Laudato Si’ – The Logic (and Illogical) of Ecological Dialectics.

Not all that glitters is ecologism, however, there are indications that religious denominations have at long last began to acknowledged the need for serious action to be taken of what adherents of the faith often define as ‘Created’ —and which would be far easier to define as Nature—, does not disintegrate through the opus of the Son of a God whom, instead of subjugating, cultivating and then suddenly realising that he has to safeguard, would have done considerably better if He had simply lived, as all other beings have done and continue to do. 

Everyone on the planet should be guaranteed a brighter future —irrespective of who they are or where they are— where we can all thrive within the resources of our one planet. Yet, our politicians, financiers and economists continue to preside over what I can only describe as a deceitful and unethical type of Ponzi scheme with our planet. Surely every single person on this planet is aware that we are consuming more and more natural resources faster than nature is able to replenish; currently we are stealing the Earth’s future resources from our children and their children just so that we can function here and now; we are dipping deeper and deeper into ecological piggy bank without making realistic and sustainable repayments. One day in the future our progeny may have to urgently dip into that piggy bank and find that their progenitor’s stole their future away from them and in effect causing humanity’s ecological account to be declared bankrupt and therefore it is us, today, who will be the cause humanities extinction in the future.

I recently felt a need to read the papal ecological text “Laudato si’(Praise Be to You)” again in its entirety, not only because it mentions Saint Francis of Assisi (to me personally, one of the great saints) or because it critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, and calls all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action” but also because so many individuals had expressed themselves both negatively and positively even before its publication based on extracts and hearsay; three days before the encyclical’s official release, the Italian magazine L’Espresso (Sandro Magister) posted a leaked draft copy of the document online, but the significance of the position taken by the Catholic Church is of epochal importance and must be carefully discerned.

I will try to highlight, in a critical synthesis during my examination of the Encyclical “Laudato si’” some of the fundamental points that I would like to analyse more thoroughly, with scientific rigour that forced upon me by logic, yet at the same time, do all I can, not to be morally prejudicial beforehand to what the pontiff has expressed in his encyclical.

In anticipation I believe that —whatever one may think—, this pastoral document is one of the most significant within the history of the Catholic Church.

The papal encyclical is, admittedly so, of impeccable scientific rigour within the parts devoted to the evaluation of ecological, economic and social problems faced by humanity today. Many of the statements and quotes seem to have been made by an ecologist rather than a theologian or a consecrated religious.

Here are some extracts from the Encyclical Letter Laudato si’ (all in italics), which to my way of thinking are worthy of attention and revealing, with my noted comments:

The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. (LS. 5)

Sustainable Development

The beginning is somewhat worrying: because God has entrusted the world to us men and women seems not to differ very much from that centralising anthropocentrism that the Church has encouraged in the past, first and foremost in order to support human ‘well-being’ and prosperity.

A little further on, the Pope appeals to the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, (LS. 13) continuing to associate, in the most unfortunate of ecological expressions, the idea of sustainability with that of development.

A few lines later, on the other hand, he writes that Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest, and therefore underlining that Catholic admiration is directed toward those who deal with the ecological problems that harm humanity and the poorest in our civilisation. The human race always remains at the center of this discussion!

However, the critique of technological dominance and the problems it creates is very lucid and interesting: 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. (LS. 18) […] 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. (LS. 20) […] Often a vicious circle results, as human intervention to resolve a problem further aggravates the situation. […] We must be grateful for the praiseworthy efforts being made by scientists and engineers dedicated to finding solutions to man-made problems. But 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. (LS. 34)

Loss of Biodiversity

On the analysis of the threatened situation facing biological diversity, the Pope writes: The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production. (LS. 32) […] It is not enough, however, to think of different species merely as potential “resources” to be exploited, while overlooking the fact that they have value in themselves.

The recognition of any kind of ‘value in themselves’ is something truly revolutionary and provocative on the part of the leader of one the most widespread systems of religious belief in the world. This is something that many scientists, economists and almost every politician in the world seem to be unable to grasp.

The stance against the indiscriminate exploitation of the environment becomes even more detailed and, I would say almost “subversive,” when referring to habitats at risk, stating that A delicate balance has to be maintained when speaking about these places, for we cannot overlook the huge global economic interests which, under the guise of protecting them, can undermine the sovereignty of individual nations. In fact, there are proposals to internationalise the Amazon, which only serve the economic interests of transnational corporations.” (LS. 38)(see 5th General Conference of the Latin-American and Caribbean Bishops, Aparecida Document (29 June 2007), 86)

The call for concrete actions is not lacking and begins with a call to support and invest in research: 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. (LS. 42)


In some passages, later, it almost seems as though the pontiff wants to redeem himself from the common anthropocentric vision of Catholicism and declares, almost with euphoric resignation, that: Human beings too are creatures of this world. So not inferring that other living beings belong to the world of man as well, but almost the other way round. This is a notable change in the paradigm that had been adopted so far.

