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Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home

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Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
April 2016
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Pope Francis
Total Pages: 
Melville House

Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church. Devoted to rectifying social injustices and economic inequality, he has said that he “would like to see a church that is poor and is for the poor.” My paperback edition was a gift.

The Amazon website for the Kindle edition of this book is

The home page has a brief summary of this book (use ‘Read more’). I recommend scrolling down the home page to read ‘About the Author’ which gives more significant information about both Pope Francis and Naomi Oreskes. She provided an 18-pp Introduction that I highly recommend reading. But doing so isn’t easy, for the paperback edition has four missing pages and the Kindle edition stops after 10 pages. Since I enjoyed her Introduction as much as I enjoyed her 2011 book Merchants of Doubt (book 403) that I will provide here from the last 8 pages of the Kindle edition some quotes of Pope Francis from the last 6 pages of Amazon’s online preview. I do this because I think very highly of her Introduction to this Encyclical by Pope Francis. You can first read the 10 pages on the above website for the Kindle edition. After doing so, then read my selections from the missing pages in the Kindle edition. In the following I will precede the quoting from her with her initials NO and I use PF when quoting from Pope Francis, whose quotes came just after the preceding NO quote.

NO: “To those who argue that the poor can best be served by expanding the reach of capitalism – that what we need is more unalloyed capitalism, not less – the pope insists that certain needs are not commodities to be bought and sold, but basic human rights:

PF: “Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency . . . to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet ‘access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of human rights.’ 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’.”

NO:” If the poor lack access to safe drinking water, the solution is not to charge them for it.”

NO: “The second failure is environmental damage. The champions of our current system often say its benefits have simply not yet reached the poor – and therefore we must continue (and ever strengthen) the practices that have made the rich rich until they reach all. This argument might be persuasive were it not for the damage that we have wreaked on the environment.“

PF: “It should always be kept in mind that ‘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. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor.”

NO: “Carbon markets have been widely advocated as the solution to climate change, but the pope has grave concerns here as well.”

PF: “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. This system seems to provide . . . the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but 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.”

NO: “The third failure is the spiritual impoverishment of the rich. The cheerleaders of capitalism insist that the free markets are not just the best means of delivering goods and services, but the only means that protect our freedom. In the aftermath of the Cold War, this can be a hard argument to refute, but the pope is a brave man and he takes on the challenge. Our paradigm leads to people to believe that they are free ‘as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume.’ But the truly free are ‘the minority who would wield economic and financial power.’ And are we really happy? He suspects not:

PF: “Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sells its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic affects individuals . . . Many people know that . . . the mere amassing of things and pleasures [is] not enough to give meaning and joy to the human heart, yet they feel unable to give up what the market sets before them.”

NO: “Some readers will be dissatisfied with this ending, in part because the logic of the technocratic paradigm is to insist there is no functional alternative. So perhaps this is the pope’s most important message: that we must move past the ideology of no ideology, the morality of amorality.”

PF: “The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm . . . is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become counter-cultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same . . . Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.”

NO: “Many people will of course misread this message. Already, conservatives are condemning the Encyclical for its failure to celebrate the rewards of capitalism and extol the virtues of carbon markets. Others have misread the letter depriving ‘people of the [technological] tools humanity will need to prevent climatic upheaval.’ These reactions demonstrate why this Encyclical is so important.

NO: “The pope is not asking us to reject markets or technology. He is asking us to reject the (il)logic that insists that only markets can decide our future and that technology is politically and morally neutral. He is asking us to reject the creed of market fundamentalism, and to recognize that the system has levers. Individuals, institutions, and governments are all making choices, and we have the capacity to make different ones.”

Thus ends the Introduction by Naomi Oreskes. She was invited to the “Sustainable Nature, Sustainable Humanity” in May 2014, a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that helped to lay the foundations for Pope Francis’s Encyclical. This group was assembled at that time because of Pope Francis’s call to write this letter to the whole world. Pope Francis and his scientific advisors and several learned Jesuits reached out and called in others to come to his aid in providing this timely and important letter for all people in the world to read. Since Naomi Oreskes’s Introduction was such an excellent review of the letter, it seems very likely that she had at least a draft, if not the final one, to write such an informative Introduction. But does it alone suffice? The answer is certainly No, for all of the words of Pope Francis provide an exceptionally clear and inspiring letter.

I feel very strongly that everybody should read and understand the need for this excellent book, for the implications of the issues so well addressed in this book are for vitally important for all of humanity. I rate this book at five stars, but with my emphatic comment “think six stars!” Perhaps for the first time I should up the “think six stars!” to “think sever stars!” I urge everyone read it and discuss it with many others, to help spread the word of the importance for the future of humanity to absorb Pope Francis’s message.

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