“Praise be to you, my Lord !”
by Brother Bruno of Jesus-Mary
EVERYTHING that flows from the mouth or the pen of this Pope is limpid like “ our sister water. ” The first words of the encyclical are a praise of glory: “ ‘Laudato si ’, mi ’ Signore, Praise be to You, my Lord! ’ They are the words of Saint Francis of Assisi’s beautiful canticle, ” the Canticle of the Creatures, also called Canticle of the Sun, which the Poverello composed shortly before his death, in the Italian language of the 13th century. The encyclical ends with a prayer of Pope Francis, the last two words of which are “ Laudato si’ . ”
“ In the words of this beautiful canticle, ” Pope Francis continues, “ Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. ‘Praise be to You, my Lord, for our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs’ ” (no. 1.)
THE CAUSES OF THE “ RUIN. ”
By virtue of the thesis of Saint Bonaventura, a disciple of Saint Francis, “ Omnis creatura clamat generationem aeternam, all creatures proclaim the eternal generation of the Word, the Son of God, God of God, by the Father. ” (Georges de Nantes, A Mysticism for Our Time, CCR no. 104, December 1978, p. 10)
The Pope makes this “ cry ” heard today!
“ This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rm 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gn 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters ” (no. 2.)
It is obvious, however, that 0no one can properly hear that cry unless his ears are opened by God’s grace, the ears and the eyes of faith! That is why the appeals that “ Pope Saint (?) John XXIII ” made in “ his message Pacem in Terris, more than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis ” have remained a dead letter: “ Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet ” (no. 3.)
So John XXIII’s appeal went unheeded? In this encyclical, this Pope traced the picture of a free, equal and brotherly world community. Then, in the name of the new City that he was promoting, he was led to condemn the daily acts of submission and faithfulness that our historical communities and their written and unwritten laws have always required of and obtained from individuals. Thus it is that ‘decolonisation’ entered into this ideal and appealing project of an egalitarian and free world. In Africa and Asia it sowed seeds of the chaos that Francis is deploring today and trying to remedy.
“ In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed (?) Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern ” (no. 4) without any greater success since he was persevering in the “ progressivism ” of his predecessor.
In his turn, “ Saint (?) John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue [...], he would call for a global ecological conversion ” (no. 5.)
Deaf to the message of Our Lady of Fatima Who would have given him the means to bring about this conversion through the consecration of Russia to Her Immaculate Heart, he only succeeded in worsening the chaos. The work of his successor, Joseph Ratzinger, who had been his right-hand man during his long pontificate, is summarised by Francis :
“ My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed ‘eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment’ ” (no. 6.)
Then, he resigned!
Yet, “ we know that things can change ” (no. 13.) Will Pope Francis do any better than his predecessors? Yes, he will, because unlike Paul VI and John Paul II, he does not put his faith in man but in God:
“ The Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes His loving plan or repents of having created us. ” (ibid.)
Francis can even appeal to this “ beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion ” (no. 7.)
In fact, after fifty years of conciliar wandering, Bartholomew is not far from bringing us back to the Kingdom of God: “ He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which ‘entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion.’ As Christians, we are also called ‘to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet’ ” (no. 9.)
For Pope Francis, it is a question of “ integral ecology ” (chap. 4, nos. 137-162), i.e. of catholic ecology, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi and at the furthest remove from both Jacques Maritain’s “ integral humanism ” and Paul VI’s “ integral development: ”
“ I took his name as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically [...].
“ He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. ” (no. 10)
“ Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology. ” (no. 11)
This is precisely what Georges de Nantes, our Father, lays down as a principle, according to which ecology is “ the science and art of the common life of a single family, among families, of men in general. ” Now, “ the supreme law for regulating this family well-being is neither biological, mathematical, metaphysical, moral nor religious ” (The 150 Points of the Phalange of the Immaculate, point no. 102, A Humanist Ecology.)
Thus, like Georges de Nantes, who was tertiary of Saint Francis, Pope Francis can claim to be under the patronage of the Poverello of Assisi, “ the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians ” (no. 10.)
