Pope Francis joins debate on the state of our planet

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Published 30/06/2015 | 00:00

Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si is an important contribution to the on-going debate on the state of the environment.
Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si is an important contribution to the on-going debate on the state of the environment.

Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si is an important contribution to the on-going debate on the state of the environment.

The recent encyclical, a formal papal teaching circular letter, is a powerful document in that the Catholic Church joins the global debate about the present state of the planet and its future welfare and throws the pope's weight and considerable clout firmly behind the scientific facts that spell out the damage we are doing to our environment.

Laudato si (Praise be to you) are words from a verse of a 13th century song composed in praise of the wonders of creation and attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. In the first encyclical of his pontificate, Pope Francis subtitles his 184-page sweeping document 'On Care for Our Common Home'.

The authors of the encyclical repeat the established facts and acknowledge that the scientific community is right. They add moral weight and an ethical dimension to the known state of knowledge and call for action to be taken on the many environmental challenges that currently face humanity: global warming, climate change, environmental degradation, habitat destruction, pollution, access to clean water, loss of biodiversity, extinction of species, etc.

The encyclical doesn't mince words; it tells it as it is. It recites a litany of wrongs that mankind has unwittingly or purposefully wreaked on our planet and highlights the lack of responsibility, values and conscience that has often accompanied much of our 'development' and 'progress' in the past due to either greed or apathy or both.

It addresses possible future impacts of genetic engineering and the emerging biological technologies that are set to radically change the way we live.

One of the major concerns of Laudato si is global inequality and the disproportionate impact that environmental degradation, especially climate change, is having on the world's poorest countries. It calls on developed countries to recognise their 'ecological debt' to developing countries, to limit their use of non-renewable energy and to assist poorer nations.

The encyclical is a powerful and welcome wake-up call. One of the key questions that the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics asks is one that everyone can relate to and answer in his or her own way: "What kind of a world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?"

The full text of the document is available on the web at Papal Encyclicals Online.

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