Integral Ecology: Envisioning a New Future for the World

The Encyclical in English

The Encyclical in English

One of the noteworthy books of 2015 is a religious exposition, Pope Francis’ 160-page Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home. In her introduction to the Melville House English edition, Naomi Oreskes compares it with Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Silent Spring because it is a book that “catalyzes thought into action.”

It covers “virtually every important topic in contemporary life,” a list that includes “climate change, deforestation, and the need for clean, safe drinking water [and] “population (and abortion),” but also various problems of science and technology—including public transportation, urban planning and architecture, social media, genetic modification of crops, embryonic stem cell research—and law, economy, and governance—including the problems of deregulated markets, corruption, and weak governance” (pp. vii, viii).

In his preface, Pope Francis presents the point of view that characterizes the entire book. Citing the writings of his patron saint, twelfth century Francis of Assisi, the pope describes Mother Earth as our sister and declares that she “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life” (¶ 2).

He cites St. Francis, beloved by people everywhere, as an embodiment of the principles which can be entitled “integral ecology.” We must approach nature and the environment with a sense of awe and wonder, the Pope affirms, for “if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs” (¶¶ 10, 11).

Although the encyclical is oriented toward members of the pope’s own church, he acknowledges that people in other religious communities and other disciplines enrich the church’s teaching. He closes the preface with an appeal to readers everywhere: that they join together in “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.”

The next few paragraphs of this introduction to the encyclical offer a summary of its main ideas. It uses phrases and comments from the text of the encyclical, but without attribution, and arranges them in an order that sometimes differs from their placement in the encyclical itself. My purpose is to suggest the range and value of the encyclical and encourage a serious study of the document itself.

The major part of this review essay consists of detailed notes on the encyclical, following the sequence of Pope Francis’ exposition and providing full documentation. (Since the encyclical in all of its editions is divided into numbered paragraphs, I cite the text by paragraph [¶] rather than by page).

Although the encyclical is divided into six chapters, it can be outlined under four headings: (A) where things stand now: crisis; (B) analysis of how we reached this state of affairs; (C) the new world and way of life for which we can work; and (D) a course of action for people everywhere, but especially for those whose current way of life is largely responsible for the ecological crisis now confronting the world. Read more. . . Integral Ecology-Pope Francis

2 Responses to Integral Ecology: Envisioning a New Future for the World


    Your post on Laudato si is close to my interest. I read it shortly after it was published, but couldn’t find anybody to discuss it with. I hope there will be some time after riding to do this Arizona.
    I very much look forward to see you again.

    Sent from my iPad


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