Pope Francis himself addresses “ every person living on this planet ” a call for “ conversion: ”
“ We need a conversion which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all [...]. All of us can cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his own culture, experience, involvements and talents. (no. 14)
The Holy Father’s plan is clear and promising:
“ I will begin by briefly reviewing several aspects of the present ecological crisis, with the aim of drawing on the results of the best scientific research available today, showing how elaborate they are and providing a concrete foundation for the ethical and spiritual itinerary that follows. I will then consider some principles drawn from the Judaeo-Christian tradition which can render our commitment to the environment more coherent. I will then attempt to get to the roots of the present situation, so as to consider not only its symptoms but also its deepest causes. This will help to provide an approach to ecology which respects our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings. In light of this reflection, I will advance some broader proposals for dialogue and action which would involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy. Finally, convinced as I am that change is impossible without motivation and a process of education, I will offer some inspired guidelines for human development to be found in the treasure of Christian spiritual experience ” (no. 15.)
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME
The Holy Father’s goal, the purpose of his ‘New Evangelisation’ is to “ consider how faith brings new incentives and requirements with regard to the world of which we are a part. ” Before considering this, however, we must “ turn to what is happening to our common home ” (no. 17.)
This last expression, which is dear to Gorbatchev, is equivalent to the “ large city ” of the ‘Third Secret,’ which Our Lady showed to the seers of Fatima on July 13, 1917, when She revealed to them the love of Her Immaculate Heart for “ Russia ” precisely. For their part, the children did not know who this “ old lady ” was!
“ Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity. ” (no. 18)
The time has come to renounce “ irrational confidence in progress ” and to grieve for the real ills from which our planet is suffering, in order to remedy them as far as possible (n° 19.)
At last! Exit the encyclical Populorum Progressio, even if, as a good Jesuit, Pope Francis misleads “ progressivists ” by quoting it once (no. 127.)
I. POLLUTION AND CLIMATE CHANGE
POLLUTION, WASTE AND THE THROWAWAY CULTURE.
“ Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths. People take sick, for example, from breathing high levels of smoke from fuels used in cooking or heating. There is also pollution that affects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others. ” (no. 20)
“ Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.
“ In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilised in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected. ” (no. 21)
Yet, God had done things properly: “ It is hard for us to accept that the way natural ecosystems work is exemplary: plants synthesise nutrients which feed herbivores; these in turn become food for carnivores, which produce significant quantities of organic waste that give rise to new generations of plants. ”
What a contrast with “ the industrial system ” of production and consumption that has not the capacity to “ to absorb and reuse waste and by-products ” (no. 22)!
CLIMATE AS A COMMON GOOD.
“ The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. ”
It is the good Lord, and not man, Who makes it to rain and makes the sun to shine on both local and “ global ” levels. As the catecheses of Wednesday prepare the Synod on the family, the present encyclical anticipates the great international conference (COP21) that will take place in Paris at the end of November.
“ A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. ” (no. 23)
At least, predictable and expected historical causes exist. Climate has a “ history ” that falls into what we call “ divine orthodromy. ” How can we not think about Our Lord’s warnings in the Gospel when the Pope takes into account the “ factors ” that “ produce or aggravate this warming ” regardless of “ the human causes ” (Mk. 13; Mt. 24)?
“ Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.
“ It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle);
[“ The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the Heavens will be shaken. ” (Mt. 24:30)]
“ Yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. ”
Consequently, the Pope calls into question “ the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system, ” as well as “ an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes ” (no. 23.)
Do these issues come under the authority of the pontifical Magisterium? The Holy Father forestalled the objection by subtitling the first paragraphs devoted to the interventions of his predecessors, from John XXIII to Benedict XVI, “ nothing in this world is indifferent to us. ” Especially if the observed phenomena announce its disquieting deterioration:
“ Warming has effects on the carbon cycle. It creates a vicious circle which aggravates the situation even more, affecting the availability of essential resources like drinking water, energy and agricultural production in warmer regions, and leading to the extinction of part of the planet’s biodiversity.
“ The melting in the polar ice caps and in high altitude plains can lead to the dangerous release of methane gas, while the decomposition of frozen organic material can further increase the emission of carbon dioxide. ”
In order to measure the extent of the catastrophe that threatens our “ common home, ” it suffices to think about the damage that was caused the last time that the freezer broke down at Maison Saint-Joseph!
“ Things are made worse by the loss of tropical forests which would otherwise help to mitigate climate change. ”
This does not bear comparison with the clearing of European forests in the Middle Age or of the forests in North America by Canadians who were determined to “ clear land ” in New France. Both were founders of civilisation.
On the other hand, “ carbon dioxide pollution increases the acidification of the oceans and compromises the marine food chain. If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas ” (no. 24.)
Civilisation is at stake as well as the survival of the underprivileged: “ There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation ” (no. 25.)
