Climate Change is Important, But What About the Rest of Pope Francis’ Message?

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By: Rachel Oest

Discussions surrounding Pope Francis’ recent Encyclical, Laudato Si, appear to focus on his discussion of global warming, but it would be a huge mistake to neglect his multiple other points. Global warming, or as he titled it, “climate change” is only part of the first of five major sections dealing with ecological problems. Specifically under reported, is the issue of global inequality. This is the systematic inequalities that exist between countries, allowing for the simultaneous existence of inequalities within counties.
Pope Francis begins by stating he wants “to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (paragraph 3). Typically, encyclicals are addressed to bishops and parties of the Church, but Laudato Si calls on everyone, regardless of religion, because we as humans share the responsibility to protect our planet. We inhabit the same land and yet the global market prevails at the expense of the poor and future generations. People have this distorted notion that an increase in profit can solve the world’s problems. But Pope Francis rejects this mind set by noting the true concerns of the income obsessed individuals: increased revenue or the environmental damage they leave behind? Simply put, businesses are not willing to give up thousands of dollars to protect people they don’t know.
Some rely on the idea that new technology will rectify the damage done to the Earth and air. However, technology is created from the interests of certain powerful groups, and products are not neutral in a consumer based world. The encyclical acknowledges the need for developing countries to increase energy production and improve agriculture systems; but, it also recognizes the need for developed countries to help finance innovations in clean energy production. Just because some areas of the world don’t witness first-hand the environmental impact their lifestyles are creating, doesn’t excuse them from the blame. The environmental hardships our world is facing hit the poor first and the hardest by exacerbating their already existing vulnerabilities. This includes the poor’s lack of access to safe drinking water.
Like most people, the Pope claims safe drinking water is a basic and universal human right. However, we see news articles every day about water sources being polluted and groups organizing to fight the corporations that did it. Developed countries are fortunate because they have advanced systems that allow people to get their water from somewhere else if need be. But some developing countries don’t have this luxury. Often poor areas are forced to ingest chemical infused water, sometimes without even realizing it. The encyclical tells us “our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (paragraph 30).
Pope Francis delivered a clear message calling for change. Society needs to reevaluate the way we relate to one another and to the environment in order to create a healthy and safe world. It is important that the public sees Laudato Si as more than a “global-warming encyclical.” It contains a variety of major environmental arguments being hidden behind just a few climate related paragraphs. Climate Change is important, but the problems our world face goes far beyond that.
To read Pope Francis’ Laudato Si please visit:
http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

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