Friday, June 26, 2015

"An immense pile of filth"

This phrase resounds from Laudato Si: "The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish." A colleague attended a conference in San Diego last week, full of Bakersfield and Texas oilmen. Climate change was derided, guns praised, profits lauded, and off-color comments or dissent, reflecting this morality, were looked at askance by true believers. God was credited as the provider of resources for us to exploit. Pope Francis, who some look to more than petroleum producers for guidance, is pithy: "We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us." CNN reports a series of quotes, and this comes to mind, about such a news source as itself: "When media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously. In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload."

Columnist and Catholic Tim Rutten reminds us how the encyclical subtitled "caring for our common home" has title that "is no accident, but a phrase from the archaic Umbrian dialect in which St. Francis of Assisi composed his 13th Century 'Canticle of the Creatures' that preached reverence for the natural world with love of humanity." My high school classmate Ramón J. Posada, chair of the Los Angeles Archdiocese's creation and sustainability committee, talked to the Sierra Club about what he rightfully names "climate disruption" in light of the papal declaration. Rutten argues that a surge in emphasis is crucial to gaining the upper hand, taking it away from Koch Bros and oilmen.

Rutten continues: "Francis is particularly harsh on those who, he says, deny global warming to preserve the privileges of 'finance and consumerism.' The pope argues, 'We need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that the problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals.' This, Francis contends, is the 'same kind of thinking' that leads to the 'exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests.' He goes so far as to compare laissez faire economists to mobsters, drug lords. All promote a 'throwaway culture' that treats human beings as just another commodity to exploit.

"The pontiff shifts the discussion from one based solely on science and technology to one in which morality and justice become coequal components with those other two. That’s a fundamental change and likely to be far-reaching since Francis is, like the Dalai Lama, one of those popular spiritual rock stars influential even among those who haven’t a clue about what their creeds actually teach." As I happen to have reviewed a book credited to the DL before logging in to write this, and after seeing Rutten and Posada's pieces appear today, I figured I'd add my own contribution to papal promotion.

George Monbiot wonders if atheists are missing something in their own eco-critiques. Could the Pope's "religion be a version of a much deeper and older love? Could a belief in God be a way of explaining and channelling the joy, the burst of love that nature sometimes inspires in us? Conversely, could the hyperconsumption that both religious and secular environmentalists lament be a response to ecological boredom: the void that a loss of contact with the natural world leaves in our psyches."

Image: The portion of Francis' Canticle of Creation as quoted in this drawing is, roughly: "Be praised my Master for Brother Wind and Air and for clouds and storms and all weather"

No comments: