all of us are working to create.” (151) Lack of housing or inadequate housing is a big problem in cities and the countryside. Shanty towns should be developed, not cleared. “At the same time, creativity should be shown in integrating rundown neighbourhoods into a welcoming city” so that those who are different can be integrated into the city. Life can also be blighted by pollution from vehicles and overcrowded or inadequate public transport.
“Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development.” (157) It means people and social groups e.g the family being given the conditions to allow them to fulfil themselves. “the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice” (157) which is fairness in the way things are distributed. In our world “where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights”, the principle of the common good calls us to support the poor as “an ethical imperative”.
Justice between the generations. “Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.” (159) We need to think about: “Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts?” “Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.” (160) “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.” (161) We find decisive action difficult because of “an ethical and cultural decline.” “Men and women of our postmodern world run the risk of rampant individualism, and many problems of society are connected with today’s self-centred culture of instant gratification.” (162)
The full Laudato Si’ Encyclical is available here.