And in fact the pope continues: The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; (LS. 48) […] 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. (LS. 49)

Suddenly, as though taken by complete surprise by the radical change that this new ecological awareness is bringing to the Catholic faith, the pope warns the faithful that Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of reproductive health.” (LS. 50)Yet the innovative point of view which had begun to take shape, immediately begins to disintegrate simply because humanity is once again placed at the very core of this discourse: its growth (not economic growth) yet that divine vital thrust, cannot be nor should it be restricted or controlled in any way. This implies that once again, contraception, which has both social and ecological benefits in decreasing global birth rates, yet at the same time mortality rates attributable to diseases, especially in the poorer nations upon whom papal attention is being focused, remains a taboo for the Church. Yet this is precisely the Gordian knot of all social and environmental problems: the number of people on Earth is evidently unsustainable! It seems that this innovative and ecologist pope is well aware of this, but is nevertheless forced by either someone or something to clarify the position of the Church in this regard: that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 483). To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.” (LS. 50) Such an idea is enough to nullify the effort to open up Catholicism’s efforts towards the environment and its protection. Certainly our disproportionate consumption of natural resources has created inequality in the responsibilities of individual human beings around the world. An African village dweller cannot be expected to have the same ecological footprint as an American dweller. However, the minimal environmental impact of the former is offset by the high number of children brought into the world. Children who, albeit far below the consumption levels of the western world, require space (and therefore contribute toward deforestation caused by the need for expansion, of roads and homes), food (and therefore inevitably reducing natural resources), generating waste (often without any forms of refuse collection or recycling facilities), the use of fossil fuels (for instance, in Southeast Asia the high birth rate of the population, although characterised by lower consumption than in the West, uses means of transport, such as motorcycles, which on the whole are equally polluting due to the high number being used).

Quality and Quantity

Quantity, not just quantity, matters. The Church is aware of this, but it would be too long a step to invite the faithful to use contraception in order to reduce the population. Yet, paradoxically, this would safeguard far more lives than any human voluntary action could ever achieve. Its accurate to say that the problems of malnutrition are due to the disproportionate allocation of comestible resources and waste, but in order to ensure comestibles for 9 billion people in the near future (projected for AD 2045), how many other species ecosystems and resources would we need to destroy or misappropriate to achieve this? The current 7.9 billion use 1.5 available planets (the sustainability advocate Mathis Wackernagel and his colleagues at the Global Footprint Network calculated that it would take four Earths —or to be more precise, 3.9 Earths— to sustain a population of seven billion.) Too bad that we only have one planet available for our use.

A little bit of redemption can be found below, but its simply not sufficient: The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable (LS. 54) […] As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. (LS. 59)

Then, as though an entirely different pontiff speaking again, the one that is rational and ecological, his words again become evocative and powerfully thoughtful: At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress (LS. 60) […] On many concrete questions, the Church has no reason to offer a definitive opinion; she knows that honest debate must be encouraged among experts, while respecting divergent views. (LS. 61) […] science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both. (LS. 62)

When it comes to the discussion of biblical writings the double papal nature again emerges as though another struggle has arisen between a David who believes and the rational Goliath. If on the one hand, he admits: The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. […] The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations. This in turn distorted our mandate to “have dominion” over the earth (cf. Genesis 1:28), to “till it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15) (LS. 66).Whilst on the other hand, acknowledging that: We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. (LS. 67)

However, it seems too difficult to go further and radically re-evaluate the message of Genesis. Because on the one hand, Francis continues to argue that man was created in the image of God (therefore, his main interest) and that man has been entrusted with the task of “subduing creation” whilst on the other hand: nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. This lack of consistency and contradiction is incredibly arduous and problematic to interpret in a logical way. Certainly an effort has been made, but the principle of human centrality has not been recontextualised. Man can both destroy and protect. Man can subjugate and cultivate: The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognising that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Genesis 2:15). (LS. 67)

Everything appears to be somewhat more defined just below: the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures. (LS. 68) Or rather, the Bible (and the church) do profess anthropocentrism, but not one that could be considered despotic. In our time, the Church does not simply state that other creatures are completely subordinated to the good of human beings, as if they have no worth in themselves and can be treated as we wish. (LS. 69) Or rather, other creatures are subordinated to man, but not totally so.

