Excerpts from the Encyclical Laudato Si’ of Pope Francis for the Summer Embertide readings. Painting “On Earth as it is in Heaven” used with permission from A. Vonn Hartung.
Summary: We cannot fight ‘environmental degradation’ unless we also address ‘human and social degradation’ (§ 48). The elites of the world, who sometimes use ‘green rhetoric’, have failed to hear the ‘cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’ (§ 49). Blaming ‘population growth’ is a way of ‘refusing to face the issues’ of global inequality (§ 50). An ‘ecological debt’ exists between ‘certain countries’, particularly ‘between the global north and south’ (§ 51). Every ‘ecological approach’ must recall that the earth and her fruits ‘are meant to benefit everyone’ (§ 93). ‘The natural environment is a collective good’ of ‘all humanity’ (§ 95). Humanity has taken up ‘technology and its development’ according to ‘a paradigm’ which has ‘squeezed the planet dry beyond every limit’ (§ 106). Technology is ‘not neutral’; it ‘conditions us’ (§ 107). ‘Finance dominates the real economy’; ‘profit’ and ‘the market cannot guarantee’ that technology will lead to ‘integral human development’ (§ 109).
Global Inequality and the Common Destination of Goods
48. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together; we cannot adequately combat environmental degradation unless we attend to causes related to human and social degradation. In fact, the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet: “Both everyday experience and scientific research show that the gravest effects of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest”.  …
49. It needs to be said that, generally speaking, there is little in the way of clear awareness of problems which especially affect the excluded. Yet they are the majority of the planet’s population, billions of people. These days, they are mentioned in international political and economic discussions, but one often has the impression that their problems are brought up as an afterthought, a question which gets added almost out of duty or in a tangential way, if not treated merely as collateral damage. Indeed, when all is said and done, they frequently remain at the bottom of the pile. This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centres of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population. This lack of physical contact and encounter, encouraged at times by the disintegration of our cities, can lead to a numbing of conscience and to tendentious analyses which neglect parts of reality. At times this attitude exists side by side with a “green” rhetoric. Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
50. Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate… To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues… we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor”.  …
51. Inequity affects not only individuals but entire countries; it compels us to consider an ethics of international relations. A true “ecological debt” exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time.
93. Whether believers or not, we are agreed today that the earth is essentially a shared inheritance, whose fruits are meant to benefit everyone. For believers, this becomes a question of fidelity to the Creator, since God created the world for everyone. Hence every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged. The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and thus the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order”.  …
95. The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others. That is why the New Zealand bishops asked what the commandment “Thou shall not kill” means when “twenty percent of the world’s population consumes resources at a rate that robs the poor nations and future generations of what they need to survive”. 
The Technocratic Paradigm
106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm… Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit…
107. …We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups…
109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy…. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.  At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”,  while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures…
- Bolivian Bishops’ Conference, Pastoral Letter on the Environment and Human Development in Bolivia El universo, don de Dios para la vida (23 March 2012), 17.
- Francis, Catechesis (5 June 2013): Insegnamenti 1/1 (2013), 280.
- John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Laborem Exercens (14 September 1981), 19: AAS 73 (1981), 626.
- New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Statement on Environmental Issues (1 September 2006).
- Cf. Benedict XIV, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 35: AAS 101 (2009), 671.
- Ibid., 22: p. 657.