Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home

Melville House. 2015. 165p. notes. ISBN 9781612195285. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612195292. SCI
OrangeReviewStar"We human beings…need to change"—this blunt requirement typifies Pope Francis's astonishing encyclical on climate change. He effectively reframes global warming from an abstract, technical issue into a moral one, and gives the problem a new urgency—just in time for his U.S. visit this past September and the upcoming world climate summit in Paris. It's a short work, but the subject matter ranges widely to include a host of human-bred ills, e.g., degradation of the oceans, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, poverty, urban squalor, and rampant consumerism. There are some surprises: the problem of overpopulation receives relatively small attention, for instance, while our inner malaise, which the Pope calls "mental pollution," gets extra emphasis; the creed that unregulated markets provide the best solution to economic inequality is criticized, as are our Western individualistic attitudes. The encyclical "circles" around the idea of the interrelatedness of things—i.e., we harm nature, we harm ourselves (and especially the poor); the idea is implicit in Francis's proposal for adoption of an "integral ecology," one that encompasses environmental, social, and economic strands.
VERDICT Straight talk on climate change from one of the world's most popular people may provide the necessary nudge to policymakers (and the rest of us). For this, the work deserves an enthusiastic imprimatur.
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