Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’, is the most astonishing and perhaps the most ambitious papal document of the past 100 years, since it is addressed not just to Catholics, or Christians, but to everyone on earth. It sets out a programme for change that is rooted in human needs but it makes the radical claim that these needs are not primarily greedy and selfish ones.We need nature, he says, and we need each other. Our need for mutuality, and for giving, is just as real as the selfish aspects of our characters; the need for awe and stillness in front of nature is just as profound as any other human need. The care of nature and the care of the poor are aspects of the same ethical commandment, and if we neglect either one we cannot find peace. The environment, in the pope’s use of the word, is not something out there: nature as opposed to the human world. The term describes the relationship between nature and humans, who are inextricably linked and part of each other. It is that relationship that must be set right.Starting from that premise, he launches a ferocious attack on what he sees as the false and treacherous appetites of capitalism and on the consumerist view of human nature. For Francis, there is a vital distinction between human needs, which are limited but non-negotiable, and appetites, which are potentially unlimited, and which can always be traded for other satisfactions without ever quite giving us what we most deeply want. The poor, he says, have their needs denied, while the rich have their appetites indulged. The environmental crisis links these two aspects of the problem.
The Guardian view on Laudato Si’: Pope Francis calls for a cultural revolution | The Guardian