This explains “ Pope Francis’ holy wrath ” (Le Figaro June 19, 2015.)
“ Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change. However, many of these symptoms indicate that such effects will continue to worsen if we continue with current models of production and consumption. There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy ” (no. 26.)
II. THE ISSUE OF WATER
The Pope then comes to “ the depletion of natural resources ” (no. 27.) In the first place, he deals with “ our sister water, ” as Saint Francis used to call her:
“ Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production. Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity ” (no. 28.)
“ One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas ” (no. 29.)
Once again, the Pope becomes angry:
“ 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. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. Water, however, continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality ” (no. 30.)
Consequences are foreseeable:
“ Greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century ” (no. 31.)
It is already a major source of conflict in the Middle East, for example, the distribution of the water of the Jordan River.
III. LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
The disappearance of plant and animal species that is caused by the loss of forests and woodlands (no. 32) worries the Pope. Rightly so, for the diversity of living beings functions like a “ living fabric: ” if a stitch runs, the whole of the fabric risks tearing.
For the Pope, however, the major concern is not only the loss of potential “ ‘resources’ to be exploited. ” His concern is also to see that “ because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right ” (no. 33.)
Thus, the first word of the encyclical Laudato si is not an empty word, it is really the key to understanding it. The first fruit of this encyclical is to cure us of the “ cult of man ” that Pope Paul VI proclaimed in his Closing Address of the Second Vatican Council. It is written in every line of the Acts of the Council:
“ Believers and unbelievers alike are generally in agreement on this point: ‘everything on earth must be ordered to man as to its centre and its zenith.’ ” (Gaudium et Spes 12, 1) No, we do not agree, nor does Pope Francis!
“ It may well disturb us to learn of the extinction of mammals or birds, since they are more visible. The good functioning of ecosystems, however, also requires fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and an innumerable variety of microorganisms. Some less numerous species, although generally unseen, nonetheless play a critical role in maintaining the equilibrium of a particular place. Human beings must intervene when a geosystem reaches a critical state. ” (no. 34)
Take for example the number of wild bees in the Nord – Pas-de-Calais region of France, which has been reduced from 50 to 75 %, since World Word II. These wild species play a crucial role in the pollination of both wild flora and crops. Let us not forget that among the 57 most widely cultivated plants, which are intended for our food, 70 % are dependent on domestic and wild pollinators.
Thus, who is responsible for the disappearance of the very industrious wild bees of Nord – Pas-de-Calais? Two successive events explain it: firstly, urbanisation in the beginning of the 20th century and the different types of ensuing pollution; secondly, intensive farming. Both were the cause of the massive losses of numerous vegetal species, from the larkspur to the poppy. These species have been replaced by plants, which were either intentionally imported in order to decorate public and private gardens or brought in inadvertently during the travels of men and the shipment goods. These “ migrations ” are invasive: nothing grows, for example, in the space between Japanese knotweed plants. These foreign plants do not interrelate with French insects, butterflies and other vegetal species in the same way.
This is what leads to a further impoverishment... Local species disappear because they are destroyed by a uniform invasive flora. This loss of diversity endangers the good functioning of nature as a whole because some species were able to resist drought, others rain, still others a particular parasite that kill a closely related plant. This diversity, according to biologists, is the life insurance of ecosystems.
Assuredly, “ we must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems, ” the Pope recognises.
Nevertheless, they are not always innocent: “ A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves. ” (ibid.)
What is this “ something? ” This other “ beauty? ” This entire first chapter of the encyclical shows us rather how “ our modern world seems in fact to have lost the sense, the secret and even interest in beauty, ” Georges de Nantes observed, when he introduced his study of a Mysticism for Our Times with an ‘esthetic ontology,’ i.e., a consideration of the being under the aspect of beauty. His analysis reached the same depth as the Pope’s:
“ Is it not necessary to incriminate, if crime there be, a certain desire on the part of man to master the universe – a mastery that is of course in line with his destiny – but which would finally result in a withdrawal of beauty, a defeat of mysticism and of art as though such lights had to fade before man’s dominating pride? It could be easily shown that, until our modern times, time-honoured wisdom was kept in subjection to universal beauty and the respectful enjoyment of the mysteries of nature. There came a time when this reserve was considered to be ridiculous. Man dared to force the final secrets, to violate and dominate the world without fear of sacrilege. So, beauty withdrew for a time into inaccessible places. ” (CCR no. 104, November 1978, p. 8)
It is what the Pope denounces throughout this encyclical. It is not only beauty that recedes but life itself!
“ In assessing the environmental impact of any project, concern is usually shown for its effects on soil, water and air, yet few careful studies are made of its impact on biodiversity, as if the loss of species or animals and plant groups were of little importance ” (no. 35.)
The Pope, however, does not resign himself to being the “ silent witness ” of “ terrible injustices ” whereby “ we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration ” (no. 36.)
“ In the protection of biodiversity, specialists insist on the need for particular attention to be shown to areas richer both in the number of species and in endemic, rare or less protected species. Certain places need greater protection because of their immense importance for the global ecosystem, or because they represent important water reserves and thus safeguard other forms of life ” (no. 37.)
The Pope quotes the example of “ those richly biodiverse lungs of our planet which are the Amazon and the Congo basins, or the great aquifers and glaciers. ” (no. 38)
The Aparecida Document (June 29, 2007), however, warns against the “ proposals to internationalise the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations. ”
The draining of “ wetlands ” must be carried out while taking heed to safeguard the “ the enormous biodiversity which they formerly hosted ” (no. 39.) This is a difficult dilemma!
As for “ marine life in rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, which feeds a great part of the world’s population, ” it “ is affected by uncontrolled fishing, leading to a drastic depletion of certain species ” (no. 40.)
“ In tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, molluscs, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. ‘Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?’ This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans. All of this helps us to see that every intervention in nature can have consequences which are not immediately evident, and that certain ways of exploiting resources prove costly in terms of degradation which ultimately reaches the ocean bed itself ” (no. 41.)
“ Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the functioning of ecosystems and adequately analysing the different variables associated with any significant modification of the environment. Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. Each area is responsible for the care of this family. This will require undertaking a careful inventory of the species which it hosts, with a view to developing programmes and strategies of protection with particular care for safeguarding species heading towards extinction ” (no. 42.)
As the human “ family ” is the fundamental cell of this larger “ family ” of creation, this encyclical is the brilliant development of the weekly teaching that has been delivered by Pope Francis since December 10, 2014, in order to prepare the Synod: “ Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another. ” (ibid.)
IV. DECLINE IN THE QUALITY OF HUMAN LIFE
AND THE BREAKDOWN OF SOCIETY
“ Environmental deterioration ” is the consequence of the “ current models of development, ” i.e. of the “ progress ” of which we are so proud It results in “ the throwaway culture ” (no. 44.) What are “ the effects ” of this deterioration?
In cities, it is the “ chaos ” in which inhabitants are doomed to live, being “ inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature ” (no. 44.)
“ In some places, rural and urban alike ” (no. 45,) we can endlessly enumerate the “ signs that show that the growth of the past two centuries has not always led to an integral development and an improvement in the quality of life ” (no. 46.)
What a liberating admission! In 1970, the myth of progress, which the Second Vatican Council extolled, prevailed in the Church. It was in the midst of the reign of [“ blessed? ” really?] Paul VI. Why not proclaim him “ doctor of the development of peoples? ” After forty years of “ cult of Man, ” at last we have reached the end of illusions. Furthermore “ when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously ” (no. 47.)
The major damage is well identified by the Pope:
“ Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, ” and not according to the views of Providence.
“ For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise. ”
V. GLOBAL INEQUALITY
Here is the consequence: “ the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet [...]. For example, the depletion of fishing reserves especially hurts small fishing communities without the means to replace those resources; water pollution particularly affects the poor who cannot buy bottled water; and rises in the sea level mainly affect impoverished coastal populations who have nowhere else to go ” (no. 48.)
That is why “ a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor ” (no. 49.)
Some people are not afraid of “ proposing a reduction in the birth rate ” whereas “ demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development ” (no. 50.)
Where is the mistake! It lies in the exploitation of “ less developed countries, ” especially Africa, by multinationals. After having depleted the natural reserves of the soil and the subsoil and “ after ceasing their activity and withdrawing, ” theyleave in their wake “ great human and environmental liabilities such as unemployment, abandoned towns, the depletion of natural reserves, deforestation, the impoverishment of agriculture and local stock breeding, open pits, riven hills, polluted rivers ” (no. 51.)
This is the opposite of all that French civilisation had brought! We should not have decolonised!
