WHAT IS HAPPENING TO OUR COMMON HOME
(Pollution and climate change; Pollution, refuse and the culture of waste; Climate as a common good; The issue of water; Loss of biodiversity; Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society; Global inequality; Weak responses; A variety of opinions).
The chapter presents the most recent scientific findings on the environment as a way to listen to the cry of creation, “to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.” It thus deals with “several aspects of the present ecological crisis.”
Pollution and climate change: “Climate change is a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” If “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” the greatest impact of this change falls on the poorest, but “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.” “Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.”
The issue of water: the Pope clearly states that “access to safe drinkable 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 other human rights.” To deprive the poor of access to water means to deny “the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”
Loss of biodiversity: “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever.” They are not just any exploitable “resource,” but have a value in and of themselves. In this perspective “we must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems,” but when human intervention is at the service of finance and consumerism, “it is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey.”
Decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society: in the framework of an ethics of international relationships, the Encyclical indicates how a “true “ecological debt” exists in the world, with the North in debt to the South. In the face of climate change, there are “differentiated responsibilities,” and those of the developed countries are greater.
Aware of the profound differences over these issues, Pope Francis shows himself to be deeply affected by the “weak responses” in the face of the drama of many peoples and populations. Even though there is no lack of positive examples, there is “a complacency and a cheerful recklessness.” An adequate culture is lacking as well as a willingness to change life style, production and consumption, while there are efforts being made “to establish a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems.”