Pope Heats Up Climate Change Debate

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Pope Francis’ 180-page Papal Encyclical on climate change was released last week. While it certainly addresses the environmental peril we face, it’s not simply an environmental document, but a moral one in declaring a moral imperative to act to aggressively counter climate changes’ root causes – which are inequality and injustices against people in general but the poor in particular to benefit the super rich. Yet this historic treatise invites conversation and consideration of two larger and interrelated issues: capitalism and perpetual growth.

On capitalism, his conclusions are clear: it’s threatening the survival of human civilization, is destroying nonrenewable resources for personal gain, has lost its ethical code, has no moral compass, worships the golden calf of a money god, has no respect for Earth’s natural environment, and is killing our planet, our civilization and the people.

Perpetual economic growth, the basis of economic systems of every nation, however, is ignorant and impossible – economically, mathematically and physically. Perpetual growth is the alternative to greater economic equality. It’s destroying our planet. It’s time for a new global economic and environmental narrative – away from more is better to one that proclaims enough is best – away from wants which are insatiable to needs which are basic and finite.

Of course, the climate change Encyclical will be resisted by flat earther climate deniers, the fossil fuel industry and those in government, think tanks, media, academia and religion that are influenced by the fossil fuel industry. To the degree that the message indicts capitalism directly, resistance will expand.

This is a revolutionary moment, an extraordinary time. Old paradigms about how we should live, what “progress” means, what constitutes “the good life,” what being good “stewards” is all about, how to promote justice, what kind of economy we should have, and much more are on the cusp of being brought out into the light for all to reexamine. Great effort will be made to repress any such reflections and rethinks, discussions and debates.

It’s up to us to take advantage of this gift – an opportunity to connect our morals with our actions; to link social, economic, political and environmental problems and solutions; and to explore ways to not just resist and challenge existing structures but to create sustainable and just alternatives.

May we be up to the challenge and take full advantage of this opportunity.

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