June 29, 2015

Humanity is engulfed in "a spiral of self-destruction" which can only be halted through dialogue at the international, national and local levels, Pope Francis said in his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home.

In his fifth chapter of the encyclical, Lines of Approach and Action, the pope shows greater faith in the ability of public pressure to bring about positive change affecting the natural environment than he does in current political and economic processes.

Limits to growth must be set to halt the self-destructive spiral, "even retracing our steps before it is too later," Pope Francis said in the encyclical released June 18.

Balancing financial gain and the protection of nature does not go far enough, he said. "Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster."

Don't settle for "superficial ecological considerations" while failing to question "the perverse logic" of the culture which has created the current crisis, he warned.

The pope said progress in curtailing the dangers of hazardous wastes, the extinction of endangered species and the erosion of the ozone layer show the positive effects that dialogue can have.

However, there has been little progress in protecting biodiversity and halting the desertification of the planet, he said. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was a step forward, but "its accords have been poorly implemented."

Civil organizations making up the ecological movement have been responsible for advances in protecting the environment, the pope said. But world summits have not lived up to expectations due to a lack of political will.

Politicians, he said, have been overly concerned with producing short-term growth and are reluctant to upset voters "with measures which could affect the level of consumption or create risks for foreign investment.

"The myopia of power politics delays the inclusion of a far-sighted environmental agenda within the overall agenda of governments."


Pope Francis repeated calls by his predecessors for "a true world political authority."

Such a body would manage the global economy, protect against economic balances among nations, work for disarmament, food security and peace, regulate migration and protect the environment, he said, quoting Pope Benedict XVI.

Enforceable international agreements are also urgently needed, Pope Francis said.

Political processes should be transparent and involve a free exchange of views, he said. Environmental impact assessments are needed before projects begin, rather than "interventions" to save the environment after construction has been completed.

"The culture of consumerism, which prioritizes short-term gain and private interest, can make it easy to rubber-stamp authorizations or to conceal information."


The Church does not replace politics or attempt to settle scientific questions, but it does want "frank dialogue" between economics and politics, Pope Francis said.

The environment cannot be adequately protected by market forces, he said. "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."

He questioned whether "those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations."

The pope placed more hope in the activities of cooperatives, individuals and groups which are developing renewable energy sources and ensuring local energy self-sufficiency.

"They are able to instil a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land."

Pope Francis also made a raft of recommendations for conserving energy and modifying consumption.

Yet technical solutions will not work if humanity loses its moral compass .

"Believers themselves must constantly feel challenged to live in a way consonant with their faith and not to contradict it by their actions."