July 9, 2015

The Best Quotes (and Key Themes) from the Pope's Environmental Manifesto (Part II)

Yesterday, I posted a piece about the Pope's "encylclical" on the environment, released last month. I summarized what I saw as the key themes and takeaways. I also provided the first half of my list of the best quotes from the essay. Yesterday's excerpts covered climate science (and denial), environmental ills in general, and the Pope's critique of modern technological society.

Today is the moral and social side of the argument. The Pope provides a moving and profound view on the deep connection between environmental and social issues, between humans and animals, and between spiritual and practical. He also hits head on the contentious issue of man's "dominion" over Nature -- many have interpreted the Bible to indicate that man should conquer nature. The Pope explains how wrong that reading is.

The most powerful call for me is the discussion of the common good. We have seen a pendulum swing in the U.S. in particular toward a "you're on your own" philosophy that underinvests in our common "infrastructure" (from roads to schools) and in each other.

Again, I hope to provide the best, pithy moments from the piece so the most people can access it. It's an important essay of near book-length, which could preclude many from engaging. The numbers for each quote indicate the paragraph from the encyclical. Enjoy my take on the best of...

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PART II. THE POPE ON THE MORAL CASE, THE COMMON GOOD, INEQUITY, AND SOLUTIONS TO OUR SOCIAL/ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES

A. THE MORAL AND RELIGIOUS CASE

Environmental protection and Christianity

“Dominion” Over Nature

Our purpose

B. COMMON GOOD AND "INTEGRAL ECOLOGY"

Connections/Systems Thinking and “Integral Ecology”

Value of natural capital
AW Comment: The Pope doesn’t specifically talk about valuing natural capital, but that’s what he’s really talking about as a main theme in his integral ecology thesis.

C. INEQUITY

D. SOLUTIONS

Urgent call for action

International responses and policies; Local/Citizen-led policies
AW Comment: Here’s another area that will make some camps uncomfortable. The Pope clearly calls for international agreements with teeth.

Transparency

Precautionary Principle

Circular and Clean Economy

Rethinking growth/Broader view of progress
AW Comment: This is clearly a really complicated issue. Can we ‘grow’ in normal terms? Probably not. But what if our economy is based on renewable energy and circular models? Then perhaps we can provide a good quality of life for 9 billion people in 2050, which would include some growth.

Limits of Markets
AW Comment: Again, I don’t share the same level of discomfort with market solutions. I believe that if we get the prices right (as in value the intangibles, indirect value, and natural capital), markets are a wonderful tool). But the Pope does make a good case for injecting the nearly impossible to value – ethics and ‘objective truths’ – into our markets. Fair point.

Citizen/Consumer-Level Change – Look Within
AW Comment: This is a call to personal behavior change. Of course this is necessary, but it’s a bit dated to suggest that “little daily actions” will tackle issues as big as climate change. But the larger point that business and politics alone won’t get us there without a change in our ethics and behavior is right.

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