Laudato Si’ – Chapter 3

An extract from ‘A reflection on Laudato Si’ mi Signore – On Care for our Common Home’ written by Fr. Liam O’Callaghan

 Chapter Three – The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis (101-136)

Pope Francis believes the root cause of the ecological crisis is “a misguided anthropocentrism” which to a great extent is the cause of “the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity” (119). Mary Evelyn Tucker of Yale University said the fact that the pope classified the environment as a moral issue changes everything. He begins by critiquing the technological paradigm in which technology and the myth of progress are leading us to commodify human beings and exploit nature: “unlimited growth is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed beyond every limit” (106). This paradigm accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit….yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion” (109). Francis acknowledges the great progress technology can bring but he warns without a “sound ethics”, “it gives those with knowledge, and especially the economic resources….an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity” (104).

Francis is critical of the culture of relativism, where “humans place themselves at the centre…and see everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests” (122). This leads to a “culture of waste” and also to a “throwaway” mentality in relation to the environment and indeed people. It is this culture of relativism which enables people to use others in all sorts of abusive and destructive ways and also to use and abuse the resources of the natural environment. Francis gives two examples of how we might correct this excessive anthropocentrism: – firstly, work: human labour is about transformation dignity and respect and it should be a priority that “we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone” (127). Secondly, biotechnology and in particular GMO’s: while Francis does not exclude their use he says there must be “places of debate” and “extensive and reliable information” as there is much concern about their use as a real threat to small producers, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Fr. Liam is a Columban working in Pakistan.