Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Pope's Encyclical is an Indictment of Capitalism

The recent encyclical of Pope Francis is as much about capitalism as it is about the environment. The pope clearly point to the interrelationship between unbridled capitalism and environmental degradation. His encyclical states that our economic system has importance implications for our efforts to combat climate change. We must reexamine the tenants of capitalism that give us license to abuse nature.

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Honduras, who coordinates the Vatican’s inner council of cardinals said, “the ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits."

Pope Francis himself warned that capitalism is the “root cause” of all the world’s problems: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

Despite growing ecological awareness global consumption appears to be increasing rather than decreasing. The encyclical warns against excessive consumerism which is, "killing our culture, values and ethics." The encyclical calls us to care for the Earth and abandon greed and the "throwaway culture" that is rampant in contemporary culture.

Francis is advocating moving away from a system which "plunder[s] nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it."  The danger lies in, "the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness."

The pope is calling for nothing less than a change to our economic system. The encyclical describes the idolatry inherent in the worship of money just like the golden calf in the Old Testament.

Pope Francis makes it clear that trickle down economics does not work and the invisible hand cannot be trusted. The evils of capitalism are described as being, "driven by pride of domination, of possessions, manipulation, of exploitation; we do not care for Creation, we do not respect it."

The encyclical not only criticizes the current economic system it offers an alternative. Francis is calling for a “radical new financial and economic system to avoid human inequality and ecological devastation.” The goal of such a system is cherish all who are part of creation which "means causing the world to grow responsibly, transforming it so that it may be a garden, a habitable place for everyone."

The pope calls us to reevaluate our economic system. If we are to seriously address the challenge of climate action and the wider issue of ecological degradation we must examine the culture which supports greed and limitless consumption.

In essence the pope is saying the to succeed in engaging the broad range of environmental issues we must tie our economic practices to ethical conduct.

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