And a few pages later the pope of reason writes: The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. (LS. 77)[…] If we acknowledge the value and the fragility of nature and, at the same time, our God-given abilities, we can finally leave behind the modern myth of unlimited material progress. (LS. 78) And here we enter the most seditious if not heretical part of the encyclical —in my humble opinion—. The myth of progress begins to be profoundly criticised, as well as proffering a signal of acceptance towards evolutionism: God is intimately present to each being, without impinging on the autonomy of his creature, and this gives rise to the rightful autonomy of earthly affairs. (LS. 80) […] Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. (LS. 81) There is even a “scientific” critique of natural selection in social dimensions: This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. (LS. 82) […] Here we can add yet another argument for rejecting every tyrannical and irresponsible domination of human beings over other creatures. The ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the ris- en Christ embraces and illumines all things. (LS. 83) […] each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. (LS. 84) […]

The Web of Life

The web of life emerges as a radical Christian consciousness: all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family. (LS. 89) […] but then it collapses, again, returning to the old ideas on the centrality of man: This is not to put all living beings on the same level nor to deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails. […] At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst. (LS. 90) And its within that, in essence, that the dialectical sophistry dwells in. In fact, although there is absolutely no reason whatsoever to be so specific, since it appears completely implausible that those who fight for the well-being of other living beings that they would be indifferent to human well-being. Yet Francis, in order not to allow anything to be left open to interpretation, underscores it: It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. (LS. 91) Man, however, let’s not forget that mankind seems to want to scream, nevertheless he acknowledges: it follows that our indifference or cruelty towards fellow creatures of this world sooner or later affects the treatment we mete out to other human beings. […] Every act of cruelty towards any creature is “contrary to human dignity.”(LS. 92) But how, mistreatment should not be contrary to universal dignity, or in the religious case to the divine. Instead, its a stumbling block and is considered a crime, its a sin because it affects human dignity, and not that of the living being who has suffered the mistreatment. It is the person, man who is remorseful and ashamed, who mortifies himself, whereby “do not mistreat.” That “a creature” harms itself comes later; in order of importance there is man; mankind is always considered as being in first place.

On the features that primarily concern mankind, however, the Pope first becomes Rousseauian: The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order” and then even Tolstoian The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property. (LS. 93) From this it would follow that: The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. (LS. 95) Again … patrimony of all humanity? We are not talking about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon or the Great Library of Alexandria here we are speaking about the environment. Which is not a heritage of humanity, but the “duty of the father,” as the etymology of the word itself established. Therefore it seems as thjough the pontiff (or his ghost writer) is a little bewildered as to what belongs to God (or nature) and with what belongs to mankind. And once again we fall into the same ideological errors previously disclosed in the Encyclical: man seems to be under the impression that he is God and that the world and all within it belongs to him.

The changes that man is able to make with science and technology to nature are reviewed in the middle of the writing and are resumed in more detail toward the end: Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. […] Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. (LS. 106)

Meanwhile, the pontiff criticises, with surprising clarity, the economic growth advocated by many politicians and economists and calls for degrowth: This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed.” (LS. 106) […] Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur. (LS. 114)


And even science and ecological culture are criticised in a positive and innovative manner: The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. […] A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; (LS. 110) […] Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. (LS. 111) […] If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalised technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. (LS. 113)

But it is the analysis of the effects of technology that, more than any other aspect, are quite detailed and of interest: Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since “the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference”. (LS. 115)

According to the pope, a misinterpretation of modern anthropocentrism is, therefore, the cause of the world’s environmental problems, and not anthropocentrism by itself. Pope Francis in fact, does not redeem himself at all, when he writes: An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship. (LS. 116) In fact, it has always been mankind (from Adam to us) who had been entrusted by the divine to administer Nature.

Again, the reasoning of man devoid of dogmas always seems to re-emerge: everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature.”  (LS. 117) […] But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. But the castle built upon new foundations definitely landslides in this passage: When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”.96 A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism.” for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. (LS. 118) This, in my opinion, is the most “peccant” thought of the Encyclical. And its no coincidence: Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. (LS. 119)

There is an impotent afterthought, but its substance doesn’t seem to change: When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests. (LS. 122) Indeed, I would say that it becomes worse when he says: the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only “if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives.” In other words, be respectful brothers, but if your life is on the line, then killing is okay. Just make sure to do it respectfully: “it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.” All such use and experimentation “requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.”(LS. 130)Yet when Francis addresses the topic of embryonic experimentation he is quite explicit: There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. (LS. 136)But isn’t life, life, whether its embryo is human, ape or a rat? This ethical quandary remains unsolved.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

The Holy Father, on the other hand, appears to be more cautious and prudent on the GMOs issue mentioned above: concerning human intervention on plants and animals, which at present includes genetic manipulation by biotechnology. […] Any legitimate intervention will act on nature only in order “to favour its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God.” (LS. 132) It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM) […] In nature, however, this process is slow and cannot be compared to the fast pace induced by contemporary technological advances, even when the latter build upon several centuries of scientific progress.  (LS. 133) […]In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners. […] The expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future. In various countries, we see an expansion of oligopolies for the production of cereals and other products needed for their cultivation. This dependency would be aggravated were the production of infertile seeds to be considered; the effect would be to force farmers to purchase them from larger producers. (LS. 134)

