Free market conservatives hate it, it fails to address the threat of overpopulation, and it dismisses carbon credits as a way to combat global warming. Nonetheless Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, will ultimately be recognised as one of the most significant events in the modern environmental movement. Above all, it takes a big step towards healing a breach between western religions and nature that dates back to the dawn of monotheism. ….
Arnold Toynbee, the British historian, … argued [long ago] in an essay on the origins of pollution that the arc of western religion has been to get the gods off our back so that humanity can do business. This started in ancient Greece, where moral space for exploiting nature was created by moving the gods out of the trees and exiling them to Mount Olympus.
The advent of monotheism took this further by bundling the deities into one God and placing Him in outer space. Throw in the Protestant revolution, which made material success virtuous, and it was but a short step to the throwaway consumer society Pope Francis rails against.
Eugene Linden, “A papal call to reconcile the natural, spiritual and industrial worlds“, Financial Times, 3 July 2015 (metered paywall).
American writer Eugene Linden (born 1947) has authored numerous books on environmental issues, most recently, The Ragged Edge of the World: Encounters at the Frontier Where Modernity, Wildlands, and Indigenous Peoples Meet (Viking, 2011).
For much, much more, see the 184-page encyclical letter of Pope Francis. It can be downloaded at the link below, which follows the opening paragraph of the encyclical.
“Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, 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, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”