by Raveena Aulakh
Scientists, theologians applaud no-holds-barred tone of encyclical, which slams climate doubters and politicians for being on the oil industry’s side.
In his highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis used unexpectedly strong language to make his points: climate change has grave implications; the world urgently needs policies to drastically cut emissions and must stop treating the Earth like an immense “pile of filth.”
Francis also called for fossil fuels, including oil, to be “progressively replaced without delay.”
“It’s all that everyone believed it would be but even stronger,” said Dennis O’Hara, professor of ecological theology at the Toronto School of Theology. “He has not entertained any doubt about the science or what we need to do.”
It’s an engaging, straightforward document, he added. “Francis didn’t hold anything back.”
The Laudato Si encyclical titled Laudato Si (Be Praised) was released on Thursday following months of intense speculation about just how deeply Francis would jump into the contentious debate.
The official release came three days after an Italian publication leaked a version online. But environmentalists, scientists, elected officials and reporters converged at the Vatican for the official release of the encyclical, with thousands awaiting its online release.
This is the first encyclical a pope has written on the environment. It will now be considered the Catholic Church’s position on the environment and climate change.
The official version wasn’t very different from the leaked one, but contained some surprises.
The document called on the world’s rich countries to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and to take concrete steps on climate change. Failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home.”
“Pope Francis chastised the developed world,” said O’Hara. “That was strong and it was clear. I wasn’t expecting to read that.”
Michael E. Mann, climate scientist and director of Penn State’s Earth System Science Centre, was impressed with the strong language used to condemn “those who have knowingly misled the public for their own short-term interest,” he said.
“He (the Pope) really didn’t pull any punches in calling them out.”
Scientists have called the Pope a friend, an ally and even a spokesman.
Citing deforestation of the Amazon, the melting of Arctic glaciers and the death of coral reefs, Francis rebuked “obstructionist” climate doubters who “seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms.”
He also blamed politicians for listening more to oil industry interests than common sense.
The Pope also waded into the science of climate change — once again, holding little back.
A “very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” contributing to a “constant rise in the sea level” and an “increase of extreme weather events,” the document says.
The Pope also advocated more environmentally conscious lifestyles: simple things such as reduced use of plastic, paper and water; separating trash; and carpooling.
“Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur,” he wrote.
At one point, the encyclical says: “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”
The release of the document coincided with the Pope’s upcoming trip to the U.S., where he will speak before the UN and push climate change negotiators ahead of their December meeting in Paris.
He will also speak before a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
Francis has been sending the encyclical to church officials, including bishops, around the world over the last few days, the Pope’s head of communications said at the document’s release.
Bishops and priests around the world are expected to lead discussions on the encyclical in services.
For O’Hara, this encyclical is very different in how it has been written; it’s in simple, straightforward language.
“It’s almost like Francis has written a letter to the people, saying ‘how’s it going? Here are my thoughts.’ It’s revolutionary.”
Source: Toronto Sun