Another theme that the Encyclical addresses “without Mitre on the head” is that of the rights of indigenous peoples and their importance: We know, for example, that countries which have clear legislation about the protection of forests continue to keep silent as they watch laws repeatedly being broken. (LS. 142) […] The disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the disappearance of a species of plant or animal. (LS. 145) […] it is essential to show special care for indigenous communities and their cultural traditions. They are not merely one minority among others, but should be the principal dialogue partners, especially when large projects affecting their land are proposed. For them, land is not a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with which they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best. Nevertheless, in various parts of the world, pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture. (LS. 146)The message is powerful and direct. It makes perfect sense. Perhaps because man, even one that is indigenous, is the subject matter. These words however, are of extraordinary importance!

Towards the end of the discussion on ecological issues, attention shifts to common goods and responsibility towards those who will come after us: Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good. (LS. 157) […] the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. […] The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences. (LS. 161) […] the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities. (LS. 165)

And to the practical aspects: [poor countries] are likewise bound to develop less polluting forms of energy production, but to do so they require the help of countries which have experienced great growth at the cost of the ongoing pollution of the planet. […] require the establishment of mechanisms and subsidies which allow developing countries access to technology transfer, technical assistance and financial resources. (LS. 172) […] The majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity. Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed, since each can tend to become enclosed in its own language, while specialisation leads to a certain isolation and the absolutisation of its own field of knowledge. (LS. 201) […] Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals. (LS. 203) […] The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. (LS. 204) […] A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers. “Purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act.” Today, in a word, “the issue of environmental degradation challenges us to examine our lifestyle.” (LS. 206) 

There is no lack of reflections on the power of education and of the new generations: In those countries which should be making the greatest changes in consumer habits, young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment. At the same time, they have grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits. (LS. 209) […] Environmental education has broadened its goals. Whereas in the beginning it was mainly centred on scientific information, consciousness-raising and the prevention of environmental risks, it tends now to include a critique of the “myths” of a modernity grounded in a utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market). (LS. 210) […] If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond. (LS. 211)

Finally, a criticism of the indifferent faithful: It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion.” (LS. 217) […] It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. As believers, we do not look at the world from without but from within, conscious of the bonds with which the Father has linked us to all beings. By developing our individual, God-given capacities, an ecological conversion can inspire us to greater creativity and enthusiasm in resolving the world’s problems and in offering ourselves to God “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable” (Romans 12:1). We do not understand our superiority as a reason for personal glory or irresponsible dominion, but rather as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith. 

The invitation to comment is to take concrete action (almost a boycott): An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness. In the end, a world of exacerbated consumption is at the same time a world which mistreats life in all its forms. (LS. 230)


The great anticipation for this first ecological encyclical in the history of the Catholic Church leaves a somewhat acrid taste in the mouth. Little has changed with respect to the ideas of the centrality of mankind, of his rights and duties to safeguard Nature and to dispose of, without abuse but for his benefit, of the existence of other living beings. On the other hand, some of the passages come across as extremely courageous and somewhat promising. In Laudato Si’ we will find nothing more than what has already been said by hundreds if not thousands of ecologists, scientists, philosophers and intellectuals. Having said that though, for the very first time in human history, we have received an invitation to become fully aware of the impact our species is having on Nature by one of the leaders of a monotheistic faith. But of course, there is still quite a long way to go by the various religions towards a redefinition of mankind status within the universe and within the world, towards an acceptance and respect toward other species and not seeing themselves as being central to everything or even seeing themselves as the prime goal in everything, but as a important and non-indispensable result of both creation and natural laws. Much still needs to be recognized from a moral and ethical point of view toward other species, so that the rights we seized for ourselves and the spiritual importance we have enveloped ourselves in are equally redistributed to every single form of life in the universe.

The long-awaited stance of the Church on ecology, however, has the strength to reach, albeit with some scratches and dents on its lacquered façade —and inclusive of some really valid and important viewpoints, such as not being tempted to replace anthropocentrism with biocentrism—, to a wider audience than any concert, summit, or any other event that has ever been organised in favor of environmental protection.

Not all that glitters is ecologism, however, there are indications that religious denominations have at long last began to acknowledged the need for serious action to be taken of what adherents of the faith often define as ‘Created’ —and which would be far easier to define as Nature—, does not disintegrate through the opus of the Son of a God whom, instead of subjugating, cultivating and then suddenly realising that he has to safeguard, would have done considerably better if He had simply lived, as all other beings have done and continue to do.