Monday, June 29, 2015

Laudato Si, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment is called "The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis". He discusses human mindsets, which are to blame for the current ecological crisis.

Technology has improved a lot, over the past two hundred years. That is good; it has improved the quality of life in general, it has created many things of beauty, and it has given us great power. However, our leaps in technology have "not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience". There are plenty of times power and technology have been abused, through atomic bombs, concentration camps, and the murder of millions in communist and totalitarian regimes.

Pope Francis talks about two different mindsets, which are both destructive.

First is the technological mindset, which is not aimed towards understanding things. It is more aimed, towards controlling, mastering and transforming things. When applied to humans and social life, the conclusion is "other people don't really matter". Especially in economics, the conclusion was "profit is the only thing that matters".

Technology has led to specialization, which makes it harder to see the larger picture; people have lost an appreciation of things as a whole. It is harder for people to understand the depth of life, and so life becomes more shallow. The truth is that problems cannot be solved from a single perspective or set of interests; you can't have one thing (be it science, technology, economics, religion, the government or whatever) go unchecked, without any input from others. We need a bold cultural revolution, which we look at the progress we've made, where we recover the values and goals of humanity that have been lost.

To counteract this mindset, it is not enough to make a list of things to do, which solve the ecological problem. That would be reducing the problem, when the solution is to expand. We need to change our way of looking at things, our way of thinking and our lifestyles. We can do it; there are examples of companies that take more ecology-friendly policies, even if they are more expensive. There can be genuine human development, which is not dominated and destroyed by technology.

The other destructive mindset is one that says "humans are the ONLY things that matter". This rejects nature as worthless. When humans put themselves at the center, everything else becomes secondary; humans focus only on immediate convenience, and they disregard all else. Hence, we have a culture that sees everything as irrelevant, unless it serves your immediate interests. This mindset allows humans to treat each others like objects, things that are only worthwhile if they are useful. And so, there has been a huge rise in sexual exploitation, elder abandonment, drug trafficking, human trafficking, willingness to let other people suffer, organ harvesting, abortion and eugenics.

Political efforts and new laws aren't enough to counteract this mindset. In a corrupt culture, where nothing is seen as permanent or absolute, laws are seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided. People need to be taught that there are absolute truths, things which they cannot change or control.

Work is important, and jobs should be protected. It is through work that people grow; work is a necessary part of human development and personal fulfilment. It also makes them more protective and respectful of the environment. Humans have a vocation to work. And so, businesses should not have the goal of replacing human works with robots or machines. Government assistance to the poor should not be limited to giving people handouts; the goal should always be to give people the opportunity to live a dignified life through work. As part of ensuring that people have jobs, small and local businesses should be respected and protected. There should be limits, so giant companies don't bankrupt smaller companies.

Pope Francis also talks about genetic modification at the end of this chapter, but I don't really understand that part.

No comments: