There's a lot to love in the Pope's new encyclical on climate, poverty and the environment, and even the terrible stuff is de-emphasized.
Specifically, the Pope states that the climate crisis is real, that it is caused by human activity, that the scientific consensus on climate is trustworthy, that greed is at the root of skepticism, and that poverty and a dogmatic approach to markets are intimately connected to the climate crisis.
The Pope is mixed on technology, talking about the wonders that everything from railroads to nanotech can bring to humanity; but he also decries the "superficial" attention to social media and condemns stem-cell research.
He closes with a plea for tolerance of transgender people, asking us to learn "to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning."
But let’s not forget that technology is a wonderful thing.
Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change: steam engines, railways, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, aeroplanes, chemical industries, modern medicine, information technology and, more recently, the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for “science and technology are wonderful products of God-given human creativity.”
…until it takes over people’s lives.
Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.
Seriously, stop looking at your phone.
A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfillment.
The richer are getting richer by screwing the world’s poor and the environment.
The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.
(Image: Pope Francis in March 2013, Casa Rosada, CC-BY-SA)