What is the summary for Laudato Si? Why or why not should this be viewed as an accurate depiction of environmentalism and progressive climate activism?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Well, if you read the full text of Laudato Si, you will be astounded at the number of pages that constitute the importance of environmentalism according to Pope Francis.  (This is despite the fact that Pope Francis has insisted that this document was not meant to be environmental in nature.) In fact, environmentalism makes up much of the encyclical, with Pope Francis simply touching on other topics. Let us delve into the summary first and then figure out if it is the accurate depiction you seek.

The largest part of this encyclical is about the environment. Pope Francis readily admits that the change in our climate is man-made and has “grave implications.” Specifically, Pope Francis advocates against the use of fossil fuels.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay.

In other words, Pope Francis is for eradicating the use of these fuels immediately. Note the order: coal, oil, and then natural gas. It is also interesting to note that Pope Francis talks about choosing a “less harmful alternative” in the meantime as these resources become “widely accessible” as well as affordable.

Pope Francis also brushes on other topics as well: poverty, science, and technology. He states that it is a “moral obligation” for richer countries to assist poorer ones. Further, Francis believes that both science and religion can be “married,” so to speak, for the good of all. Francis then gives a warning about technology and about how all-encompassing it is. Unfortunately, technology is connected with the greed of corporations and not with the betterment of humanity.

Now we get to the meat of your question, is this encyclical an accurate depiction of environmentalism and climate activism? Environmentalism in its simplest form is advocacy in support of the natural world. With that in mind, there isn’t a doubt that this encyclical is an accurate depiction of environmentalism. It’s “climate activism” that is the main issue. Climate activism (sometimes known as “climate justice”) generally views global warming as an ethical issue that is connected to many other types of justice (such as economic and social). This eNotes educator suggests, yes, that Francis does present an accurate depiction of climate activism. Why?

[Concern for our environment is no longer] optional but is an integral part of the Church teaching on social justice.

Quite simply, this calls on activism both through government and individuals. Further, Pope Francis directly ties environmentalism to social justice simply by making this statement. And, of course, Pope Francis goes on to advocate for economic justice: help for the poor.

In conclusion, it is important to note that, as a Jesuit, Pope Francis is less academic in this encyclical as he could be, purposely calling upon governments to engage in dialogue about the subject of environmentalism. It is also important to note that, far greater than the subject of environmentalism is that it seems that all the world has conformed to a “throwaway culture” in which many, many things and (worse) people are discarded without a thought: nature, the aged, the unborn, the poverty stricken, etc.

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