Chapters 1 and 2
The first chapter, “What Is Happening to Our Common Home”, looks at the various symptoms of environmental degradation. The impacts of climate change are considered alongside issues of the depletion of freshwater and loss of biodiversity. There is no substantial discussion of the science of global warming; instead, it simply points to the overwhelming consensus concerning the negative impact of carbon-intensive economies on the natural world and human life: “Caring for ecosystems demands farsightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation” .
The encyclical firmly posits that a truly ecological approach is also inherently social an approach that simultaneously hears the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. The social and environmental impacts of mining is cited as a prime example of this. In many places within the text, Francis lauds the achievements of the environmental movement, while at the same time, he critiques elements within it. He forthrightly dismisses the idea that population growth is to blame for environmental damage; such a suggestion is often a way of refusing to reduce overconsumption by the affluent. Later on, the encyclical states that abortion can never be viewed as a justification for the protection of nature.
The second chapter, “The Gospel of Creation”, considers the world the way that God intended it. The chapter surveys the rich scriptural traditions to show that there is no biblical justification for “a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.” . Likewise, there is no room for misanthropic versions of environmentalism since reverence for nature is only authentic if we have compassion for fellow humans. A person who is truly concerned about the trafficking of endangered species is automatically concerned with the trafficking of humans.
Next week we will look at Chapter 3, “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis” and Chapter 4, “Integral Ecology”.
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