250 million out of 1,2 billion Africans suffer from chronic malnutrition. All the same it is not the fault of the climatic imbalances due to our CO2 emissions! “ The land of the southern poor is rich and mostly unpolluted, ”the Pope writes, “ yet access to ownership of goods and resources for meeting vital needs is inhibited by a system of commercial relations and ownership which is structurally perverse ” (no. 52.)
In fact, many studies currently describe Africa as the new El Dorado, with growth rates similar to those of China. The comparison, however, is not relevant: China is a centralised state whereas Africa has fifty-four states with very low GNPs; they are unable to agree.
Competition is fierce among countries that essentially sell unprocessed raw materials to foreign countries. Thus, Africa does not benefit from the fruits of growth. Domestic trade only represents 10 % of the volume of trade, for lack of roads and security.
It is only necessary to put the growing population to work. Half of them are under 18 years of age and two-thirds of the 18-25 year-olds are unemployed. It is among the young graduates, especially in the social sciences, much fewer among engineers and doctors, that sects and Jihadism recruit by cultivating hatred against the West.
Father de Foucauld foresaw it in 1912. Here is what he wrote to his cousin, Madame de Bondy:
“ Pray also for all the Muslims of our empire in North-West Africa, which is now so vast. The present hour is grave for their souls as well as for France. During the eighty years that Algiers has been ours, we have occupied ourselves so little with the salvation of the Muslims’ souls that one could say that we did not occupy ourselves with it at all. We did not occupy ourselves any more with administering them well or civilising them, either. We maintained them in a state of submission, and nothing more.
“ If the Christians of France do not understand that it is their duty to evangelise their colonies, it is a fault for which they will have to account, and it will be the cause of the loss of a mass of souls that could have been saved. If France fails to govern the natives of her colony better than she has done, she will lose it, and for these people it will be a step back towards barbarism with the loss of hope for Christianisation for a long time to come. ” (Letter of September 21, 1912)s
What is the remedy? The Pope writes: “ The developed countries ought to help pay this debt by significantly limiting their consumption of non-renewable energy and by assisting poorer countries to support policies and programmes of sustainable development. ” Nevertheless, for this to be possible, the developed countries ought to be endowed with enlightened and upright leaders. Africa does not have the monopoly of corruption. There, however, it is paralysing...
VI. WEAK RESPONSES
“ These situations have caused sister earth, along with all the abandoned of our world, to cry out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. ”
That is to say since the French Revolution that destroyed the thousand-old year Christian society that St. Pius X wanted to restore as the only means to attain “ the highest possible peak of well-being for society and its members through fraternity or, as it is also called, universal solidarity ” (Letter on the Sillon, August 25, 1910, n° 24.)
“ We desire [it] with all Our heart, ” the Holy Pontiff stated. Pope Francis too says so :
“ We are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what He desired when He created it and correspond with His plan for peace, beauty and fullness ” (no. 53.)
Yet how can we achieve this?
“ It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. ” Everything is submitted to technology and sciences, which are not innocent! “ There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected ” (no. 54.)
This is so much the case that “ their harmful habits of consumption which, rather than decreasing, appear to be growing all the more [...]. An outsider looking at our world would be amazed at such behaviour, which at times appears self-destructive ” (no. 55.)
It is because money remains king (no. 56.) Here is the consequence:
“ It is foreseeable that, once certain resources have been depleted, the scene will be set for new wars, albeit under the guise of noble claims. War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons ” (no. 57.)
The Pope does not fail to make us appreciate beautiful achievements; for example, “ rivers, polluted for decades, have been cleaned up; native woodlands have been restored; landscapes have been beautified thanks to environmental renewal projects; beautiful buildings have been erected; advances have been made in the production of non-polluting energy and in the improvement of public transportation ” (no. 58.)
This, however, is not enough to remedy an ecology – more false or superficial than real – that “ bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness ” (no. 59.)
VII. A VARIETY OF OPINIONS
Between those who “ doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change, ” and those who accuse the human beings of threatening and jeopardising “ the global ecosystem ” by “ all their interventions ” (no. 60,) the Pope invites us to be realist:
“ Still, we can see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point, due to the rapid pace of change and degradation; these are evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises, for the world’s problems cannot be analysed or explained in isolation. There are regions now at high risk and, aside from all doomsday predictions, the present world system is certainly unsustainable from a number of points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity. ‘If we scan the regions of our planet, we immediately see that humanity has disappointed God’s expectations’ ” (no. 61.) (To be continued.)
Brother Bruno of Jesus-Mary.